Melissa Abril-Dotel, 2025 Francisco R. Walker Teacher of the Year
Melissa Abril-Dotel, a second-grade teacher at North Beach Elementary School, has been named the 2025 Francisco R. Walker Miami-Dade County Teacher of the Year at a ceremony held this evening at the DoubleTree by Hilton Miami Airport & Convention Center.
Abril-Dotel comes from a family of educators and has wanted to be a teacher since she was a child. That dream was cemented in the fifth grade after two of her teachers helped her cope with the loss of her mother. That’s when she realized how much power there is in being a teacher. She began teaching in 2008 at Coral Way K-8 Center and shortly afterwards transferred to Christina M. Eve Elementary where she taught third grade for seven years.
Abril-Dotel has been teaching at North Beach since 2015 where she revels in the wide-eyed wonder of her second-grade students during their ‘aha’ moments. She believes education is more than memorizing rules and facts and prefers to ensure her students fully understand and find meaning in her lessons.
She inspires her students through innovative programs, like Reflex Math, the Reading Rocket Challenge and Sunshine State Young Readers Award, which builds strong readers and mathematicians. A champion for environmental education, Abril-Dotel engages students in hands-on projects that create a more eco-conscious school environment.
The runner-up is William Torres, a Commercial Art/3-D Animation teacher, from Robert Morgan Educational Center and Technical College.
Juan Gabriel Martin, 2024 Rookie Teacher of the Year
The top rookie teachers were also recognized at the event. The 2024 Rookie Teacher of the Year is Juan Gabriel Martin a music teacher at Citrus Grove K-8 Center. Martin captures his students’ interest by introducing them to a diverse range of music from medieval times to contemporary pop.
For Martin, his classroom is a realm of wonder, meticulously designed just like an amusement park ride, with a continuous stream of eager learners. Using the Disney Imagineering principles as inspiration, each lesson is not just education, it is engaging and memorable. He crafts strong bonds with parents to ensure their children’s needs are satisfied and their musical journeys thrive outside the classroom. Active in the community, he co-founded Compositum Musicae Novae, which produces, performs and introduces the public to emerging musicians, dancers, writers and visual artists.
Diaunte Jenkins, a dance instructor at Norland Middle School, is the runner-up.
The signature sponsors for the event include the Educational Federal Credit Union (EdFed), United Way Miami, and Kendall Toyota, which will present the winner with the keys to a new car, and supporting sponsors, Office Depot and Fringe Benefits Management Company (FBMC). The event is made possible through the partnerships with the United Teachers of Dade, the Miami-Dade County Council of PTAs/PTSAs, and the Dade Association of School Administrators.
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