Kamille Chapman, an 8th grade math teacher at Mount Dora Middle School, has been named Lake County Schools Teacher of the Year for 2019-20.

The win netted her the use of a new Volkswagen Tiguan from Jenkins Auto Group in Leesburg and it puts her in the running for the Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year award. Finalists for that statewide award will be named in May and the winner in July.

The local announcement was made at a dinner on Saturday night (2/16/19) where the Teacher of the Year from each Lake County public school was recognized, and the top three finalists highlighted.

Chapman was among those finalists, along with Daniel Dilocker, a technology/robotics teacher at East Ridge Middle School, and Michael Tarquine, a choir and theatre teacher at Windy Hill Middle School.

Chapman has been a teacher about 32 years, the last 2-1/2 years in her current role. When she returned to Mount Dora Middle School after leaving in 1996, her plan was to “ride the wave to retirement” and finish out her career in two years. But she became inspired all over again.

“I found myself surrounded by amazing, positive influencers who reminded me why I chose to become a teacher,” she wrote in her application packet. “I care about children and their future.”

With a bachelor’s degree in Health Education from the State University of New York (SUNY) Cortland and a master’s in Education from Florida State University, Chapman has taught in Houston Texas and in many schools in Lake County. Those include Umatilla High School, Mount Dora High School, Tavares High School and Mount Dora Middle School. She also worked as a curriculum specialist for math and science for middle and high schools in Lake.

One of the main secrets to her success is the relationships she builds with her students. “I don’t do what I do in my classroom to get good data for our school,” she wrote. “I do what I do to improve the lives of my students; good academic results are a byproduct.”

When students have behavioral issues, instead of always writing a referral she often buys pizza and invites the student to have lunch with her. She sees it as an investment in the students, and she has reduced the number of referrals she writes by more than half. She says the reduction in referrals has increased student achievement, and she points to student performance data as evidence.

According to Lake County Standards Geometry Q1 data, Chapman’s eighth grade geometry students are surpassing their 9th and 10th grade peers, and they scored 21 percent higher than any other school in the district. Last year, 93 percent of her 8th grade algebra students passed the end of course exam, a big jump compared to the less than 50 percent of her students who passed in previous years.

Chapman says her teaching and leadership are driven by collaboration and effective teaming. She quotes from the book Big Potential by Shawn Achor for the inspiration for this approach: “You can be a superstar, you just can’t be one alone. What you need is a star system. A constellation of positive, authentic influencers who support each other, reinforce each other, and make each other better.”

Chapman has taken this philosophy to heart and it drives the way she works every day. “Working alone is not healthy, and you cannot grow well in isolation,” she wrote. “If you want to create relationships and successfully reach more students, you have to do that with collaboration and effective teaming. My message can be made even more succinct: One person can only do so much. Imagine what we can do together.”