Governor recognizes veterans turned educators with Shine Award

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Most of the 18 educators honored with the Governor's Shine Awards at Tuesday's Florida Cabinet meeting were selected because they served in the U.S. military before they they became teachers in the state's public schools.

The Shine Award is presented to teachers and administrators in Florida who make significant contributions to the field of education. 

"I am proud to present these outstanding educators with the governor’s Shine Award," Scott said. "I would like to thank them for their service to our country and for their commitment to ensuring all students reach their full potential. The educators honored today represent Florida’s extraordinary teaching staff who are dedicated to preparing students for success in college and career.”  

Four of those honored Tuesday teach in Jacksonville and two in Clay County.

Rita Barnett, Duval County

Barnett has been teaching kindergarten and first grade at Forest Hills Elementary School in Jacksonville for 11 years. Prior to her teaching career, she served nine years in the U.S. Navy, attaining the rank of sergeant. In addition to earning numerous recognitions, including the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Joint Achievement Medal, Barnett mentors with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. 

Michelle Bily, Clay County

Bily has been teaching for 10 years, with the most recent year at Doctors Inlet Elementary School in Clay County. Bily is the 2018 Clay County District Teacher of the Year.

Jessica Ehlinger, Clay County

Ehlinger has been teaching for 12 years, and currently teaches gifted education at Ridgeview Elementary School in Orange Park. Ehlinger is a Florida Techer LEAD Network alumnus, a two-time Fishman Prize nominee, and is the 2017 Clay County Teacher of the Year. 

James Maxwell, Duval County

Maxwell has been teaching fifth grade mathematics for nine years at Joseph Finegan Elementary School in Jacksonville. He formerly served nearly 30 years in the U.S. Navy, attaining the rank of E9 master chief petty officer. During his notable military career, he was awarded with the Meritorious Service Medal, five different Navy Accommodations medals and three different Navy achievement medals. Maxwell  was also the 2015-16 Joseph Finegan Teacher of the Year. 

DeVaughn Parks, Duval County

Parks has been teaching for seven years, with the last two teaching grades 4 and 5 math and science at North Shore Elementary School in Jacksonville. Parks served 20 years in the U.S. Navy, attaining the rank of E6/hospital corpsman 1st class. He has been evaluated as a highly effective teacher for three consecutive years and is a two-time recipient of the Quality Education for All grant. 

Katherine Scalzo, Duval County

Scalzo served three years active duty with the U.S. Army and one year with the with the Army National Guard prior to becoming an educator. She has been a teacher for 14 years and currently teaches writing, math, science and social studies at Atlantic Beach Elementary in Jacksonville. During her service in the U.S. Army, Scalzo attained the rank of E-4 specialist.