NEWS RELEASE: Early Learning Coalition of North Florida Awards 2021 Teachers of the Year



Contact: Joan Whitson, Early Learning Literacy Coordinator, 

Early Learning Coalition of North Florida, Inc. 

Email: [email protected]  

Phone: 904-342-2267


The Early Learning Coalition of North Florida surprises Amy Finkley, 2021 Infant/Toddler Teacher of the Year, and Marisol Buitrago, 2021 Preschool Teacher of the Year, with prizes on January 6, 2022. 

Link to photo:


Early Learning Coalition of North Florida Awards 2021 Teachers of the Year

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla., January 6, 2022 – The Early Learning Coalition (ELC) of North Florida is pleased to announce its 2021 Preschool and Infant/Toddler Teachers of the Year. On January 6th, 2022, the ELC of North Florida surprised its 2021 preschool and infant/toddler teachers of the year with a prize. The teachers were gifted with balloons, flowers, candy and a visit by special guest Pete the Cat.

ELC’s 2021 Infant/Toddler Teacher of the Year is Amy Finkley. Amy is an infant and toddler teacher at Deerwood Academy in St. Johns, Florida. She has been a teacher there for 10 years and has been an infant/toddler teacher for almost 30 years. Amy was nominated by Lucinda Chapin and Sheri Jenkins, the Chief Operating Officers for Deerwood Academy. Amy also recently received their in-house Teacher of the Year award in honor of her continued dedication to the children in her care. 

The Preschool Teacher of the Year winner is Marisol Buitrago. Marisol is a teacher at Green Cove Springs Head Start Center in Green Cove Springs, Florida. Marisol has been teaching preschool for 25 years. She is also the center manager for the Green Cove Springs Head Start. Since the beginning of the year, she has worked as the lead teacher for the VPK Head Start classroom due to the center being short staffed because of COVID-19. 

Both of these teachers exemplify the qualities and characteristics necessary to nurture the lives of young children and have gone above and beyond in their work according to their nominees.

They will be honored in person at the ELC of North Florida Early Educators Conference on Saturday, January 29th at the Thrasher Horne Conference Center in Orange Park, Florida. The teachers will  receive a $500 cash prize thanks to Kaplan Early Learning Co. and the Clay Electric Foundation. 

This quote from John Quincy Adams could define these two winners, according to Joan Whitson, ELC of North Florida’s Outreach Manager.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you’re a leader.”

“These two teachers are clearly leaders and are so deserving of this award and recognition,” said Whitson. 

The Early Learning Coalition is the leading voice in six counties for child care. ELC works with many other local agencies to ensure that all families have access to quality, affordable child care. Their mission is achieved by leading projects that increase the quality and availability of child care professionals, and advocate child care policies that positively impact the lives of children and families. To learn more about the Early Learning Coalition of North Florida and how to assist in ensuring quality child care for all families, visit us at




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Additional Photos of the 2021 Teacher of the Year Award Winners: