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Press Release Detail

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

January 29, 2021


DJJ Communications Office
(850) 921-5900


Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has awarded Jesus Gonzalez with the 2020 Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award. The Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award is presented to an outstanding educator who uses innovative and creative teaching methods and who also promotes a positive school environment. 

Mr. Jesus Gonzalez is a 20-year veteran educator who currently teaches language arts, reading and social studies at Miami Youth Academy. Mr. Gonzalez creates a classroom environment that includes varied instructional strategies to engage with students to help them make a successful transition into and out of the program. Mr. Gonzalez cites technology as an essential instrument in his teaching, utilizing a smart board, laptops and a virtual classroom tool to allow teachers, staff and students to collaborate in the same interconnected learning environment. His embrace of technology allowed for a seamless transition when the program temporarily moved from in-class instruction to distance learning.  This use of technology also allows program youth to collaborate with students from the University of Miami participating in the Exchange for Change program which offers writing courses and letter exchanges between incarcerated students and writers studying on the outside.

“The teachers who serve inside our DJJ programs carry the great responsibility of not only educating students but ensuring they are ready and capable to return to their home communities. Mr. Gonzalez is the embodiment of a truly dedicated educator, one who helps students grow academically and achieve goals they never thought were possible,” said DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller.  

DJJ also honored two other outstanding teachers as finalists for the Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award. Among the finalists were Darin Oden, a business education teacher at the Miami Girls Academy and Melissa Dunham, a social science and earth science teacher at the Brevard Group Treatment Home in Cocoa, FL.

The teachers were honored during DJJ’s Restoring Hope Community Network Virtual Ceremony and received a monetary award from the Florida Juvenile Justice Association.