Stefanie Larkin said representing her school is humbling.
Teaching wasn't a profession that had crossed Stefanie Larkin's mind when she graduated from Mainland High School in 1993.
In fact, she ended up going to college for a different major. It wasn't until after she graduated that Larkin said she realized she wanted to go in another direction. That path led her to a paraprofessional job at Ormond Beach Middle School, but it wasn't meant to be permanent; it was just a job to tide her over until she decided what she wanted to do.
That was 22 years ago. The teacher she worked with had a lot of faith in her, entrusting her to help special education students improve their reading skills.
"I treasured the relationships that I built with them and the rapport that was established," Larkin said. "I continued soaking in knowledge and continued working with students as I was attending college once again. I haven't looked back ever since."
Now, she's been a classroom teacher for 18 years. Larkin, who is Pine Trail Elementary's Teacher of the Year, currently teaches fourth grade. Her favorite core subject to teach is math.
Being recognized as Teacher of the Year "has been a priceless experience," she said.
"To represent our school is humbling being fully aware that I'm surrounded by exceptional educators and I continuously learn from them," said Larkin, who also attended Pine Trail Elementary as a child. "I will cherish this year representing my amazing school."
Her favorite thing about teaching is the ability to make a difference. Seeing the impact years later is inspiring, she said.
"I treasure when students come back to see me when they are seniors or have graduated college," Larkin said. "I've gotten emails from former students letting me know that they will always remember me or that they chose to become a teacher because of me."
If she could share one piece of wisdom with her students, it would be to always remain teachable, no matter how much you think you know. Larkin quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said "A great man is always willing to be little."