Geometry teacher Julie Earl has received the 2021-22 OCPS Hero Teacher Award at West Orange High School for embodying “the spirit of the profession, like courageous, selfless, admired, driven, devoted and caring.” She was at a disadvantage taking over classes weeks after school began and was the third teacher in a matter of weeks — but she made up time while ensuring the students received their full education. She co-sponsors the Math Club and supervises after-school math tutoring. She also is the test site coordinator for the National SAT and ACT tests offered Saturdays throughout the school year.
What brought you to your school?
When I first started my career, I had wanted to teach high school mathematics but was very fortunate to work at two great middle schools here in Winter Garden: Lakeview Middle and SunRidge Middle. I taught eighth-grade math, algebra, and geometry for 17 years and really enjoyed working with middle school students, but I decided that it was time to move to West Orange when my daughter started high school. … Having worked in this community for so many years, it was the only high school I wanted to move to.
What do you love most about your school?
The thing I love the most about West Orange, besides the students, of course, is the people I work with every day. They help to make it a joy to come to work and are the foundation of what makes this school so special. I have worked and collaborated with some of the best educators in the county, and they have helped me to continuously grow to become the best teacher that I can be.
What is your motivation?
I have always strived to do the best that I can in everything I do and am motivated by the challenges each new day brings. No two days are ever the same in the classroom, and I accept those challenges because I want to make a difference, even if just a little bit.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is when I see “the light bulb go off” and a student finally gets it after struggling to understand a concept. I want my students to be passionate about learning and not to be afraid to take risks and try, even if they get the wrong answer. I like to use their mistakes as a learning tool so students can understand common misconceptions when solving a problem and, hopefully, they realize what not to do!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, going to the beach, spending the day at local farms picking blueberries or strawberries, or sometimes just relaxing by the pool. We also enjoy camping whenever we can get away for a few days.
Who was your favorite teacher when you were in school? Why?
My favorite teacher was my sixth-grade teacher at Orlo Vista Elementary, Mr. Fulford. As a young child, I thought Mr. Fulford seemed very tall and intimidating, and he scared me at the beginning of the school year. But he ended up being a great big teddy bear who demanded a lot from his students but in a very caring and loving way. He pushed me to do the best that I could and not give up when things became difficult. Fun fact: Mr. Fulford later became the mayor of Winter Garden, and I had the pleasure of having his granddaughter as a student when I taught at Lakeview.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
I really don’t remember what I wanted to be when I grew up. However, I remember my parents telling me that I should be a lawyer because I liked to argue a lot. I preferred to call it debating.
What is your favorite children’s book and why?
Just about any Dr. Seuss book! I love the underlying themes and how he was able to make the children’s books so entertaining through the rhymes.
What are your hobbies?
I love to read good mystery novels when I have the time. I also like to get outside and exercise by walking on the local trails or participating in 5K runs/walks with friends.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
If I could have any superpower, I would want to be able to fly like Superman or Captain Marvel for a very selfish reason! If I could fly, I could visit my new grandson who lives in Seattle any time I wanted and still make it back home in time to go to work! He lives so far away, and I only get to see him a few times a year. Flying around and seeing all the wonders of the world would be pretty cool, too.
If you could only listen to three bands or artists for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
Queen – The greatest band of all time! Where else can you hear such a wide variety of musical genres from one band (pop, rock, opera, funk, soul, etc.)?
Maroon 5 – Their music just gets me in a good mood, is energizing and just makes me happy!
Karen Carpenter (this choice is really showing my age) – She has always been one of my favorite singers ever since I was in chorus in junior high. She had the most distinctive vocal range and one of the most beautiful tones when she sang. Listening to the Carpenters brings back lots of good memories from my school days and is very relaxing to listen to.
What is your favorite holiday and why?
My favorite holiday is Christmas because of the special times we get to spend with family making memories. I love all the traditions of Christmas, from the shopping, parties, Christmas lighting celebrations to watching holiday movies and the old Christmas specials from my childhood that are still showing on TV.
Who was your best friend when you were in school and why? Are you still in touch?
I met my best friend in the seventh-grade Wheel class at Robinswood Junior High. I think we were the only two girls in shop class and were paired together on projects. We found that we had a lot in common so quickly became friends. I was a shy, insecure girl at that time, and Tracey was so confident, outgoing and so just cool. She helped to bring me out of my shell and encouraged me to join her in chorus the next school year. We remained friends throughout high school, and we are still best of friends after all these years. She moved to another state after graduating high school, but we have always made time for each other and try to visit each other as much as we can.
What were your extracurricular activities as a student? Did you win any accolades or honors?
I was on the school gymnastics team for most of my junior high and high shool years. I was also a cheerleader and in chorus.
How long have you been at your school and with OCPS?
This is my 24th year working for OCPS, all at schools within Winter Garden. I taught for 14 years at Lakeview Middle and three years at SunRidge Middle before moving to West Orange in 2015.