Find Orlando Family Magazine on Facebook! Follow Orlando Family Magazine on Twitter!

Terrific Teachers

Recognizing 14 incredible teachers whose passion for education extends beyond the classroom.

Teachers are tasked with one of the most important responsibilities in the future of our society—educating and preparing the next generation of workers, voters and leaders. Often asked to juggle dozens of  responsibilities, the life of an educator can be a hectic one. That doesn’t stop these “super teachers” from putting their all into their jobs and relaying their passions to their students. These teachers go above and beyond to spread the love of learning and encourage their students to dream big.


Melissa Benner
Math, Montverde Academy Middle School
A graduate of Northern Michigan University in elementary education with a specialization in mathematics and a master’s from the American College of Education in Curriculum & Instruction, Benner brings a wealth of knowledge to the classroom. With 12 years of teaching experience, including four at Montverde Academy, she has honed a teaching philosophy focused on nurturing a positive mindset toward learning mathematics. Benner’s commitment to facilitating growth and closing gaps in students’ mathematical mastery is evident in their approach. Through high-quality teaching and building confidence, Benner is dedicated to ensuring that every student succeeds in their mathematical journey.

Erin Goranson
Algebra II; Functions, Probability, and Statistics, The Geneva School
Goranson has taught upper school math at The Geneva School since 2020. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in secondary mathematics education, she began teaching in 2007. She loves being in the classroom sharing her love of mathematics with her students. Teaching a classical curriculum from a Christian worldview provides a unique opportunity to share the wonders of math with students in a complex but beautiful world. Using discussion, debate and play, her students explore and master concepts to move toward deeper mathematical understanding, and her classes equip students with problem-solving and communication.

Kathryn Gunter
Media Specialist, Lovell Elementary School
Creativity, passion and respect inspire Gunter to make the media center the heartbeat of Lovell. She creates a vibrant and evolving library program that is student-centered, and under her management, book circulation has increased. The library has also grown—a place for research, academic centers, a makerspace, STEM and more, where students enjoy learning, exploring and creating. Her innovative ideas won the Florida Power Library School Award, which recognizes outstanding school library programs. Gunter leads journalism, book and STEM clubs, in addition to Safety Patrol, National Elementary Honor Society and student council. She also runs an academic tutoring program that supports at-risk students.

Holly Harris
Drama, Lake Highland Preparatory School
In addition to teaching improv, acting and musical theater, you may find Harris turning up the music for a pop-up performance in the cafeteria, teaching lessons for colleagues, or choreographing and directing shows for pre-K through 12th grade students at Lake Highland Preparatory School (LHP). Actively involved in Orlando’s arts community, Harris is the founder of National Dance Day Orlando, serves as a creative collaborator for Creative City Project theatrical events, choreographs for Florida collegiate schools and is a Disney-in-Schools certified educator. A recipient of LHP’s prestigious President’s Cup Award for Excellence in Teaching, Harris has been a Highlander for seven years.

Sara Hudson
Fifth-Grade ELA, Prairie Lake Elementary School
Hudson has created a culture of high expectations in her classroom for 11 years. Bringing Level 1 students up to proficiency in one year, she strives beyond reading standards by discussing sociological topics. She creates a welcoming environment with monthly family nights, developing deep, lasting relationships with students, while additionally leading the cheer committee. As grade chair, she pushes teachers to help students excel, increasing fifth-grade ELA scores to above the district average. She has facilitated PLCs and hosts monthly professional development sessions. Hudson also helped shape district science assessments and create a house system that transformed the culture at her previous school.

Jaque Keehan
Elementary, Fiorella Preparatory School
Keehan is a difference- maker—she gives her students all the tools they need to be successful, not only in the classroom, but also as productive members of the community. From helping organize amazing educational field trips to taking the lead in Fiorella Preparatory School’s community food drive, she provides a nurturing environment for her students and is a daily example of living out Christian values. Every day, she creates memorable learning experiences that her students will take with them for years to come.

Tiffany Mann
STEM, Walden Community School
Mann currently teaches pre-algebra, algebra I/II, chemistry, sustainability and origins of infectious disease. She is adept at seamlessly integrating subjects to provide a holistic learning experience. With a dynamic teaching style, she sparks enthusiasm among students, fostering a love for discovery and critical thinking. Recognized for cultivating a classroom environment that encourages collaboration and creativity, she goes beyond traditional teaching methods, employing real-world applications to make abstract concepts relatable. Her commitment to student success is evident through consistently high achievement levels and a palpable eagerness for learning. As an inspirational mentor, she instills confidence, motivating her students to reach their full potential.

