JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Dr. Scott Sowell, a science teacher at Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School, was named Thursday night as Duval County's 2012 Florida Blue Teacher of the Year.

Sowell, who teaches advanced-placement environmental and forensic science at the school, has taught for 12 years.

"His ability to connect with students is unmatched, and his dedication is proven through his students’ successes," said Duval County Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals.

The announcement was made at the annual EDDY Awards celebration and is a joint venture of the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership and the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.

School officials say Sowell’s students learn science by doing science. Instead of putting the lecture before the lab, Sowell places the experience first so his students create their own learning by exploring real-life scientific situations.

Sowell also acts as a leader on the school leadership committee and the shared decision-making committee. He participates in presentations including those at the Magnet Schools of America annual conference and the Mentor for Novice teachers program.

As a novice-teacher mentor and professional development facilitator, Sowell works directly with the newest faculty members at Darnell-Cookman, encouraging them to constantly improve by seeking new knowledge.

Duval County's Teacher of the Year selection process began with 163 school representatives throughout the district who were selected as their school’s Teacher of the Year. The 163 were narrowed by the District Selection Committee to 15 semifinalists and then five finalists, which, in addition to Sowell, included: Christy Constande, fourth-grade teacher at Chets Creek Elementary; Cindy Fitch, alternative education teacher at Oak Hill Elementary; Kate Houston, Language Arts teacher at First Coast High School; and Lauren Martin, fourth-grade teacher at Pinedale Elementary.

Sowell will go on to represent Duval County in the statewide Florida Teacher of the Year competition.