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Five Questions with Jacksonville Teacher of the Year Semifinalist

Alex Farmand

By Courtney Salazar

December 3, 2021

Ms. Farmand, second grade teacher at Woodland Acres Elementary, began her teaching career as a Teach For America corps member in 2016. Today, she is at her same placement school nearly six years later, teaching the same group of students that she had at the start of the pandemic, and is now a semifinalist for the district’s top honor, Teacher of the Year. Alex shared with us what this moment means to her, what she’s learned over the past six years, and what the future holds for her. 

How has your role as a teacher evolved over the years since you first entered the classroom?

Alex: When I first entered the classroom I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into. I took my job so seriously though and pushed myself to learn and grow, just as I was asking my students to do. I tried implementing everything I learned from all the insightful resources I had from TFA, my school, and peers. This helped me evolve from a beginner teacher that was just trying to survive to the mentor teacher I am today who is thriving. It has taken a lot of hard work, dedication, long hours, and an emotional toll, but I am proud of where I am today as an educator.

Can you tell me about something you're really proud of from this or last school year?

Alex: I am really proud of myself for pushing through so much adversity with such a heavy load from the past year and a half while consistently showing up and giving my all to my students. In the past year, I feel like I have truly evolved into what feels like an “expert teacher”. It’s strange and a bit awkward for me to say that about myself, but I am working on acknowledging and being proud of the work that I’m doing for my students. My students are incredible, but I also have to give a special shout out to their parents for being so amazing throughout the pandemic and for going above and beyond to make sure their kids continued to learn at home. I am blessed to have the opportunity to serve such wonderful students alongside such wonderful, invested families. I am proud of us! 

Why have you chosen to remain in teaching rather than working in another field that is addressing inequity?

Alex: I have chosen to remain in the classroom for a couple reasons. First and foremost, each year I found myself saying ‘I cannot leave these children and their families’.  Despite the ups and downs and uncertainty of each school year, I have always been so connected to my students. My school team, my students, and the families that I work with at Woodland Acres have become like family to me. I can’t imagine leaving them! They’re why I choose to stay and why I show up and give it my all each day.  I know how important my role as an educator is, and I wholeheartedly believe that every child deserves the best opportunities and education possible. That’s why I chose to stay, because they deserve it. 

What advice would you share with people who are interested in becoming teachers? Or for new corps members?

Alex: There is an endless list of advice I could give to people who are interested in becoming teachers or are entering the classroom as new corps members, but ultimately, I would advise them to stay patient, work hard, and be genuinely “you”. Your students will be thankful for it! This work is hard and at times and can be stressful and heavy, so take it day by day. Know that every day, week, month, quarter, and school year are different in so many ways. Figure out what works best for you and what your teaching style is. Trust yourself and learn as much as you can from your colleagues. Build connections and relationships with your school team. For me, those connections took me from surviving to thriving.  Also, it's okay to not have the "coolest" classroom in the building your first or second year. I know it’s tempting to put a lot of time and energy into making your classroom cute and pretty, but you’ll have plenty of time to do that throughout the year and it’s more fun to do it alongside your students!

What does it mean to you to be chosen by your peers as Teacher of the Year at your school?

Alex: I am beyond humbled by my peers' decision to make me Teacher of the Year at Woodland Acres Elementary. I work amongst so many amazing educators, which makes it that much more of an honor. I feel seen and appreciated by the wonderful people that I have the opportunity to work with and for each and every day, and it truly means the world to me.

Alex Farmand (Jacksonville ’16)