In middle school, Kellee DeRiggi knows two days are never the same.
DeRiggi began her education career 20 years ago in a middle school setting, and as Ormond Beach Middle School's Teacher of the Year, the eight grade guidance counselor said she strives to do her best every day to help students with academic achievement, career planning, and social and emotional development. After all, seeing a counselor interact with students is what inspired her to make the switch from teaching.
Cam Blass, who was an eight grade school counselor at the time in OBMS, asked DeRiggi for permission to use her classroom for her Girl's Circle group.
"I was completely awed," DeRiggi said. "She had such a rapport and trust with her students. She had built an understanding and compassionate group out of girls who normally would not 'fit together.'"
So, DeRiggi went back to school and earned her master's degree, and now said she was honored and humbled to be selected as Teacher of the Year. She's wanted to teach for as long as she remembers. as child, she loved sitting at her father's desk pretending to grade papers and assign homework, she recalled.
There are a lot of things she loves about her job.
"I have learned more from my students than I have taught them," DeRiggi said. "I love their view of life. I love that for 7.5 hours a day, they are loved, cared for and safe."
She also appreciates her fellow educators and said she loves that they "never give up on the kids." She loves accepting and giving hugs, and providing students with second chances. DeRiggi takes her position as a role model seriously; she wants to students to never give up, and to visit her anytime.
"I love being that person when there is no place to go," DeRiggi said. "Being an educator is a profoundly challenging and rewarding job, and I simply cannot imagine doing anything else."