INK!’s (Investing in Kids) 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year awards campaign culminated on January 20 with a special recognition banquet and program, along with honors and a tribute to Andrew Burk, band director at Valley Ridge Academy, who was named as the Teacher of the Year among teacher finalists from St. Johns County, Florida, public schools. Kaitlyn Holle, a middle school science teacher at Mill Creek Academy, was named as this year’s Rookie Teacher of the Year. 

Kaitlyn Holle with Ryan Goodwin, INK and Tim Forson, St Johns Co. Superintendent

As Teacher of the Year, Burk will be awarded a car to drive from Beaver Toyota and a $500 gift certificate from Staples. He also becomes the representative from St. Johns County in the State of Florida Teacher of the Year competition. Burk will begin a year-long professional development and leadership program with fellow Teachers of the Year from all 67 counties around the state. As Rookie Teacher of the Year, Holle will receive $500 from Equitable.

Additional Teacher of the Year finalists this year include Veronica Fuata, second-grade teacher at Cunningham Creek Elementary School; Robie Hagan, instructional literacy coach at Wards Creek Elementary School; Patricia McElhone, academic interventionist at St. Johns Virtual School; and Sharon Warwell-Murden, fifth-grade teacher at R.B. Hunt Elementary School. The countywide awards program commemorates recipients as local scholastic leaders who help to build community awareness of the region’s best educators.

Since 2017, Burk has been teaching sixth, seventh and eighth-grade music classes beginning in South Florida, and in 2019, he started teaching the same grade levels in band at Valley Ridge Academy. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Music Education and majored in Instrumental Music Education at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. Burk resides in Jacksonville, Fla.

“I am so proud to have played a role in educating students and music teachers in and beyond the classroom,” said Burk. “Within St. Johns County School district, I have taken on the role of leading the Professional Learning Community for middle school band directors where I guide teachers during monthly band director meetings. We are currently planning the 2023 St. Johns County Honor Band,” he said. “Inside my classroom, I have hosted three college interns and directed them through a day in the life of a young middle school band director.” 

Burk added, “I am honored and humbled to receive such an amazing distinction as Teacher of the Year. We have an exceptional group of educators in St. Johns County, and it is a privilege to collaborate with them each day,” said Burk. “The school year has been challenging in many ways. Yet, it has provided us with a unique opportunity to reflect on our teaching practices and think about our relationships with our students. And it reminds us that what matters most is to help students truly engage in their own learning experiences,” he said.