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PECS honors four faculty, staff members

Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School faculty, staff and students celebrate the 2015-16 Teachers and Non-instructional Employees of the Year.
Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School faculty, staff and students celebrate the 2015-16 Teachers and Non-instructional Employees of the Year.

BRIGHTON — Four exceptional Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School faculty and staff, nominated and voted on by their peers, were recently named 2015-16 Teachers and Non-instructional Employees of the Year for demonstrating excellence in the workplace.

“The goal was to get the cream of the crop of local employees from the district,” principal Brian Greseth said. “The teachers and staff work extremely hard. For their peers to see them and select them is a huge honor. [It’s] very humbling.”

Cindy Ringstaff and Traci Mendez were chosen as Teachers of the Year, and Mollie Jolly was named Culture Employee of the Year. ESE paraprofessional Macy Randolph was voted Non-instructional Employee of the Year.

The teachers were finalists for Glades County District Teacher of the Year, a distinction PECS landed for the second consecutive year.

Cindy Ringstaff

Elementary Teacher of the Year

After securing the PECS Elementary Teacher of the Year title, second-grade instructor Cindy Ringstaff went on to capture the Glades County District Teacher of the Year.

In its nine-year history, PECS has earned four Glades County District Teacher of the Year awards.

“The award itself is a great honor,” Greseth said. “We have some amazing teachers and staff.”

Ringstaff, a teacher for 18 years, is one of the original PECS teachers, having been at the school since its opening in 2007. She said she wanted a career that would allow her to spend time with her children. Teaching allowed her to accomplish that.

Ringstaff teaches language arts, social studies, math and science. Her classes average eight students, which she described as a “teacher’s dream.”

“I was astonished,” Ringstaff said when asked about the award. “I truly believe I was called here for a purpose.”

She said in order to bring out the best in her students, she needs to always be on top of her game. She fuses Seminole heritage and culture in her teaching style, which provides a unique learning experience for students.

“I love this school and community,” Ringstaff said. “I want them to be competitive with the students in the state.

Traci Mendez

Middle School Teacher of the Year

In her third year teaching at PECS, seventh- and eighth-grade reading teacher Traci Mendez was named PECS Middle School Teacher of the Year.

From as long as she can remember, Mendez said she has always wanted to teach. She even practiced teaching with her family members. Prior to teaching, she was a single mother waitressing at an Okeechobee restaurant. The Florida Atlantic University graduate started at PECS as a teacher’s aide, in 2002.

Mendez said small class sizes allow her to give students the one-on-one help they need; she averages 13 students per class. Mendez wants her students to know the potential she sees in them and to continue to strive and improve upon their education.

“Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Mendez said.

Mollie Jolly

Culture Employee of the Year

Tribal citizen Mollie Jolly found out she was Culture Employee of the Year when she saw Greseth coming toward her with a bouquet of flowers.

“I didn’t know it was for me at first. I thought they had the wrong teacher,” Jolly said.

Because Jolly is fluent in Mikasuki and Creek, the late Lorene Gopher saw her as an asset and brought her on board at PECS. Jolly started five years ago as a translator and substitute teacher. Two years later, she became the fourth- and fifth-grade Creek teacher.

“I love helping them learn the language,” she said. “The students have to pick it up and continue teaching it.”

Jolly stresses the importance for Tribal citizens to learn the language and culture. She teaches students through various activities and said students love hearing Seminole legends. Jolly opens her Creek classes to parents and Tribal citizens to help them learn the language as well.

“They need to practice every day or else the language will be lost. We need to start being more involved,” Jolly said.

Jolly said she loves to work hard and encourages the younger Tribal citizens to do so as well. Spending time with elders has traditionally been the way many have learned the language in the past.

“They need to sit down with the elders and learn the language,” Jolly said. “It’s also important to have respect for your elders.”

Macy Randolph

Non-instructional Employee of the Year

Macy Randolph has worked at PECS for five years. Her first four years were spent as a paraprofessional, and she is now an ESE paraprofessional. Randolph said working with exceptional students gives her the opportunity to better meet students’ needs and aid their educational development.

As a paraprofessional, Randolph assisted in classroom management and small groups with children. She attends classes with her students and teaches small groups.

Randolph said she’s very “grateful that my hard work was appreciated from my co-workers and bosses” to earn the Non-instructional Employee of the Year award.

In the future, she plans on finishing her degree in elementary education and becoming a teacher.

“My whole life I thought I was going to be a teacher. Over the last two years, it’s become stronger,” Randolph said. “I hope to be a positive role model and teach them love and care. So many kids lack that. I want to show kids that they can do whatever they want.”


Aaron Tommie
Aaron has worked for the Tribe since 2015. He is inspired by people who are selfless, humble, and motivated. His family is the most important aspect of his life and is a die hard fan of the Los Angeles Lakers. He came to work for the Tribe to show his appreciation to his ancestors for the blessings Tribal citizens receive based on their foresight and the sacrifices they made. He loves mysteries and conspiracy theories and is a huge on a great story line or plot in something that is supposed to entertain him.