In the past week, the selection committee of Bay District Schools revealed the names of the five finalists for the 2024 Rookie Teacher of the Year. The award for Rookie Teacher of the Year is intended to recognize teachers who have been teaching for a duration of one to three years. These outstanding team members were carefully chosen from a group of 34 nominees hailing from our local schools. We take immense pride in our finalists and would like to express our gratitude not only to them but also to the other nominees.
Below is information about the five finalists:
Christina Horimoto, Bay High School
Christina Horimoto is a Panama City native who graduated from Rutherford High School in 2013. She pursued her passion for psychology at Florida State University, supported by a scholarship she earned from the Bay Education Foundation. Christina is currently a math teacher at Bay High School. Her dedication to teaching was kindled by the exceptional educators she encountered in Bay County. Beyond the classroom, you’ll find Christina immersed in quality time, shopping with her daughter Ali, or eagerly planning her next adventure to Disney World.
Patrick Ferguson, Breakfast Point Academy
Patrick Ferguson recently earned his Bachelor of Music Education degree from Troy University. He serves as the band director at Breakfast Point Academy and holds the position of assistant band director at Arnold High School. Additionally, Patrick is an active member of several music-related organizations, including Kappa Kappa Psi, Band Fraternity Incorporated, the Florida Music Education Association, the Florida Bandmasters Association, and the National Association for Music Education. Outside of his professional commitments, Patrick enjoys spending quality time with his soon-to-be wife, Jaelin. He maintains an active lifestyle by working out at the gym and values the company of his close-knit circle of friends and family.
Elizabeth Jones, Deer Point Elementary School
Elizabeth Jones was born in Gulfport, Florida. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Criminology from Florida State University in 2019. Subsequently, she pursued her passion for law enforcement, and Elizabeth’s journey to teaching took an unconventional path. She initially joined the Tallahassee Police Department as an officer and later transferred to her hometown’s police department. Following her career shift, Elizabeth became a long-term substitute teacher at Gulfport Montessori Elementary before landing a permanent position at Deer Point Elementary School for the 2022-2023 school year, and this school year, she is a fifth-grade teacher. In her personal life, Elizabeth is married to the School Resource Deputy at Bay High School. During her free time, she enjoys baking, cooking, gardening, building with Legos, and painting.
Rebecca Denney, Tyndall Academy
Rebecca Denney joined Tyndall Academy as the VPK teacher for the inclusion classroom in the fall of 2021. In June 2023, she successfully obtained her ESE certification and subsequently transitioned to the role of instructional Pre-K ESE teacher in the same classroom in the following fall. She has a degree in Family and Consumer Sciences from the University of Georgia, which she earned in 2004. Despite her relocation due to her family’s Air Force assignments, Rebecca remains a loyal supporter of her beloved Georgia Bulldogs. Residing in Panama City for the past two years, Rebecca has developed a deep affection for the Emerald Coast, the wonderful Tyndall community, and the privilege of nurturing and educating the youngest Thunderbirds as they embark on their educational journey within the Bay District Schools.
Erica Jones, Patronis Elementary School
Erica Jones began her journey at Patronis Elementary School in 2015 when she was initially hired as a Kindergarten paraprofessional. However, it didn’t take her long to discover her true calling, and within a few months, she transitioned to the role of an ESE paraprofessional. In 2021, Erica graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Troy University. Shortly after, she was hired as a second-grade ESE teacher at Patronis. Her unwavering search for knowledge defines Erica’s remarkable journey, her dedication to nurturing young minds, and the boundless love she has for her own four children.
These outstanding rookie teachers have exhibited exceptional commitment to their roles, showcasing their enthusiasm for guaranteeing the prosperity of our students and staff. They have firmly established their dedication to upholding a secure and nurturing atmosphere in Bay District Schools.
We offer our sincere congratulations to all the finalists for their remarkable accomplishments and convey our appreciation for their devotion to Bay District Schools.