Influencer of the Week: Mandy Fillenwarth, Bay Meadows Elementary School

The STEAM magnet coordinator and former Teacher of the Year has been with BMES for 13 years.

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Mandy Fillenwarth is the STEAM magnet coordinator at Bay Meadows Elementary School and has done many great things in the past several years to help the magnet program grow by leaps and bounds, said Principal GeRai Mays. She conducts teacher trainings, supports students and staff via numerous projects and events such as Family Science Night, coaches the STEAM Dream Team competition team, runs the News Crew, serves as MTSS coach for several grades and inspires others to love learning. She was named Teacher of the Year in 2015.


What brought you to your school?

I had heard great things about Bay Meadows Elementary. It has such a wonderful family atmosphere. I actually started as a substitute when my children were very young then was hired as a teacher when my children started school.


What do you love most about your school?

I love our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) magnet program. I am passionate about science and STEAM education, and I am thrilled to work at an elementary school that engages students in hands-on, project-based learning. The students, teachers and families are excited about learning, and their excitement and curiosity are incredibly rewarding.


What is your motivation?

Knowing that we are preparing today’s students for our future motivates me to inspire and engage students in learning. Today’s young students need to be prepared for jobs that have yet to be created, so we focus on critical skills such as collaboration, communication, creative problem-solving and resiliency to learn from failure. We have learned that students who pursue careers in science and engineering are typically excited about the subjects by age 7, so I am motivated to engage students in STEAM at a young age.


What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I love the excitement and smiles on the students’ faces when they accomplish a challenging task. I am thrilled when former students contact me and tell me about their accomplishments.


What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy hiking, biking, kayaking, traveling and spending time with my family. Both my kids are at Florida State University, so I enjoy going to FSU football and basketball games.


Who was your favorite teacher when you were in school? Why?

My fourth-grade teacher, Mr. Kazakoff, had a passion for science and inspired me to pursue my career in science education.


When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I wanted to be a marine biologist because I loved learning about the ocean and its inhabitants. My passion for marine science brought me to Florida from Indiana, and I was fortunate to start my career in science education in SeaWorld’s Education Department.


What is your favorite children’s book and why?

That’s such a hard decision because I have many favorites! I love “Wonder,” the Harry Potter series, “The Giving Tree,” and “The Lorax” because they have wonderful messages and inspire our imagination.


What are your hobbies?

I enjoy photography, cooking and traveling.


If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

I would love to have the ability to fly so I could visit beautiful places quickly.


If you could only listen to three bands or artists for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?

Jimmy Buffett, Garth Brooks and the “Hamilton” soundtrack because they are great songs to sing along to.


What was your go-to lunch as an elementary student? Any favorite snacks or special treats you remember?

As a student, my go-to lunch was a PBJ sandwich, carrot sticks and milk. My favorite snacks were Little Debbie snacks when we got home from school.


What is your favorite holiday and why?

Christmas is my favorite holiday because our family and friends spend quality time together enjoying traditions, playing games, relaxing, baking cookies and enjoying all the holiday activities in Central Florida.


Who was your best friend when you were in school and why? Are you still in touch?

I have many friends from high school and college that I stay in touch with via Facebook and occasional visits.


What were your extracurricular activities as a student? Did you win any accolades or honors?

I loved doing Girl Scouts, sports and science as a kid. I played basketball and won a top honor in my school’s science fair. I also remember winning a cake-baking contest when I was a young Girl Scout.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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