Marion Exceptional Education Teacher Named Teacher of the Year Finalist and Receives $5,000 from Macy’s and the Florida Department of Education!

May 12, 2017

FDOE Press Office

Marion Exceptional Education Teacher Named Teacher of the Year Finalist and Receives $5,000 from Macy’s and the Florida Department of Education!

~ Macy’s partners with the Florida Department of Education for a surprise announcement to name one of the five finalists to compete for the 2018 Florida Teacher of the Year ~


Ocala, Fla., May 12, 2017 – Like any other school day, Mr. Fuentes and his students were focused on their lessons for the day.  He had no idea that today was different and that he was about to receive the surprise of a lifetime! From a group of 73 teachers, Juan “Diego” Fuentes from Hillcrest School in Marion Countywas chosen as one of five finalists to compete for the 2018 Macy’s/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year Award!

For the past 29 years, Macy’s, along with the Florida Department of Education, has honored the most exceptional educators in Florida who make magic in and out of their classrooms every day. The Teacher of the Year program recognizes and honors the contributions of outstanding classroom teachers who have demonstrated a superior capacity to inspire a love of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities.  

At 12:30 p.m., Florida Department of Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, along with Bobbi Chelminski, Macy’s vice president, were on hand to make the big surprise announcement. The exceptional education music teacher was instructing his class when the Commissioner made the surprise visit and told him that he had been chosen as one of five finalists for the prestigious honor.

“Juan Diego Fuentes is a great teacher who challenges and inspires his students to believe and achieve a better tomorrow. Macy’s congratulates Mr. Fuentes for his commitment to help his students reach their full potential,” said Dennis Witte, Macy’s executive vice president and regional director of stores.

Upon receiving the good news, Juan “Diego” Fuentes was presented with a $5,000 check from the Florida Department of Education and Macy’s, and a $500 Macy’s gift card.  A $1,000 check, funded by Macy’s, was presented to Hillcrest School.

“Teachers are some of THE most important people in our children’s lives,” continued Witte.  “To be a teacher is to be a mentor, a friend, a coach and a constant in the lives of their students. Teachers are life changers and this is what happens each day in Mr. Fuente’s classroom. Throughout Macy’s sponsorship of this program, we continue to be humbled and proud to support the best educators in the Florida.”

“Mr. Fuentes is a terrific example of an educator who goes above and beyond to meet the individual needs of his students, and it is evident that he believes all students have the ability to achieve,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “As an exceptional education teacher, Mr. Fuentes’ students have varying, yet specific, goals, and above all, he focuses on their happiness and classroom engagement. He shares the gift of music with his students, helping to ensure all of his students have a way to express their creativity, and I am delighted to recognize him as a 2018 Teacher of the Year finalist.”

The winner of the 2018 Macy’s/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year award will be announced during a ceremony on Thursday, July 13, 2017.  The event will be held at Orlando’s Hard Rock Liveat Universal Studios CityWalk.

In addition to a $5,000 award funded by Macy’s and the Department of Education, the Teacher of the Year will receive awards from Macy’s including an all-expense paid trip for four to New York City to attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The winner will also serve for one year as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education, touring the state to spread the word about educational opportunities and challenges in the Sunshine State. To date, Macy’s has contributed $3 million to teachers throughout the state.

This year’s five finalists were chosen from more than 195,744 public school teachers throughout the state by a Department of Education-appointed selection committee representing teachers, principals, parents and the business community.  Each finalist is selected on the basis of outstanding ability to teach and communicate knowledge of the subject taught, professional development, philosophy of teaching, and outstanding school and community service. 

About Macy’s

Macy's, the largest retail brand of Macy's, Inc., delivers fashion and affordable luxury to customers at approximately 730 locations in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam, as well as to customers in the United States and more than 100 international destinations through its leading online store at Via its stores, e-commerce site, mobile and social platforms, Macy's offers distinctive assortments including the most desired family of exclusive and fashion brands for him, her and home. Macy's is known for such epic events as Macy's 4th of July Fireworks® and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade®, as well as spectacular fashion shows, culinary events, flower shows and celebrity appearances. Macy's flagship stores -- including Herald Square in New York City, Union Square in San Francisco, State Street in Chicago, Dadeland in Miami and South Coast Plaza in southern California -- are known internationally and leading destinations for visitors. Building on a more than 150-year tradition, and with the collective support of customers and employees, Macy's helps strengthen communities by supporting local and national charities giving more than $69 million each year to help make a difference in the lives of our customers.

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