Four Duval County classroom teachers awoke this morning
enriched by $10,000 awards and the knowledge that their teaching
has inspired students and colleagues.
The first recipients of the Gladys Prior Awards for Career
Teaching Excellence include a teacher who runs, screaming,
around the perimeter of her science classroom to demonstrate
principles of sound waves, and an educator who is credited with
teaching handicapped students to reach goals their parents
The teachers are: Mary Alice Fryar, an eighth-grade teacher at
Landon Middle School; Terri Largen, teacher of mentally
handicapped students at Mandarin Oaks Elementary School; Marcia
Rivas, a fifth-grade teacher at Fort Caroline Elementary School
and Mary Helen Solomon, a music and performing arts teacher at
Riverside Presbyterian Day School.
They were nominated by former students and administrators, who
learned of the cash awards created this year by Gilchrist Berg,
the founder of a Jacksonville investment management company.
The awards are believed to be among the most lucrative for
teachers in the nation.
Berg provided $325,000 to reward both public and private school
teachers who have inspired classes for at least a decade. The
program, which includes graduate fellowship awards for teachers
with less experience, is administered by the University of North
The recipients, among more than 80 nominees, were selected by a
five-person committee that includes retired school
administrators and professors of education.
Fryar, 54, the daughter of a high school agriculture teacher,
has taught for 32 years in several schools in Duval County,
Gainesville and Hickory, N.C.
For the past four years, Fryar has taught science at Landon,
where she is known for a lessthan-dull approach. She swings
objects over her head, lasso style, to demonstrate centrifugal
force. She races around her room, shrieking, to demonstrate
Fryar, nominated for the award by a former student, plans to
put some of the money back into her school and would like to
challenge a corporation or individual to match her donation.
Like several of the teachers named, she was humbled by her
"I was absolutely, just shocked," she said. "It was a
tremendous honor. There are so many good teachers. They do it
year after year after year without any recognition. I know a
number of teachers in this district, just in the science
classrooms, who would be deserving of it."
Largen has taught at Mandarin Oaks for nine years and
previously was a teacher at Fort Caroline Elementary School and
in Tennessee and Kentucky. Her students achieve because she has
high expectations of them, said Jo Doty, principal at Mandarin
Her students vary in age and abilities. But Largen is organized
and creative enough to get them working toward a common goal by
providing each with a specific task, Doty said.
"She's just an absolutely phenomenal teacher," Doty said.
"We have parents who would like to have their children
retained, so they can have Terri for another year. …