‘They make me strong’: Mayport Elem. teacher named Hyundai Hometown Hero

Second-grade English and Social Studies teacher will receive new 2023 Hyundai Tucson

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A look of shock shot across the face of Colleen Pugh Tuesday afternoon.

The second-grade English and Social Studies teacher at Mayport Elementary School was ambushed with the news that she had won the Hyundai Hometown Heroes Award in the Educator category. The smiles and applause from her students helped soften the surprise.

“This doesn’t happen to people like me,” Pugh said while wiping away tears of joy.

Colleen Pugh (center) with her students. (WJXT)

Pugh is a 26-year veteran of the classroom, spending the majority of her time at San Jose Elementary ahead of the past seven years at Mayport.

“I can’t believe it. It was a fluke that I even found out about it (her nomination,” Pugh said. “It must have been somebody from San Jose, because they know so much about me and I was 19 years at San Jose. So, that’s my other heart and now my heart is here.”

Another surprise came when Pugh learned it was her son, Connor Loughran, an active duty Airmen in the U.S. Air Force stationed in Pensacola, who nominated her for the honor.

Colleen Pugh with her two sons at a Jacksonville Jaguars game. (WJXT)

Pugh said she loves teaching and her students keep her coming back for more. “They make me strong. Their energy, their inquisitiveness. Their want to learn. They’re just good kids.”

Pugh will be awarded a new 2023 Hyundai Tucson SUV by the North Florida Hyundai dealers.

This is the submission on her behalf from her son, Connor:

Colleen Pugh has been an educator in Duval County for over 25 years. In that time she has dedicated her efforts and livelihood towards making the children of this area as great as they can be. At the beginning of her career, she was an English Speaking Second Language teacher determined to integrate children from foreign language-speaking families into the Duval County school system. Her success ranges from having students that have become the first person in their family to graduate from college to students that are now small business owners in the local area. To this day she is stopped on the street by students that tell her that if it was not for her teaching they would not be the person they are today. She currently is a 2nd grade teacher at Mayport Elementary where she works with students that come from military families. This is a special cause for Mrs. Pugh because her oldest son is in the military and she knows the hardships of those who have family members in the service. She has been recognized as teacher of the year multiple times for her efforts. On top of all of this, Mrs. Pugh is a lifetime Jaguars season ticket holder who makes a point to celebrate and support the Jacksonville community as much as she can. Mrs. Pugh has positively impacted the lives of more Duval County children than anyone I have ever known.