1. Zachary Placido, Citrus Cove Elementary School

My name is Zachary Placido. I am 31 years old and I have always had a passion for teaching. I was born and raised in Palm Beach County, which makes teaching here very special to me. I am emotionally vested in this profession because I was once in the same place the students I teach are now. I get a sense of pride when I attend professional development trainings at the same schools I graduated from. I come from a family of teachers and I feel it is my responsibility to educate the next generation of students in Palm Beach County. Especially, since my own son is part of that generation.

I received my degree from Florida State University and during the summers between school years I worked at the YMCA as a youth counselor. My time there prepared me for life in the classroom. I never planned on teaching in the primary grades. The goal was to teach high school English. However, once I saw the lack of male teachers in the early grades, I knew it was my calling to serve as a positive male role model for the students of Citrus Cove Elementary. I am currently in my ninth year of teaching 1st grade. Over the past five years I have been team leader, the chess club sponsor, and a member of the school wide positive behavior support team. I am proud to be an educator and a valuable member of my community.

2. Randi Brightman, Benoist Farms Elementary School

For the past 5 years, Ms. Brightman has been the VPK Inclusion teacher at Benoist Farms Elementary. Ms. Brightman has such a love and passion for children, especially the youngest of students, which is why she chose to work in Early Childhood Education. Playing a role in developing and fostering young minds makes her feel so humbled and grateful.

Ms. Brightman’s classroom is a true family, which makes the students feel happy, safe, and want to work hard to achieve their goals and reach their dreams.  She is always receiving praises from her administration, peers, district coaches and parents for her passion and commitment to educating our youngest learners. Ms. Brightman is determined to make sure her students enjoy their first year of school, which will lead them to be thriving, positive students who enjoy their education with success and determination.

In addition, the VPK program at Benoist Farms had been on placed on probation for low Kindergarten Readiness scores in 2013. The readiness rate was in the 30% range. For the school year 2018/19 Ms. Brightman brought the Kindergarten Readiness rate to 72%, which allowed the VPK program at Benoist Farms to be taken off probation.

Ms. Brightman does not feel like she has a “job”, quite the contrary, she feels so lucky and blessed to do what she loves to, and has such a passion for, each and every day.

Ms. Brightman lives in Wellington with her 16 year old daughter, Billie.

3. Barbara Bayless Close, Palm Beach Day Academy

I am a teacher because it is simply the best “job” in the world. Both of my parents were exceptional teachers with very different teaching styles and they both taught me. They each shared a passion for the subjects they taught and demanded excellence of their students. Some would say I was born to be a teacher! My childhood was immersed in teaching and education. My parents remain my role models for what a teacher should be. After graduating from Palm Beach Day, I went to DePauw University, and after a few years teaching in Wisconsin, returned to PBDA, and this year will be my 42nd year there.

I have taught math from 5th grade arithmetic to precalculus, introduced computer programming to students, advised the yearbook, and oversaw the first establishment of computers at Palm Beach Day. I also initiated Pi Day and our annual Knowledge Bowl Contest. I even drove a bus! In 2014, I coauthored a published book about our remarkable school called Tradition and Change in Paradise, the Story of Palm Beach Day Academy. This year I am co-chairing our school’s 100-year celebration.

Mathematics is my passion. I love the satisfaction students have when they “get” a problem and see the beauty of mathematics. There is always joy in the job – joy as students leave us and become adults, joy as they return and we see the people they have become, and finally joy as their children return as students. How fortunate I am to teach.

4. Sabrina Hughey, Jupiter Middle School

My name is Sabrina Hughey and I am a proud public school teacher. I was born and raised in South Florida and found my calling as a mathematics teacher in 2003 for the School District of Palm Beach County. I attended public schools while growing up in Cutler Ridge and spent my summers with family in Key West and Highland Beach. Family, public school education, and South Florida occupy a huge part of my heart. The other pieces of my heart belong to my husband Shane, who is my high school sweetheart and partner now for 27 years, my children Silas and Summer who are 11 and 10 respectively, and to the art of teaching mathematics to middle school students.

I am honored and blessed to have a career doing something I love at Jupiter Middle School of Technology. I am embarking on my 18th year of teaching and even though our classroom surroundings are different this year, I continue to approach it with the same passion and excitement as I have done in the previous years. That is part of my job, to get my students excited about mathematics and to help them develop a passion for it. I do not lecture my students about mathematics, I am their guide and my job is to expose them to mathematics in a way that makes them feel confident and successful. I am a lifelong learner and believe in leading by example so that students, parents, colleagues, and administration are inspired and grateful!

5. Courtney Demri, The Greene School

In the Spring of 2018, Courtney Demri was preparing for her move from NYC to Florida. In pursuit of finding a school that cultivates artistic expression, Demri found, The Greene School, an innovative and joyful school that educates the whole child.

Demri created The Greene School’s drama program based on the core values of collaboration, self-expression, and confidence. Demri utilizes green screens, laser cutters, and video editing to show students the endless possibilities of performing arts. Demri believes that drama doesn’t start and end on the page and stage. She produces and directs a full-scale musical including the entire PK-8th grade student body to promote community and build student confidence.

Demri has brought Broadway actors from Hamilton and Aladdin to work with the students to help hone their craft and receive professional feedback for their work. Demri is often found helping students and colleagues improve their presentational and performance skills to better themselves and the school community. These skills are showcased weekly in a student-driven Fun Friday presentation that Demri produces.

Prior to teaching, Demri performed in Broadway’s Rising Stars and toured the country in the improv comedy show Broadway’s Next Hit Musical. While teaching in NYC, Demri was nominated for the DOE’s Teacher of the Year award and won 1st place in Amateur Night at the Apollo. Whether on the stage or behind the curtain, Demri has found her true passion through education and looks forward to her continued work spreading her love of performing arts to the community.