Thirty years ago, Victor Sciullo left his comfortable job as a researcher at University of Pittsburgh to pursue a full-time career in the far less celebrated profession of teaching.
“I would wake up in the morning and I would look myself in the mirror and I would wonder ‘Who’s ever going to know I was here a hundred years from now? What did I ever do? How did I ever change the course of history for one person?,’” he said. “And this is where I am.”
Wednesday morning in the school’s auditorium, the 10th grade Paxon School for Advanced Studies Chemistry teacher learned just what an impact he’s had on people ever since.
He was one of four Jacksonville teachers honored by his peers and the University of North Florida as a recipient of the 2014 Gladys Prior Awards for Career Teaching Excellence.
The prize is handed out each year to individuals who have demonstrated teaching excellence and an ability to motivate students over the last 10 years.
The university has been awarding the prize to deserving longtime teachers since it was established in 1998 by Water Street Capital president Gilchrist Berg. Berg named the award after the fourth-grade Ortega Elementary School teacher who touched his own life.
“The award is very special because it honors his teacher and it honors four outstanding teachers in Jacksonville,” said Larry Daniel, dean of UNF’s College of Education and Human Services.
In addition to Sciullo, this year’s recipients are Eric Jackson of Atlantic Beach Elementary School, Roberta Kneiberg of Fletcher Senior High School and Katherine Nesselrode of Mandarin High School.
The teachers were selected by a panel of six anonymous judges. The university declined to say how many teachers were in the applicant pool.
Each teacher will receive a check a $17,500.They’ll also be treated to fine dining and praise during a special awards dinner at the River Club later this month.
Wednesday, one of Sciullo’s former students Kaitlyn Evans recalled the way his teaching changed the course of her life.
Before taking the 10th grade Chemistry class, Evans said she used to abhor science.
“I absolutely dreaded going to science. I was just trying to pass,” she said.
Now, she plans to pursue a career in biomedical or chemical engineering.
“He really engaged us,” she said. “He’d give these stories and analogies just so you understand the concepts. He’d make jokes about molecules and attracting each other and you had fun while you were in there so it made you really understand what you were learning.”
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