Jax middle school teacher among Florida's 5 best

State Teacher of Year to be named at July event in Orlando

(Photo courtesy of Macy's)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Apryl Shackelford, an intensive reading teacher at Northwestern Middle School, has been chosen as one of five finalists for the 2014 Macy's/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year Award.

Florida Department of Education Chancellor, Pam Stewart, along with Duval County Superintendent of Schools, Nickolai Vitti, and Georgi Pipkin of Macy's visited the school Monday morning to make the announcement during the school's Teacher Appreciation Week assembly.

The celebration then turned into a surprise announcement which included the school drum line and confetti canons.

"I keep pinching myself. I'm excited, overwhelmed," Shackelford said. "I broke down when the colleagues came up to me and gave me a hug and said 'the hard work is paying off.'"

Shackelford was presented with a $5,000 check made possible by the Macy's Foundation and a $500 Macy's gift card. A $1,000 check, also funded by the Macy's Foundation, was presented to the finalist's school.

Principal Arvin Johnson almost as excited as Shackelford to learn one of his teacher was a finalist to be name Florida's top teacher.


"We didn't expect to come this far. We're proud of her. She deserves this. She works extremely hard overtime; anything to make it happen for our kids," Johnson said.

This year, the Macy's Foundation will contribute over $100,000 in cash to the state-run Teacher of the Year program, as it has done since 1988.

"Macy's is proud to recognize Apryl for changing the lives of her students and paving the way for our future leaders. It is her dedication and extraordinary ability that creates magical moments for students every day," said Darlene Hanes, Macy's executive vice president and regional director.

Shackelford and four other finalists will attend a ceremony in July at Hard Rock Live at Orlando's Universal Studios. 

In addition to the $10,000 grant funded by the Macy's Foundation, the Teacher of the Year 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. The winner 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.

To date, Macy's and the Macy's Foundation have contributed over $2.5 million to teachers throughout the state.

This year's five finalists were chosen from more than 180,000 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. The winner must also show a superior capacity to inspire a love of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities.