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‘Today Was Amazing’ Says Duval Teacher Surprised With $15,000 Award

University of North Florida

Updated 8:50 a.m. Friday

It was an exciting week for four Duval County teachers who were awarded $15,000 prizes for their excellence in the classroom.

The Gladys Prior Awards, administered by the University of North Florida, have been given to Jacksonville teachers since 1998. Eighty teachers have been given the award since its inception.

Stanton College Preparatory English and journalism teacher Larry Knight was nominated by several of his students. He was surprised with the news during class Wednesday.

“As a teacher, you know you want to be recognized for your efforts and to be able to experience that with the students that I work with every day is absolutely phenomenal,” Knight said. “It was perhaps one of the best days that I’ve had in my life.”

Manya Goldstein is a former student who nominated Knight. She graduated from Stanton in 2015 and was a reporter and editor for the school’s newspaper, The Devil’s Advocate, which Knight oversees.

“He taught me to constantly strive for excellence, and it is because of Mr. Knight’s instruction and my Devil’s Advocate experience that I am where I am today — in journalism school continuing what he started,” she said in an email.

Knight said he believes in the importance of open-forum discussions so students can learn about themselves and each other.

“My personal teaching philosophy is to enlighten, to impact, to provide students with a safe place to learn and to grow intellectually,” he said.

The money doesn’t have to be used in the classroom. Knight is allowed to spend the money on whatever he wants.

Three other teachers received this year's awards:

  • Patrice Haupt, Paxon School for Advanced Studies 
  • James Miller, LaVilla Middle School 
  • Alicia Henderson, Assumption Catholic School

The awards are paid for by Gilchrist Berg, the founder of local investment firm Water Street Capital. He named the award after his fourth-grade teacher at Ortega Elementary Gladys Prior.
Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride

Editor's note: This article was updated with the names of three other recipients of the award.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.