Alachua recognizes prize-winning Santa Fe teacher

The City of Alachua awarded Santa Fe High School (SFHS) integrated science teacher Lauren Chandler a certificate of appreciation this week.

Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper recognized Chandler’s “outstanding work ethic, passion and personal achievement of receiving the Gannett Amazing Teacher award.”

That award earned Chandler a total of $10,000 and a chance to give back to her favorite programs at SFHS.

This is Chandler’s fourth year teaching at SFHS, and her approach to teaching exceptional student education (ESE) is to “be patient, caring, and kind, and to fight for those who don’t have as strong of a voice.”

Half of the prize money is is earmarked to go to school organizations of Chandler’s choice.

“I asked if we could put that toward the two clubs I have,” Chandler said, referencing the National Youth Society of Engineers and the Pre-Collegiate club.

She said the pandemic has limited the fundraising opportunities for most clubs.

“I took them on a field trip to the UF College of Engineering,” she said.

The other $5,000 she was awarded personally will be used for travel, Chandler said.

Chandler is a native of Virginia and attended college in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before moving to South Florida. She and her husband moved to the area to enjoy less traffic and small towns, she said.

Chandler said she is excited that this is her fourth year of teaching at SFHS because she will get the chance to watch her first class of students graduate.

“Graduation is just going to be surreal,” she said. “I watched them grow up.”

Along with her academic clubs, Chandler said she also coaches track and basketball cheer.

She said she was nominated for the teacher of the year award by a guidance counselor and is honored to receive the top prize.

Alachua Vice Mayor Shirley Green Brown addressed Chandler after the certificate was read at Monday night’s meeting.

“It warms my heart,” said Brown a former educator having taught at Alachua and W.W. Irby elementary schools. “I thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.”

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