Finalists: Dee Dee Bitter (top left), Jason Lancy (bottom left), and Faith Gilliland (right)

On Tuesday, January 9, three surprised teachers learned that they were selected as 2018-19 finalists for Lake County Schools Teacher of the Year.

The finalists are Dee Dee Bitter, a 4th grade teacher at Seminole Springs Elementary; Jason Lancy, an 8th-grade teacher at Windy Hill Middle School; and Faith Gilliland, a 9-12th grade Math teacher at East Ridge High School.

Dee Dee Bitter, Seminole Springs Elementary

Ms. Bitter has 29 years of teaching experience. At Seminole Springs Elementary School, she takes her work beyond the classroom by helping her students organize monthly service projects. She cites her students as her greatest inspiration for teaching. “My children are the reason I spend countless nights brainstorming ways I can help change their lives,” said Bitter. “…Nothing means more to me as a teacher than to watch my sweet students grow and succeed in this world.”

Jason Lancy, Windy Hill Middle School

Mr. Lancy, math teacher at Windy Hill Middle School, says that math did not come easy to him as a student. He says he wasn’t the typical math student and was not projected to be the typical math teacher.  However, with 10 years of teaching experience, he says, “Now I believe that my struggles as a student are part of why I am successful as a teacher. Students tell me that how I explain math is different and easier to understand, and that’s because I can empathize when they feel lost and confused.” He currently serves as chair of Windy Hill Middle School’s math department, where he works daily to “deepen student understanding and increase engagement by teaching passionately and with a sense of humor,” as he described in his application packet.

Faith Gilliland, East Ridge High School

Ms. Gilliland teaches math for grades 9-12 at East Ridge High School. She uses her passion for teaching to introduce her lessons to the digital world. She first began recording lessons for the Geometry EOC Review and uploading them to YouTube for students who miss a class. After a while, she began posting them to Facebook where she received feedback from other teachers that her videos were helpful to them in their classrooms. That feedback inspired her YouTube channel, Gilli Geo, where she hopes to continue assisting students and teachers as they learn and teach Geometry. She says her biggest inspiration as a teacher is her students and what they could become. “I am inspired by the knowledge that I am teaching our future,” she said, “[and] that these young people will one day lead our city, our nation, our world.”

At a celebration dinner on February 10th, one of the three finalists will be named the 2018-19 Lake County Teacher of the Year and win the grand prize, a new car from Jenkins Nissan of Leesburg. The Lake County winner will go on to compete at the state level for the title of Florida Teacher of the Year.