Jessica Solano believes in challenging her students and herself by embracing change and stepping out of her comfort zone. A third grade teacher with seven years of experience, Solano also works as the technology integration coach at Highlands Grove Elementary. She frequently incorporates new tools in her classroom to enhance her students’ learning. Solano has a contagious enthusiasm and truly believes in every student she teaches. Outside of her classroom at Highlands Grove, she works as a volunteer teacher at a youth ranch for foster children. Through this experience, Solano says she has “learned how rewarding it is to see students who had previously given up on the chance of being considered ‘smart’ put together what life skills they did have, with their newfound self-esteem, and replace impossibility with success.”
Solano was named Polk County Public Schools’ 2016 Teacher of the Year in February and was named a finalist for Florida’s 2017 Teacher of the Year on May 4 during a surprise announcement at her school in Lakeland. She was presented with a $15,000 check from Macy’s and the Florida Department of Education; Highlands Grove Elementary also received a $1,000 check from Macy’s.
This year’s five state finalists were chosen from more than 194,500 public school teachers throughout the state by a Department of Education-appointed selection committee representing teachers, principals, parents and the business community. Each finalist is selected on the basis of outstanding ability to teach and communicate knowledge of the subject taught, professional development, philosophy of teaching, and outstanding school and community service.
Solano was named the winner of the 2017 Macy’s/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year award during a ceremony on Thursday, July 14, 2016 at Orlando’s Hard Rock Live at Universal Studios CityWalk.
In addition to a $20,000 award funded by the Department of Education and Macy’s, Solano will receive awards from Macy’s including an all-expense paid trip for four to New York City to attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Solano will also serve for one year as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education, touring the state to spread the word about educational opportunities and challenges in the Sunshine State.
Solano is the 5th state finalist and the 3rd state winner in the last twelve years. Other notable Polk educators include Christie Bassett (2014 State Winner), Danny Whittenton (2008 State Finalist), Samuel Bennett (2005 State Winner and U.S. Finalist) and Janice Gilchrest (2004 State Finalist).
2016 Highlands Grove Teacher of the Year
2016 Polk County Teacher & School-Related Employee of the Year Awards
2017 Florida Teacher of the Year Awards
Congratulations to the 2016 Polk County Teacher and School-Related Employees of the Year.