Florida Department of Juvenile Justice

10/27/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/27/2021 13:34

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Honors Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year


October 27, 2021

DJJ Communications Office [email protected]

(850) 921-5900

Orlando, Fla. - The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) awarded Vernon Simpson with the Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award at the 3rd Annual DJJ Restoring Hope Training Summit held in Orlando. The Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award is presented to an outstanding educator whose teaching methods demonstrate innovative and creative instructional strategies and who promotes a positive school environment.

"Mr. Simpson epitomizes a teacher that transcends expectations. To his students, he is not just an incredible instructor, but a trusted mentor and confidant" said DJJ Acting Secretary Josie Tamayo. "Mr. Simpson ensures students are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and support they need to successfully transition back into their home communities."

Mr. Simpson's students attested to the impact of having a teacher dedicated to student success. "He will feed you if you're hungry, encourage you if you're feeling hopeless, and guide you if you're lost," said one student. "He is not here for the paycheck; he is here to change someone's life."

Vernon Simpson is a carpentry teacher at the Juvenile Unit for Specialized Treatment (JUST) program in Liberty County. JUST is a mental health treatment program located in the Apalachicola National Forest where youth develop essential skills and explore their creativity in a unique environment. Mr. Simpson has worked at the facility for over ten years and has been teaching carpentry for the last year and a half. He instructs students on how to create furniture and works of art with wood and teaches them how to grow food through traditional and aquaponic gardening. In addition to traditional bookwork and engaging class workshops, Mr. Simpson creates community involvement opportunities for his students through community service projects.

DJJ also recognized two other finalists for the Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award. Jessica Dillard, an art and math teacher at the Orange Youth Academy in Orange County, and Kellie Norton, an English and reading teacher at Hillsborough Girls Academy in Hillsborough County were honored alongside Vernon Simpson at the ceremony.