Alachua County’s Teacher of the Year is Dwynette Smith!

By Julia Bauer
Teacher's desk with books and apple and letter blocks

Thursday, Jan. 25, Metcalfe Elementary music teacher Dwynette Smith won the Alachua County’s Teacher of the Year award!

The three Teacher of the Year honors finalists for 2024 are Dwynette Smith, a Metcalfe Elementary School music teacher; Sarah Rendek, a High Springs Community School reading teacher; and Jenifer Knowles, a Loften High School Professional Academies Magnet (PAM) science teacher, according to the Alachua County Public Schools news release. The Teacher of the Year winner will represent the ACPS district in the state recognition program.

Dwynette Smith: Winner and Elementary School Finalist

Elementary School TOY

Smith is the elementary school finalist and has been teaching music since 1998. She taught at Buchholz High School for six years and has been at Metcalfe for almost four years, according to the news release. Smith says music acts as a “catalyst for students to succeed in other areas.”

“I love giving them that joy, that place where they can be successful,” she said in the news release. “Even when you have a child that’s struggling, to have that one victory, where they can play the notes you want, play their own melody or create something that they know is theirs, there’s nothing that can compare.”

Sarah Rendek: Middle School Finalist

Middle School TOY

Rendek is the middle school finalist. She has been a teacher for over 13 years and has spent 8 of those years teaching reading at High Springs, according to the news release. Rendek says that middle school is the age where students are just starting to consider who they are and where they want to go in life, and this one of the reasons why she loves teaching them.

“I want to be a light in their lives, their positive role model and their cheerleader,” she said in the news release. “In class I give them the freedom to express themselves, which allows them to grow as human beings, but also under the guidance of appropriate expectations.”

Jenifer Knowles: High School Finalist

High School TOY

Knowles is the high school finalist. Over the last 19 years, she has taught science in Alachua County at Oak View Middle School in Newberry and at PAM at Loften for the last three years, according to the news release. She has also taught in Michigan and across the world in New Zealand! She ultimately aims to teach her students that learning is a lifelong experience.

“I’m excited to share science with my students,” said Knowles in the news release. “It’s important for them to see how what they’re learning translates to life outside the classroom. Sometimes the content lends itself well to this goal and other times the less are in life, technology, collaboration or other soft skills.”

Smith, Rendek and Knowles along with the 36 other ACPS nominees will be recognized at the Jan. 25 Teacher of the Year ceremony hosted by The Education Foundation for Alachua County Public Schools.

Photos courtesy of the ACPS news release.

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