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FUTURES Foundation & Volusia County Schools names First Year Teachers of the Year

FUTURES Foundation for Volusia County Schools announced its 2018 First Year Teacher Award recipients during its annual recognition event April 9 at Mainland High School’s Auditorium. Melissa Diamond, a 5th grade teacher at Forest Lake Elementary School, received the Elementary level First Year Teacher Award while Julian A. Gutierrez, an 11th and 12th grade teacher from Mainland High School, received the Secondary level First Year Teacher Award. Forest Lake Elementary School is located in Deltona while Mainland High School is in Daytona Beach. This year’s reception, co-sponsored by FUTURES and Volusia United Educators (VUE), featured refreshments prepared and served by the Mainland High Culinary Academy.

Ms. Diamond and Mr. Gutierrez were selected for their awards from 47 nominees who were chosen to represent their schools. To be considered for the recognition, nominees must have earned a Baccalaureate degree, started a full-time teaching career on or after Jan. 1, 2017, performed outstandingly based on standards established by the Volusia County School District and been nominated by their school principal.

In recommending Ms. Diamond for this award, Forest Lake Elementary Principal Dr. Paul Nehrig stated, “Ms. Diamond has established a caring community of learners in her classroom, characterized by mutual respect and rapport. Having built this foundation, she is able to expect great things from her students. She refuses to let them settle for anything less that their best and makes them believe they can accomplish more than they ever thought they could. She models her own learning with frequent think-alouds, unpacks assignments with students to co-create success criteria, uses ‘Word Jam’ in the GoNoodle program so her students can challenge themselves with above grade-level vocabulary, and always celebrates success.”

Mainland High School Principal Dr. Cheryl Salerno stated, “Julian Gutierrez is a bright, unique and passionate young educator with a desire to make a difference in the lives of our students.  He has high expectations for all of his students and is able to blend modern technology with good old-fashioned people skills to create an effective and efficient culture for learning. He personifies the adage: students don’t care what you know until they know you care. He has students learning because he has connected with them in a way that is meaningful. He is also relatable, and I believe many of our young men and women see a glimpse of what they might become when they learn with him.”


This year’s Elementary First Year Teacher nominees included:                                

Blue Lake Elementary - Carolina Morales

Champion Elementary - Robin Knight

Chisolm Elementary - Brianna Townsel

Citrus Grove Elementary - Kaitlyn Scully

Cypress Creek Elementary - Amanda Serrano

Deltona Lakes Elementary - Lauren Warriner

Discovery Elementary - Crystal Mills

Edgewater Public - Ashlea Joiner

Enterprise Elementary - Megan Stebbins

Forest Lake Elementary - Melissa Diamond

George Marks Elementary - Tara Thomas

Holly Hill Elementary - Emily Mackenzie

Horizon Elementary - Sarah Smith

Manatee Cove Elementary - Kaylee Joan Lyons

McGinnis Elementary - Jessica Osterhout

Orange City Elementary - Brooke Hopkins

Osceola Elementary - Shana Seyk

Pathways Elementary - David Foresman

Pine Trail Elementary - Kyle Mangan

Pride Elementary - Kelsi Quicksall

Read-Pattillo Elementary - Kelly Aylwin

Spirit Elementary - Rachel Garay

Spruce Creek Elementary - Gary Lester

Sunrise Elementary - Marianne Dolce

Woodward Elementary - Jacqueline Ochs


This year’s Secondary First Year Teacher nominees included:

Atlantic High School - Kerianne Canetti

Campbell Middle School- Damon Barrs

DeLand High School - Alexis LaChance

DeLand Middle School - Michael Filz

Deltona High School - Julie Douglass

Deltona Middle School - Danielle Wynne

Galaxy Middle School - Ashley Amon

Heritage Middle School - Jonalyn Rivera

Hinson Middle School - Asihia Hines-Mack

Holly Hill School - Ashley Davis

Mainland High School - Julian A. Gutierrez

New Smyrna Beach High School - Megan Budd Parris

New Smyrna Beach Middle School - Evan Sanders

Pine Ridge High School - Loren Conlan

River Springs Middle School - John Russell Koenig

Seabreeze High School - Bruce Dunn

Silver Sands Middle School - Joan Strapp

Southwestern Middle School - Heidi Pena

Spruce Creek High School - James Rudd

T. Dewitt Taylor Middle-High School - Leigh Brown

University High School - Shelli Walters

Volusia Online Learning - Gina Connelly


Christy Mahaney, Specialist from the Volusia County Schools Professional Learning & School Improvement, provided insights into each nominee’s enthusiasm and dedication to their students as they were recognized on stage. Nominees received a special motivational speech by 2019 Volusia County Teacher of the Year Nicole Grebosz from Citrus Grove Elementary School. Two additional special guests included Nicklaus Conrad and Shannon Salisbury, the 2017 Elementary and Secondary First Year Teachers Award recipients, respectively, who also addressed the nominees and presented the 2018 awards to Ms. Diamond and Mr. Gutierrez.

FUTURES Foundation for Volusia County Schools, a non-profit direct support organization founded in 1985, engages business and civic leaders to promote and achieve educational excellence for Volusia County Public Schools. FUTURES’ volunteer board of directors consists of business and community leaders who raise funds and awareness in support of educational and recognition programs. Its vision is for all Volusia County Public School students to be equipped and prepared for college or career success. Through business and individual donations, FUTURES presents programs such as the First Year Teacher Awards. For additional information about FUTURES, please contact Executive Director Cynthia Ramirez at 386.255.6475, ext. 50730, or, or visit its website at

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