Tortuga Preserve Elementary teacher Alyssa Smith Lee County Teacher of the Year

Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: Updated:

The School District of Lee County announced Tuesday that Tortuga Preserve Elementary ESE Teacher Alyssa Smith is the District’s Teacher of the Year.

Alyssa Smith is in her sixth year of teaching at Tortuga Preserve Elementary in Lehigh Acres. Her focus has always been on Exceptional Student Education and she is currently a Special Education teacher in a Social Functioning classroom.

“I grew up in a household with two sisters who have special needs on opposite ends of a need’s spectrum,” Smith says. “As long as I can remember, I have voiced that I wanted to be a teacher for children like my sisters. I believe that every student, no matter what their abilities, deserves every opportunity both in school and in life.”

Smith is the ESE Contact/Grade Level Chairperson at Tortuga Preserve this year. She developed a K-5 Social Functioning Blended Scope and Sequence to ensure all student levels are being met and the three social functioning teachers are on track.

Her attention to each student’s individual academic needs has led to every student in her classroom meeting their learning goals. Smith’s use of Zones of Regulation increased student compliance from 40% per day to 80%.

Students are able to take control of their emotions by being asked if they feel either Green (ready), Blue (sad), Yellow (worried) or Red (mad), asked why they feel that way, and then given the tools and strategies they need if they are not in the green zone.

“Alyssa makes every effort to be a child advocate,” says Tortuga Preserve Principal Jennifer Shonack. “Her beliefs and commitment to her students go above and beyond. While working with her and observing her with her students, I have been continually impressed with her driving commitment to excellence…for herself and her students.”

As Teacher of the Year Smith wins a prize package valued at more than $3,000.

Smith will now be nominated for Florida Teacher of the Year. The Florida Department of Education will announce the winner in the spring.

Miguel Teixeira

Teacher of the Year candidates are nominated by their school principals. Applications are reviewed by a team of District administrators and former Teachers of the Year.

Semi-Finalists are then interviewed and three Finalists have a second interview. The judges say this year was extremely competitive and wish to also congratulate the two other finalists

Miguel Teixeira is the Peer Collaborative Teacher of Social Science at Lehigh Acres Middle School.

He has been a teacher in the District and at LAMS since 2011.

Civics EOC scores have improved the last three years because of Teixeira’s leadership.

Sara Wechter

Sara Wechter is in her 7th year with the District as a teacher and first at Edgewood Academy.

She teaches 4th grade and is the teacher lead for her grade level.

She was previously at Orangewood Elementary and is credited with the school’s improved scores in math and reading.



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