Every year, the University of Florida’s College of Education recognizes five of the state of Florida’s most elite educators by honoring them with a Distinguished Educator Award at the university’s fall commencement ceremony.
This year, the college honored Nancy Hunter, a high school teacher in Lake County; David Murphy, a high school principal in Monroe County; Derita Pinkard, an instructional coach for elementary and middle school teachers in Madison County; Kristen Rivas, an elementary school teacher in Hardee County; and Chris Wilson, a high school teacher in Levy County.
The recipients of the college’s 2013 Distinguished Educator Award foster excellence in student learning and their school environment, demonstrate a strong commitment to serve and participate in their educational and local communities, and exhibit professionalism, leadership and a love of learning.
The following mini-profiles represent just a small sampling of their many career achievements and the impact they each have had on their students, their communities and in their professions.
Nancy Hunter Teacher, Leesburg High School in Leesburg
Nancy Hunter believes in helping students recognize their learning styles and strengths so that they can enjoy learning in school. For the past 21 years, Hunter has demonstrated this by reminding her students that they are all talented and able to succeed. Hunter began her teaching career as a math and science teacher, but after 18 years she took on a new challenge of teaching ninth-grade students who are working below grade level and at risk for failure. Her 2012 freshman group was Leesburg High’s highest performing ninth-grade group ever. Hunter received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Central Florida. She was the 2013 Lake Sumter State College Distinguished Educator of the Year Award, the 2012 Lake County Teacher of the Year, the 2006 Oak Park Middle School Teacher of the Year, and the 1993 Lake County Beginning Teacher of the Year.
David Murphy Principal, Coral Shores High School in Tavernier
David Murphy’s strong leadership has substantially improved the quality of daily classroom instruction at Coral Shores High School by organizing professional learning communities among teachers, which lead to collaboration and sharing of best practices. He has been principal at Coral Shores High School since August 2011. He also been involved in various education policy and planning groups. Murphy received his bachelor’s degree in science education from the University of Iowa and his master’s in educational leadership and policy studies from Florida State. He has received numerous awards and is a past selection as the Monroe County School District Teacher of the Year.
Derita Pinkard Instructional coach, Madison County Central School in Madison
Derita Pinkard’s goal as an educator is to instill a love of learning in her students so they can become lifetime learners. As an instructional coach in mathematics, she shows her teachers how to help students apply their knowledge and become more confident in their skills. She has taught for more than 25 years, and she has been teaching at Madison County Central School since 2010. Pinkard is also involved in her community through her participation in local education and service groups, including Delta Kappa Gamma, an international honor society for female educators. She earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing from Valdosta State College. She has twice been named Teacher of the Year by schools where she has taught.
Kristen Rivas Teacher, Wauchula Elementary School in Wauchula
Kristen Rivas is known for her enthusiasm and quality instruction as a kindergarten teacher. She has been an elementary school teacher since 2005—for the past four years at Wauchula Elementary School. She serves on a variety of committees and has participated in several professional development and training programs. She is also an active member of Delta Kappa Gamma, an international honor society for female educators. Rivas received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of West Florida. Wauchula Elementary and the Hardee County school district both have honored her for excellence as their 2013 Teacher of the Year.
Chris Wilson Teacher, Chiefland High School in Chiefland
Chris Wilson is dedicated to helping build the Chiefland community, starting with teaching the students in his social studies and Advanced Placement world history classes. He strives to bring his knowledge to life for his students in unique ways so they become informed and driven individuals. He motivates and connects with his students like a coach, a role he is familiar with because of his time as a little league and high school basketball coach and as athletic director of Chiefland High. Last year, all of his students passed the standardized AP World History exam, which contributed to the selection of Levy County for the College Board’s AP Honor Roll. Wilson, a Chiefland High School alumnus, received his bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Florida.