Teaching is much more than a 9-to-5 job for Eric Jackson. The hours are much longer, for one.


Jackson’s enthusiasm was recognized Wednesday when University of North Florida education professors walked into his fifth grade classroom with an award and a thank-you.

Four Duval County teachers were surprised in their classrooms Wednesday by principals and University of North Florida staff who gave these educators the university’s Gladys Prior Award for career teaching excellence.

The award, and a prize of $17,500, goes to teachers who show exceptional dedication to their students.

The award winners include:

■ Katharine Nesselrode, an advanced placement/advanced international certificate of education English language arts teacher at Mandarin High School, was described by her students as “difficult, understanding and motivational.”

Her class was always challenging, her reference letter read, but she also genuinely cared about her students. She once realized a student had pneumonia, sent her home and checked in with her to make sure she had the tools to keep up with her classwork.

■ Victor Sciullo, an international baccalaureate preparatory and advanced placement chemistry teacher at Paxon School for Advanced Studies, created a database of his lecture notes so students could access hundreds of pages of material. He uses his lessons to infuse life lessons, such as keeping goals in sight in order to take advantage of opportunities.

Several students mentioned in his reference letter have chosen their careers in science due to the influence he had on their confidence and their work ethic.

■ Roberta Knieberg, a special education language arts and reading teacher at Fletcher Middle School, believes any child with special needs can accomplish great things. She has an energetic demeanor, a great sense of humor and a motivational outlook, her reference letter stated.

She’s sponsored the school’s cheerleading squad and created an annual scholarship fund, the “Cap and Gown” scholarship, to fund five students who can’t afford senior activities.

Jackson, a math and science teacher at Atlantic Beach Elementary School, balances lessons with fun and facts, respects students and pushes students to be accountable for their own learning, his students said.

“He’s probably the best teacher that you’ll ever have,” said fifth-grader Alivia Waters. “He teaches us to work hard.”

Yvonne Iwae, an 11-year-old in Jackson’s class, said he doesn’t get angry when students get an answer wrong or forget to turn in an assignment. Rather, he turns it into a learning opportunity. If they don’t turn in homework, he tells them they have to be responsible and take ownership of their education.

Jackson admits it’s sometimes difficult to keep a positive attitude about the job he loves when his paycheck doesn’t reflect his hard work, he said.

“Someone does appreciate the energy, the attention, the effort that you’re giving,” Jackson said of the recognition.


Meredith Rutland: (904) 359-4161