Vanessa McMillion
Dean of Discipline and Science Coach, Washington Shores Elementary School
For 28 years, McMillion has felt joy from seeing a concept click with a child. Her collective roles at Washington Shores allow her to have an impact on student growth, such as lobbying for a schedule change to increase science instruction, causing science proficiency scores to triple last year. As the teacher leader in science, she blends mentoring, innovation, collaboration and advocacy, hosting weekly planning sessions for teachers. McMillion designed a points-based incentive plan for students who follow the rules. Students can purchase items with points at a Positive Behavior Intervention and Support store on campus, which encourages positive behavior and respect.

Deborah Parsons
K-5 Music, Lake Silver Elementary School
For five years, Parsons has created a loving and accepting environment for all students in her music classroom. She holds ESE Inclusion concerts featuring Lake Silver gifted students and those in her extracurricular music enrichment group. She co-presented to a state conference in 2022 focusing on how educators can replicate the success of these concerts. She works with middle and high school music teachers to build each other’s programs and is chair of the Elementary All-County Honors Concert committee. Parsons is involved in organizing many school initiatives including seasonal celebrations, cultural performances, a collaborative mural and an International Day of Peace event epitomizing music and art.

David Rego
Social Studies, Orlando Science School
Rego is a treasured member of the school community for his strong relationships with students, families and staff, and for the vast culture and personal experience he infuses into his lessons. By incorporating hands-on music, food and real-life experiences, students become immersed in their education in ways that will stick with them well into their future. Rego is also the leader of the school Ukulele Club, which performs regularly at campus events. Prior to joining the school in 2018, Rego served in the Navy and graduated from UCF with a master’s degree in arts in teaching with certifications in elementary education, english, ESOL and gifted.

Jacqueline Russell
Sixth-Grade Math, Meadowbrook Middle School
A Florida DOE High Impact Teacher, Russell helped her students achieve one of the highest proficiency rates at her school. Bringing 15 years of experience and leadership, Russell supports colleagues delivering quality math instruction. She initiated the “Young Girls on the Move” mentoring program, which influences the academic and personal growth of sixth through eighth grade girls. Administrators and former students say Russell’s innovative teaching methods and her stimulating, inclusive classroom environment light a fire in many students. During the pandemic, Russell started a YouTube channel called “At Home with Mother Bonnet the Math Teacher,” providing math tutorials to help parents with struggling students.

Heather Webb
Orton-Gillingham and Multisensory Math Teacher, The Christ School
Once curating fine art as a gallery owner, Webb now spends her days creatively designing emotionally sound, prescriptive and diagnostic lessons for students with learning differences such as dyslexia and ADHD. With care and compassion for reaching all students through a multisensory educational approach, Webb makes learning fun. After taking Orton-Gillingham Academy and multisensory math trainings, Webb jumped into deeper learning for herself through practicum training to hone her skills even further. She takes her wisdom as a parent and passion for her students to cheer them on as they achieve new skills.

Michael Weeldreyer
Math, The First Academy
Math teacher. Wrestling coach. Commissioned Colson Fellow. In his seven years at The First Academy, Weeldreyer has found a way to help students thrive in many aspects of their lives.  “It has been great to teach in a Christian environment where the kids have a passion for learning, and the families are so supportive,” says Weeldreyer. He enjoys building relationships with his students. For him, one of the best parts of being a math teacher is seeing the students understand a difficult concept, and he finds it rewarding to help students understand and be able to help them when they have questions.

Sam Weitzner
Entrepreneurial Studies, Windermere Preparatory School
Weitzner has been in education for 18 years as a mentor, coach, summer camp director, classroom teacher and everything in between. In his second year at Windermere Preparatory School’s high school, he teaches entrepreneurial studies and guides the internships via the Learn to Start program. In every class, Weitzner encourages students to find their passion and connect it to learning. His enthusiasm is contagious, and his innovative teaching methods cater to every learning style, ensuring all students play to their strengths. When he is not teaching, Weitzner can be found writing, exploring the kitchen, playing music, or spending time with his wife, daughter and dog.