Jennifer Ortega was surprised by Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins this week with the 2021 New Teacher of the Year Award. Ortega teaches 7th grade reading at Lehigh Acres Middle School.
“It was definitely a surprise. I’m a little bit embarrassed but in a good way,” Ortega said shortly after being presented her award. “I always wanted to be a teacher but when I was younger I didn’t feel comfortable going into teaching. I think now is the perfect time because I am older and more confident that I am able to help my students.”
Ortega is a career changer, who joined the School District in August 2020 after several years working as a retail sales manager. She has taken to imparting her love of art and literature to her students, resulting in achievement scores on par with more experienced teachers.
“Jennifer has been such a welcome addition to the LAMS family,” Assistant Principal Lisanne Thomas says. “She has embraced her role as reading teacher, been consistent in her instruction, and integrated into our core group of leaders. She has implemented blended classrooms with skill and grace rivaling a seasoned teacher. She has the potential to become a guidepost and mentor for others.”
The Lee County New Teacher of the Year program recognizes newly certified personnel for the significant contributions they make to their school and The School District of Lee County. First-year teachers were nominated by their administrators, a selection committee picked the finalists and then interviewed them to choose the third annual award winner.
“The division of human resources wants to positively highlight the teaching profession,” says Chief Human Resource Officer Dr. Angela Pruitt. “Since it is a critically important time to hire great teachers for our children, we want to shine a light on a deserving beginning teacher to assist with recruitment and retention into the field of education.”