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PCPS officials made surprise visits to more schools today (Sept. 16) as we announced our District 4 finalists for Teacher and School-Related Employee of the Year. Congratulations to:

– Laila Gulley, Teacher of the Year finalist, fourth-grade teacher, Garden Grove Elementary

– Julie Whiteley, School-Related Employee of the Year finalist, principal’s secretary, Garner Elementary

Brief profiles of these two finalists can be found below. Photos from today’s prize patrol are available on the PCPS Facebook page.

PCPS is recognizing 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:

Laila Gulley, Garden Grove Elementary, TOY

Gulley is praised for the way she communicates and connects with both students and parents. She also is an essential member of the Garden Grove team who works with other teachers to improve outcomes for all students.

Outside of her classroom duties as a fourth-grade teacher, Gulley serves with the Girl Scouts and assists with recruiting volunteers for school initiatives. She has been instrumental in many school beautification projects, and is “committed to making the world a better place.”

Julie Whiteley, Garner Elementary, SRE

Whiteley is the principal’s secretary at Garner Elementary, and she’s often the first person to arrive at work. She warmly greets students and employees as they come to school and is known for having positive relationships with all staff.

Whiteley takes time to read to students and comforts them when they are sick. She also cheers their academic progress and good behavior. Garner administrators say the school runs more efficiently because of the systems Whiteley has developed. In addition, she volunteers her time with the school’s advisory committee and PTO.

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