OCPS announces Teacher of the Year finalists
Posted on 10/16/2020
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Orange County Public Schools is excited to reveal the five Teacher of the Year finalists. The winners will be announced in January at a virtual awards ceremony. The finalists are: 

Jessica Benscoter headshotJessica Benscoter, Instructional Coach
Stone Lakes Elementary School 

Ms. Benscoter's method of teaching is rooted in Galileo’s philosophy that “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it in himself.” She believes students learn best when provided the opportunity to make connections beyond the classroom. Through Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education she affords students space that allows them to explore, discover and connect to the world with fellow students. This motivates them to take ownership of their learning, to take pride in their work and master even the most difficult tasks. 

Jesse Cohen headshotJesse Cohen, Theatre
Innovation Middle School

His “kids come first mentality,” pushes Mr. Cohen to show students there are no limitations to what they can achieve. In the spring, his theatre students were rehearsing their spring musical, “Cinderella,” when COVID-19 caused school closures. Rather than abandon a spring performance, Mr. Cohen found a play written for quarantine, “Ten Ways to Survive Life in a Quarantine.” The students rehearsed and performed the play virtually, providing them a platform to thrive and celebrate their success.

Richardo Delfosse headshotRichardo Delfosse, Civics
Lockhart Middle School

Having grown up in the community he serves, Mr. Delfosse understands firsthand the adversity his students face. He believes education is the great equalizer in its ability to promote growth and foster change for those in need, and with that, he challenges his students to strive for success beyond what their current environment offers. Mr. Delfosse particularly appreciates how the Civics curriculum provides opportunities for students to discuss interconnected issues that ultimately empowers them to be agents for change.

Stewart Parker headshotStewart Parker, AP Human Geography
Winter Park High School – 9th Grade Center

His Advanced Placement Human Geography students continuously score above the district, state and national average on the final assessment, which he appreciates, but it’s not his focus. Mr. Parker wants his students to leave his course “transformed, to have a larger worldview, to appreciate their place in life more, and to be global citizens.” Additionally, Mr. Parker strives to have a classroom that is a safe place for all students, and he wants them to feel welcome and supported by one another.


Laura Stile headshotLaura Stile, 4th Grade, English Language Arts
Dream Lake Elementary School

It is Ms. Stile’s mission to unlock every student’s full potential academically and socially-emotionally. In addition to helping the students in her fourth-grade class experience success, she is a mentor and supervising teacher to college interns. Ms. Stile teaches them what they need to be successful, with her greatest message being, “Treat every student with love, respect and dignity. Build strong, trusting relationships so that your classroom becomes a safe-haven for students.” 

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