Doug Witter said his wife was his biggest influence to become a teacher. She was his biggest supporter, too.
In the early 80s, when they were dating, he volunteered in her kindergarten classroom. He discovered he enjoyed working with the children and watching them grow. He liked seeing them progress from not knowing all of their alphabet letters and sounds to reading, writing, adding and subtracting on their own.
It leads to his favorite thing about being a teacher: Watching his students get excited when they accomplish a goal or task.
"They start to build self esteem and pride in learning," Witter said. "That 'aha' moment when things start to click."
The Pine Trail Teacher of the Year grew up in Volusia County Schools himself. He attended Ortona Elementary (now merged with Osceola Elementary to form Beachside Elementary), Seabreeze Junior High School and Seabreeze High School. He attended Daytona State College and later the University of Central Florida.
This year is his 26th teaching kindergarten, but his 29th year working for the school district. He previously worked as an assistant in physical education, a custodian, in yard maintenance and as an exceptional student education assistant.
"It’s an honor that my peers choose me to represent Pine Trail Elementary," Witter said.
One thing he is taking away from this experience is that hard work does pay off.
"Just keep doing the best you can with all the obstacles thrown your way," he said.
If there was one piece of wisdom he could share with his students, it would be to always give things a try and give them their full effort. It's the growth mindset — don't give up, work hard and do your best.
He stays motivated by witnessing students learn and grow in his classroom, which in turn, keeps them motivated too.
"Motivation comes when they are successful and learn that they can do things on their own once they
are taught and try it," Witter said.
When he's not in the classroom, Witter said he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, drawing, exercising, and enjoying some great food.