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Marion County Teacher of the Year Announced Friday Night


Kevin Christian, APR, CPRC, Public Relations & Communications Director

352.671.7555 ◊ FAX: 352.671.7735 ◊ CELL: 352.840.3265






MARION COUNTY – Marion County Public Schools proudly announces its 2019 Teacher of the Year on Friday, January 25, in a Golden Apple Gala black-tie event. 


This year’s five finalists recently received surprise classroom visits from the Golden Apple caravan including Superintendent Dr. Heidi Maier, Public Education Foundation Executive Director Judi Zanetti, Marion County School Board members and dozens of other district and community representatives.


This year’s five Golden Apple recipients now vie to become Marion County’s Teacher of the Year.  The Golden Apple Gala is coordinated by the Public Education Foundation of Marion County, which sponsors the Golden Apple program.


Golden Apple recipients have at least four years of classroom teaching experience while rookies have three years or less.


Marion County’s 2019 Golden Apple teachers include:

  • Brian Stephenson, a social studies teacher at Belleview High School. He joined the district in 2015 and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from the University of Central Florida.  His Master of Arts History degree comes from the University of Nebraska.  Brian is also Marion County’s reigning high school social studies teacher of the year.


  • Jessica Carter, a third-grade teacher and STEAM leader (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) at Dr. NH Jones Elementary. She joined MCPS 24 years ago and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Gannon University.  Her certification in Early Childhood Education PreK-3 comes from Rollins College.


  • Emily Cook, an Algebra I and Credit Recovery teacher at Forest High School. Cook started with MCPS in 1998 and previously taught deaf/hard of hearing students.  Her Bachelor of Arts in Deaf Studies comes from MacMurray College (Illinois) while her Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction comes from Grand Canyon University.


  • Amy Owensby, a special needs teacher at Hillcrest School. She joined the district in 2010 and previously served in the U.S. Navy.  Her Bachelor of Science degree in Exceptional Student Education comes from Barry University with endorsements in Reading and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).


  • Hollie Cunningham, a Vocational Education teacher at West Port High who leads classes in Medical Skills, Health Science Foundations, Certified Nursing Assisting, and Electrocardiograph Technician. Her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing comes from Florida State University, and she is district certified for Career / Technical Education in Marion County.  


All five Golden Apple recipients will share brief speeches about their teaching careers during the event. 


Meantime, Karla Cavalier, from Shady Hill Elementary School, is Marion County’s 2019 Rookie Teacher of the Year. She will also speak at Friday night’s event.  She is a Visual Arts teacher with a Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design from Florida State University.


Marion County’s 2019 Teacher of the Year will be announced during the event broadcast live from On Top of the World’s Circle Square Cultural Center in Ocala.  Marion County’s 2019 Teacher of the Year will also receive a pre-paid, three-year lease on a new Mazda from Jenkins Auto Group in Ocala. 


The black-tie gala affair airs live at 7PM on the Marion Education Channel and replays through February each Friday and Saturday at 7PM and Sundays at 2PM.  The Marion Education Channel is available on Comcast 99, Cox 12, and other local cable companies.  The event also streams live on the district’s YouTube channel (MCPSmedia).


For more information, contact my office or Judi Zanetti, executive director of the Public Education Foundation of Marion County, at 352.671.4167.

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