Laura Wykoff keeps letters from her students as a reminder of why her job is important.
She normally reads them to herself, but on Thursday, she shared them to a crowd of 600.
“I’m glad I had Ms. Wykoff. She is my best friend,” she recited.
The 44-year-old Fort Clarke Middle School mathematics teacher was named Alachua County’s teacher of the year at the Robert W. Hughes Teacher of the Year Program at Trinity United Methodist Church, at 4000 NW 53rd Ave. She has been teaching for more than 10 years, according to the county.
“If I ever needed a reason to know my job is important, this is definitely it,” Wykoff said.
Wykoff edged out 39 other teachers who were honored from each Alachua County public school. Each school first nominates a teacher, then a school board committee selects the finalists and finally a winner.
María Zelaya, an Eastside High School Spanish teacher, and Geoffrey Bramlett, an Alachua Elementary School media specialist, were the other finalists.
All honorees received $500 and a gift bag, said Joseph Fluriach, the special events director for the Education Foundation of Alachua County. Wykoff will also be honored at a UF basketball halftime show on Jan. 30.
Robert Hughes, a former superintendent, began the program in 1992.
“People need to tell [teachers]how important they are and what a significant impact they make on the lives of their young kids,” Hughes said.
Laura Wykoff, 44, was named Alachua County Teacher of the Year. She teaches math to students at Fort Clarke Middle School in Gainesville.