Region 4 | Tracy Staley, 28
School: Ponce de Leon Elementary, Largo
Subjects: Science, writing
Education: Bachelor's of science in elementary education, St. Petersburg College; working on her master's of Teacher Leadership for School Improvement at the University of Florida.
Tracy Staley always wanted to be a teacher. When she was little, she would line up all her stuffed animals and read to them.
She called the game "school."
Now Staley teaches 60 real fourth- and fifth-graders. "I love seeing them learn, grow, become independent," she said. "Especially now during this big transition of going from a kid to a young adult."
Staley strives to teach her lessons through hands-on activities and fun experiments.
"I'm always looking for new ways of instruction," she said. "I will not be satisfied. I will never say I'm a perfect teacher."
Cathy Santoro, a reading teacher at Ponce de Leon who nominated Staley, said she is the ideal teacher because she's always reflecting on her teaching style and is always trying to make herself a better teacher.
Beyond her classroom, Staley participates at the district level. She has written grants and obtained money to improve instruction, she actively participates in professional development and she is the adviser to a school environmental club and to the safety patrols, among others.
And when Staley's students need her, she's there. Her classroom door is always open. They all have her cell phone number.
When her students struggle, she tries to relate. She tells them when she has trouble with her own homework, family or any other problem she might be having.
"They need to see I have real-life problems, too," Staley said. "I honestly put my kids first."
Sabrina Rocco, Times staff writer