MARTIN COUNTY — The School District and the Education Foundation of Martin County honored its top educators for the 2022/2023 School Year in a special Teacher of the Year ceremony held Nov. 4 at the MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Event Center in Port St. Lucie. 

During that evening’s festivities, District and EFMC officials named Martin County High School Teacher Richard LoSardo their 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year, along with naming Stuart Middle School Reading Teacher Monica Pool and Port Salerno Elementary Fifth-Grade Teacher Rachel Reinhardt the middle school and elementary school Teachers of the Year, respectively.

MCHS Principal Alfred Fabrizio highlighted Mr. LoSardo’s winning characteristics in his nomination letter.

“Mr. LoSardo builds meaningful relationships with his students and helps them build self-confidence,” he wrote. “Mr. LoSardo demonstrates a passion for learning, a high level of care for all students and a desire to put the needs of students first. He exemplifies what it means to be an extraordinary teacher and leader.” 

Mr. LoSardo, 30, has lived in Palm City since 1992 and only briefly left the area to earn his undergraduate degree in public communication from Florida Atlantic University after graduating from MCHS in 2010. He has worked at his alma mater for the last six years and credits his own debate teacher there for guiding his future educational pathway.

“Growing up I wanted to be a screenwriter, but when I entered my freshman year at Florida Atlantic University, I became increasingly interested in the study of rhetoric and decided to pursue that passion,” he said. “I was a member of the MCHS debate team from the fall of 2007 until my graduation, and it was the highlight of my high school career. As a teenager, it was the first time I felt as though what I said mattered, and the community that my teacher, Mrs. [Kristin] Carbone, formed in her classroom was incredible. When I began teaching, I knew I wanted to provide that same environment for my students.”

Last year Mr. LoSardo began teaching the Global Perspectives & Research curriculum of the Advanced International Certificate of Education, the first time the AICE program was offered on his campus. It requires students to use all of the skills acquired through the program to complete a multistep portfolio-style assessment in order to obtain their AICE diploma.

“Teaching this course has been very rewarding because I have a front-row seat to students realizing their full academic potential,” he said. “It has been great to see students connect all of their previous learning and watch as they continue to grow as students and people.”

Mr. LoSardo currently serves as the southeast regional ambassador for the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative, a role in which he assists Title I middle and high schools with developing debate programs. He’s also MCHS’s District Advisory Council representative and attributes his latest role as 2022/2023 Teacher of the Year to his students.

“I only work as hard as I do because I teach some of the most caring, deserving and selfless students,” he explained. “I work to ensure they have every opportunity, whether in the classroom or on the national tournament circuit. I have always tried to ensure that I am doing the best I can for them.”

Superintendent John Millay noted his attributes as he lauded him for his success.

“Richard LoSardo is a passionate, knowledgeable educator who recognizes the importance of developing the next generation of critical thinkers,” he said. “Embracing his students’ natural inclination to have questions about the world around them, he prepares them to not only discover answers, but to be able to express facts and their findings in an articulate manner.”

Ms. Pool is a 17-year educator with the District and has spent the last four years teaching reading at Stuart Middle School. She holds an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from Wayne State University and a graduate degree in Reading Education from Nova Southeastern University. Her Principal Ebony Jarrett has worked hand-in-hand with her for most of that time.

“I have had the privilege of working alongside Monica for the past 14 years,” she said. “I have seen first-hand a consummate professional who epitomizes what it means to be a servant leader. Monica has continually inspired me with her expertise, professionalism, growth mindset and unwavering dedication. She is at heart a dedicated and caring educator.” 

A native of Michigan, Ms. Pool began her MCSD career at Hidden Oaks Middle School in 2005, taught at Anderson Middle School the following year and then ended up for several years at Jensen Beach High School where she also coached swimming, diving and tennis. In 2014, she did a four-year stint as a literacy coach at South Fork High School before accepting her current position. The six years she taught at JBHS, however, began a new focus for her.

“I have always had a passion for teaching students the foundational reading skills,” she said. “Since working at JBHS, I have worked with students that struggle with literacy and writing. My goal is to assist students in becoming better readers and writers so they can be successful and reach their career goals.”

In addition to serving SMS as a part-time literacy coach, Ms. Pool is a team leader for both the School Improvement Plan and School Advisory Council and is a member of Stuart Middle School’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports team. She was also a member of Florida's curriculum writing team that wrote the new English Language Arts standards. 

She definitely believes the rewards outweigh the challenges in teaching struggling students to read and write with more proficiency.

“The most rewarding thing is to watch students grow and become more confident in their own abilities,” Ms. Pool said.

A native of Fayetteville, Ark., Ms. Reinhardt grew up in Tequesta where she was home-schooled by her mother through the Florida Virtual School program. She subsequently earned her undergraduate degree from the University of West Florida in 2018. While home for spring break her senior year, she went for an informal interview at Port Salerno Elementary and was hired after graduation. She began teaching that fall, and only four years later, her Principal Lauren Gifford nominated her for Teacher of the Year.

“Ms. Reinhardt has been an extremely valuable asset to our staff,” the latter said. “She is an advocate for all children and believes in the power of establishing meaningful and positive relationships built on trust with each individual student.” 

Her win this year still came as a shock despite the effort she put into her application packet.

“I was very surprised, humbled and honored,” she said. “This is only my fifth year [of] teaching, and there are many elementary schools in Martin County. I did not think there was a huge chance I would win.”

While student teaching at a Title 1 inner-city elementary school in Pensacola, Ms. Reinhardt, 27, realized she enjoyed teaching special needs students. That’s when she knew PSE would be a good fit for her with its high number of English language learners.

“Students with special needs tend to be my favorite students,” she explained. “They have enormous personalities and bring so much sparkle to my classroom. I love learning about how they learn, helping them to become successful in their own way and teaching them to become independent, functioning children.”

Education Foundation of Martin County President Kate Cotner lauded the 2022/2023 Teachers of the Year during the awards ceremony.

“We at the Education Foundation of Martin County are so proud of our local teachers and are inspired by their dedication to Martin County's students,” she said. “Congratulations to all of the nominees and this year's winners. We will proudly follow Mr. LoSardo's journey as he represents Martin County in the running for Florida's Teacher of the Year award.”

This year’s Martin County Teacher of the Year event was sponsored by Audi Stuart, Infiniti Stuart and Alfa Romeo Stuart. The Florida Department of Education's Teacher of the Year finalists will be announced next May.

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