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Polk County Public Schools is kicking off another year of recognizing our county’s top teachers and employees.

Earlier today, the PCPS surprise patrol visited two schools to announce our District 1 finalists for the 2022-23 Polk County Teacher and School-Related Employee of the Year. Congratulations to:

– Meaghan Simms, Teacher of the Year finalist, math teacher, Lakeland High

– Cristina Barrick, School-Related Employee of the Year finalist, ESOL paraeducator, Dixieland Elementary

Brief profiles of these two finalists can be found below. Please see our website for photos: https://tinyurl.com/y2atav27

In the coming weeks PCPS will recognize finalists from all seven districts, and the overall winners will be announced at the Inspire Awards on Dec. 7 at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.

The Polk Education Foundation and PCPS’ Department of Public Relations & Strategic Partnerships collaborate to present this annual event.

During the event, finalists 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. Gold sponsors include: Aramark, Boswell & Dunlap, BlueCross BlueShield of Florida, Mosaic, Tampa Electric Company, Publix Super Markets Charities, Orlando Health, and Legoland Florida Resort.

Finalist profiles:

Meaghan Simms, Lakeland High, TOY

Simms has a gift for communicating and connecting with students, parents and colleagues. She is well known and liked within the Lakeland High community, and students are eager to be part of her statistics class.

Simms has been praised for her curriculum expertise and willingness to support fellow teachers. She also is an integral part of the LHS family beyond the classroom, coordinating school events and lending her support to student clubs and activities. Outside of work, Simms regularly seeks out opportunities to continue expanding her knowledge and teaching skills.

Former students have expressed their gratitude to Simms well after graduation, and they often encourage younger students to take her class.

Cristina Barrick, Dixieland Elementary, SRE

Barrick has a reputation for providing high-quality service and support for her students. She is a regarded as an effective coordinator of Dixieland’s ESOL program, building strong relationships with students and their families.

Barrick works closely with Dixieland teachers to make sure ESOL students have the support and resources to help them succeed. She also takes extra time to make herself available for school projects and meetings with families.

Dixieland administrators say Barrick is an “invaluable” member of their school community.

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