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Lake Wales
Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Ashley Schwarze and Julie Huggins Named Teacher and Support Staff of the Year at Lake Wales High School and Charter School System for 2024

Date:

by James Coulter

While attending Polk Community College (now Polk State University) to earn her associate in liberal arts, Ashley Brandon Schwarze was completely ensorcelled by her professor in her Introduction to Literature course.

So enamored was she by her professor’s teaching style, which inspired her and her fellow students to love the material they were studying, that the class, as Mrs. Schwarze said, “would change the trajectory of her future.”

Ashley Schwarze Pic

Mrs. Schwarze earned her bachelor’s in English Education from Warner College (now Warner University). In 1997, she returned to Lake Wales High School, where she had graduated five years earlier, to work as a teacher, hired by the same principal and vice principal who served there when she was a student.

Since then, Mrs. Schwarze has taught English on all grade levels, developed curriculums for drama, debate, creative writing, and speech, helped the school transition to charter, helped hire staff members, and served as the English Department Head.

Her ability to help students love learning as much as she loves teaching allowed her to not only earn the prestigious title of Teacher of the Year at Lake Wales High School but also the entire Lake Wales Charter School System.

Mrs. Schwarze joined paraprofessional Julie Huggins in being named the Teacher and Support Staff of the Year for Lake Wales High School and Lake Wales Charter Schools in 2024. Both received their honorary titles at last month’s charter school meeting.

“She is very proud to be a part of this team of educators,” Mrs. Schwarze wrote in a press release. “What has been most fulfilling in her career has been watching her past students grow up to be productive adults, wives/husbands, parents, and even teachers themselves in this community she has always called home.”

Huggins Headshot 2024

Mrs. Huggins, meanwhile, has worked with students in grades 6 through 12 for the past 15 years at various schools nationwide. She currently works at Lake Wales High School, where she serves “to create a positive school culture” by designing curriculum material with “instructional best practices to engage students in their learning,” she wrote.

Having grown up in a family of educators, Mrs. Huggins dreamed of becoming an educator ever since she was young. However, her journey towards her career was not without challenges.

“I found that the reality of teaching didn’t quite match my dream,” she said. “In fact, nothing quite prepares you for teaching, and while my educator preparatory program laid a solid foundation in pedagogy and content knowledge, the work of a teacher is hard and as I have learned, never done either. The challenges I faced as a young teacher lit a fire inside of me to make my dream and reality match. I wanted students who couldn’t wait to get to my class.”

Mrs. Schwarze and Huggins appeared on the Chattin on the Ridge podcast to discuss their careers and their recent titles. Listen to the episode on Acast: https://shows.acast.com/chattin-on-the-ridge/episodes/ep-34-lake-wales-teacher-and-support-staff-of-the-year-washl

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