ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla., February 3, 2017 – Early Learning Coalition of North Florida (ELC) has selected 2016’s “Preschool Teacher of the Year” recipient, as well as honoring all the nominations at their fourth annual Early Educators Conference.
The conference was held on January 21, 2017 and it marked the third consecutive year where a preschool teacher received the prestigious award.
The preschool teacher recognition spans across the six counties ELC covers and acknowledges the quality, creativity and hard work of those who teach children during a time when, according to researchers, rapid brain development can be leveraged toward long-term academic achievement.
This year’s Preschool Teacher of the Year winner was St. Johns County’s Marie Klingner of Memorial Lutheran Chapel School in St. Augustine. Marie creates “teachable moments” all day and her consistent support enables children to reach their highest potential.
This year’s Preschool Teacher of the Year nominees included: Elizabeth Biskentawi of Lighthouse Learning Center in Orange Park; Giana Jackson of Rainbow Center in Bradford county; Damaris Jimenez of Polka Dot Kids Center in Palatka; Jill Maunz of Shadowlawn Elementary in Green Cove Springs and Lori Studenski of Amdromeda Preschool in Orange Park.
“We celebrate and thank the important role these teachers have in supporting our youngest learners, who are our future leaders,” said Joan Whitson, Early Literacy Outreach Manager at ELC of North Florida.
The nominees were recognized at the Early Educators Conference with a luncheon and awards ceremony sponsored by Kaplan Early Learning.
The conference also focused on early learning and provided continued training to early educators and inspire them to be quality teachers and care takers. Every attendee received continuing education credits for attending.
Topics at the conference included: sensory play, and how play is kindergarten readiness, along with story telling
Lisa Murphy, the founder and CEO of Ooey Gooey, Inc. was the speaker for the day. Lisa has been involved with early childhood education for over 20 years; teaching and working with children in various environments including Head Start, kindergarten, private preschools, family childcare, park and rec centers, group homes and many child care centers.
“What a joy to see this conference full to capacity. What inspires me is to see so many early educators together in one place all interested in bettering themselves as teachers. They have a special enthusiasm that other educators do not have and it is a privilege to organize conferences like this to better equip them with the tools they need in the classroom,” said Slava Shevchenko, Director at Academy of Sunshine.
Studies show that the best opportunity to influence children’s lifetime learning is before kindergarten when their most rapid period of brain growth occurs and it is part of ELC’s mission to give educators the support they need to help children be better prepared to learn.
A special presentation to award the winner for the ELC preschool teacher of the year was also part of this year’s conference. Marie Klingner from Memorial Chaplin School in St. Augustine, was the recipient of a $500 cash prize donated and presented by Brian Williams of, Kaplan Early Learning Company.
For more information about upcoming early literacy events, please contact Joan Whitson at