The Martin County School District (MCSD) and Education Foundation of Martin County (EFMC) are proud to announce that Felix A. Williams School’s (FAWE) Jessica Urbay has been named the District’s 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year. The winner was announced during the Education Foundation of Martin County’s Teacher of the Year Awards Celebration on Friday, December 10, 2021, at the MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Event Center in Port St. Lucie. The event was presented by Audi Stuart, Infiniti Stuart, and Alfa Romeo Stuart.
Ms. Urbay, a teacher of third-grade gifted students, has been an educator for eight years, spending the last six serving students at Felix A. Williams Elementary School. Dedicated to ensuring the success of all learners, she believes that educators should never teach for the purpose of achieving a number or specific test result but to genuinely enrich the lives of students. Her ultimate goal as a teacher is to prepare students for a lifetime of civic leadership and problem-solving in an everchanging global society.
"My favorite 'data' is more qualitative in nature and lies in things like parents regularly sharing with me that their children have never been so eager to come to school, former students running to hug me and students genuinely feeling like their year in my classroom was the best year ever," Ms. Urbay wrote in her nomination packet.
A dedicated supporter of STEAM education, Ms. Urbay takes a holistic approach to teaching and learning. She believes that developing cross-curricular lessons is key to offering opportunities for students to explore their various interests across subjects, increasing multiple areas of learning at once. She is an ardent supporter of many environmental causes and organizations, including Students4H2O, Inc. and Water for South Sudan.
"When learning is an unforgettable experience for children, the pathways in their brains grow deeper and they are able to soak up more than most adults can imagine," she shared.
In addition to teaching, Ms. Urbay has eagerly accepted numerous leadership roles at both the school and district levels. She is the facilitator of FAWE's student council, helped to design the District's mathematics curriculum framework, resources and assessments, and was one of the first Martin County teachers to pilot and provide feedback on the new Schoology learning management platform. She earned her Clinical Educator certification in 2017 and the Corwin Leadership Institute's Instructional Coaching certification in 2018.
When she's not helping to shape young lives in her classroom, Ms. Urbay is active in our local community. She has supported multiple "bag-filling" projects - providing toiletries, clothing and other basic necessities - for needy children and residents of our community. She regularly leads service projects and volunteers time to assist at organizations such as Elev8hope, Students4H20, Water for South Sudan and the Hibiscus Children's Center. She is the proud mother of two children and has also served as a foster parent for multiple children through the 4Kids of the Treasure Coast organization.
“Ms. Jessica Urbay demonstrates why it is important for everyone to be a servant leader and collaborator," FAWE Principal Deborah Riley wrote in her letter of recommendation. "She truly believes that all of us working together can make a difference in the world."
Superintendent John D. Millay was proud to see Ms. Urbay take home this year’s award.
“Jessica Urbay is an innovative educator who understands and values the importance of developing global learners,” he said. “In her role as a teacher of the gifted, she embraces inquiry and fosters students' exploration of many subjects and concepts in her classroom. She is an admired leader on her campus, throughout our district and in our community. I am honored to have her represent the Martin County School District as the 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year.”
“The Education Foundation of Martin County would like to sincerely congratulate Jessica Urbay for winning this year's Martin County Teacher of the Year award,” said Arati Hammond, president of the EFMC. “Our entire community is fortunate to have Jessica and the other inspiring teachers like her who are dedicated to improving the lives of our youth here in Martin County. We will proudly follow Jessica as she represents Martin County in the running for Florida’s Teacher of the Year award.”
"There is a certain magic and beauty on the face of a child as they enter the classroom for the first time,” said Mario Murgado, President/CEO of Infiniti Stuart and Audi Stuart. “The teacher may not even understand what is happening as they greet the children on that first day as they look into the eyes of a future president, scientist, firefighter, Nobel peace prize winner, teacher, architect or nurse. The possibilities of what these children can become are limitless. One book, one child, one teacher can change the world!”
Ms. Urbay's nomination packet will be submitted to the Florida Department of Education for consideration in the state-level awards program. Finalists will be announced in May 2022.
In addition to honoring the District’s 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year, winners were recognized in the Elementary, Middle and High School categories:
Elementary Teacher of the Year – sponsored by MIDFLORIDA Credit Union
Jessica Urbay, Felix A. Williams Elementary School, 3rd Grade Teacher
**Winner of the 2021-2022 Martin County School District Teacher of the Year Award
Middle School Teacher of the Year – sponsored by Publix Super Markets Charities
Laura Bianco, Hidden Oaks Middle School, English Language Arts Teacher
Veteran teacher Laura Bianco has proudly educated Martin County students for the past fourteen years. In addition to teaching English Language Arts, she also serves as Hidden Oaks Middle School's wellness ambassador and consistently supports students' extracurricular activities before, during and after school. She has served as the school's Builders Club advisor, Student Government faculty advisor, tutor for test prep/academic achievement, clinical educator mentor for student teachers, and the one-site administrator for the Vantage Learning program.
"Every day, this profession has presented me with inspiration and desire to come back to do it again the next day," Mrs. Bianco wrote in her nomination packet. "I am inspired by each child who sits in my classroom. I am committed to understanding their social-emotional needs in relation to their academic abilities, and to know them better as people in order to help them successfully transition to high school."
“The 'kind' Mrs. Bianco builds and maintains strong, trusting relationships with her students that foster academic success and personal growth," Dr. Christopher Jones, Principal of Hidden Oaks Middle School, wrote in his letter of recommendation. "She is highly thought of by her students, their families and her colleagues. She receives individual praise on our school survey, and her name comes up as an example of the best of the best at Hidden Oaks in conversations among members of our community, including other teachers. Words of praise and admiration came from all sides of our community when she was announced as our teacher of the year."
High School Teacher of the Year – sponsored by Keiser University
Jeanine Bushman, South Fork High School, Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Support Facilitator
Homegrown educator Jeanine Bushman has educated Martin County students for success for the past thirteen years, including coming full circle and serving the past five at South Fork High School, her alma mater. As a support facilitator in ESE inclusion classes, she assists students by working with them individually and in small groups. She supports classroom teachers by ensuring students' needs are met and that they are receiving instruction that aligns with their individual learning styles. She frequently participates in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings and helps students develop self-advocacy skills so that they are able to become active members of their IEP committees.
"I must prepare our students for life after high school, whether that be college, the workforce or armed services," Ms. Bushman wrote in her nomination packet. "I am part of each step they take to ensure they become successful and active citizens. Within the past four years, 98% of students I monitor have successfully obtained their high school diplomas or general education development certification."
"Jeanine is the representation of the best things that South Fork offers," Principal Jay Blavatt wrote in his letter of recommendation. "She is dependable for students, parents, community members, colleagues and for our administrative team. Our school could not function without her and she does it all out of a selfless desire to make our school and community better."