Today’s rain couldn’t stop us from surprising our latest group of finalists for the 2022 Polk County Teacher and School-Related Employee of the Year. Congratulations to the finalists from District 6: Kent Viles — Teacher of the Year finalist, ESE teacher, Lake Region High Tracy Walling — School-Related Employee finalist, principal’s secretary, Eagle Lake Elementary Brief profiles of these two finalists can be found below. More surprise patrols will be taking place as we travel around Polk County to recognize the finalists from each of the seven districts. The overall winners will be announced at the Inspire Awards, which will take place on Jan. 20, 2022, at 5:30 p.m. at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. The Polk Education Foundation and the district’s Department of Public Relations & Strategic Partnerships collaborate to present this annual event. During the event, nominees will be recognized with video tributes and receive sponsored gifts. The Teacher of the Year and School-Related Employee of the Year will receive a cash prize generously donated by MIDFLORIDA Credit Union. Platinum sponsors for the event include Lakeland Automall and MIDFLORIDA Credit Union. Finalist Profiles, District 6 Kent Viles — ESE teacher, Lake Region High, District 6 finalist for Teacher of the Year Viles says that one of his main goals as a teacher is to reach out and impact as many students as possible on the Lake Region High campus. He strives to have meaningful communication and connections with students, as a way to build rapport and ultimately determine if there are issues affecting each student’s learning process. Showing empathy and making students feel important is a key part of their academic success, Viles says. Viles is a former business owner who developed an interest in teaching after serving as a PCPS volunteer, mentor and substitute teacher. He contributes to his school beyond the classroom, serving as a Spanish/English translator for IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings with parents. He is always seeking out new opportunities to broaden and strengthen his skills as an educator, and become a leader in his profession. “Teacher leaders make a different in the lives of others,” Viles said. “A teacher leader must look in the mirror and reflect on their practice. They must look for strengths and weaknesses and adjust.” Tracy Walling — principal’s secretary, Eagle Lake Elementary, District 6 finalist for School-Related Employee of the Year Administrators at Eagle Lake Elementary say Walling “truly makes a difference in the lives of students, teachers, staff and parents.” She assists with tutoring and monitoring the school’s financial status, and is there every day to greet all visitors with a warm, inviting smile. She has a humble presence and is willing to take on any role or responsibility that contributes to the success of Eagle Lake’s students; the children are always at the forefront of her mind. To sum it up, administrators say Walling is a “true asset” to Eagle Lake Elementary, with a positive energy and attitude, as well as a desire to maintain high standards and support everyone in the school’s community.
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