A Letter from YMS Principal David Krakoff to Florida’s State Teacher of the Year Krista Stanley


Published on: Oct 5, 2020

Dear Krista,

Thank you for your dedication to and mastery of educational equity through differentiated instruction.  I’ve watched you take our school-wide priorities and initiatives seriously.  You poured your heart into our collaborative learning system in which our teachers develop deliberate unit plans designed to differentiate instruction based on all students’ needs.  Whenever doubt creeps into my head about whether we will ever truly serve ALL students, give ALL students equitable access to rigor, I walk myself to your classroom.  I have plopped myself down in the corner of your room and can’t fend off a smile from enveloping my face as I watched you customize your lesson.  I have seen you habitually move students in and out of groups fluidly based on what you’ve recorded on your daily monitoring sheet that measures every single student’s progress on your unit scale. You have always framed lessons around a taxonomy and strategically guided all students through a learning progression based on a unit scale tied to that taxonomy.  And systematically, ALL of your students have been given access to the deepest levels of rigor and those who have reached mastery earlier than others have been tasked with helping to close learning gaps for classmates while also deepening their own mastery of content even further. 

Thank you for your commitment to cultural competency.  I’ve observed your stunning ability to learn about and connect with each and every young person in your classroom.  You have mastered the art of differentiated instruction but also the commitment to becoming culturally competent.  You have made the effort to get to know every student, about their families, about their habits and hobbies, about their emotional responses, and about their culture.  I’ve been amazed at your ability to adjust your approach to every student as you immerse yourself in your students’ cultural being.   As a young, white woman who is native to Okeechobee, you have found a way to adjust your relationships with our Hispanic population, our Black population, our White population, our students with disabilities, our boys, and our girls.  You have mastered the challenge of connecting to others rather than making others connect to you in your own comfort zone or natural cultural characteristics. 

Thank you for believing in each and every student at Yearling Middle School.  You have been outspoken in our leadership meetings and with your students about your confidence and belief in each and every student.   You have taken the position that NO student is permitted to fail in your classroom.  But you have allowed EVERY student to feel free to take risks and to not fear mistakes.  And this, in a school that is the exact school that many across the country write off.  In our middle school that includes an economically depressed rate of more than 95%, a vastly majority minority population, a Title 1 school community, you have instilled self-confidence and a no-quit attitude in all of your students.  You taught all “levels,” of students, including many who scored well under Florida’s proficiency level in math the year before you became their teacher.  But you led 86% of your students to test at the proficient level and above in 2019.  You made your students all believe in themselves because you believed in them with every action taken and words used with your students.  You showed them that they ALL can be successful. 

Thank you for leading and helping other teachers grow.  As a member our school’s leadership team, our “Guiding Coalition,” you have stepped forward as a facilitator of small group and whole-staff professional learning sessions that have moved all of our teachers forward in terms of mastering our instructional system.  You worked to first perfect, and I mean perfect as you are a tireless worker and perfectionist by nature, to plan for and implement our four primary elements in our internal system that includes: standards-based instruction, conditions for learning, authentic learning, and collaborative learning.  Then you have shared and modeled for other teachers how you have implemented these elements so successfully into your lessons and with your students.  Teachers across Yearling Middle School have grown their own practice because of your commitment to your craft and to helping us build leadership capacity across our campus.

Thank you for placing your faith in me and helping me to grow. Throughout my career in school administration, I have experienced teachers rebelling against the vision I have worked to instill on a campus, and I have seen you and others like you embrace initiatives and systems I have worked to implement.  On the rebelling side, I have experienced downright malicious resistance and even personalized, falsified attacks all just to avoid change and transformation.  You didn’t have to trust me when I walked through the doors of Yearling Middle School in July of 2018.  You didn’t have to buy into my vision or contribute to my vision’s further evolution.  But you embraced the research I shared from the National Institute for School Leadership and the National Center on the Economy and Education from day one.  You were already a good teacher before I joined the Yearling family as principal.  But you chose to employ a purely growth mindset and place your trust and faith in your new principal without question or hesitation. And together, we have both grown.  I have enjoyed watching your instructional practice evolve and have appreciated your willingness to take chances and to share all you have learned every day through trials and successes in your classroom and when mentoring other teachers.  Our many discussions have led to tremendous professional growth and enhanced maturity for me in my leadership approach.  You have made every single one of your students better, you have enhanced your colleagues’ instructional capabilities and effectiveness, and you have made your principal a better leader.  And make no mistake, your complete, 100% commitment to and contributions to our transformation at Yearling Middle School helped others to choose to follow and embrace rather than resist.

On behalf of the entire state of Florida, thank you in advance for all the students, teachers, and schools that you’re about to impact. You’re about to embark on a journey on which very few educators have ventured.  For the next year, you will serve as Florida’s Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education, working to create greater public awareness of Florida’s outstanding teachers and to elevate the profession.  You will work to promote the contributions from the many outstanding educators in Florida and even work to recruit more talented people to serve our schools.  We are going to miss you at Yearling Middle School; your absence will feel like a black hole because of all of the people you have touched.  But you will engage in the ultimate act of servant leadership.  You will, in addition to promotion of teachers, share your most successful practices with educational leaders across our state.  Just as you have across Yearling Middle School’s campus, your work will make other teachers and leaders stronger, and now you will paint with an even wider brush.  You are about to influence students in all of Florida’s counties.  On behalf of every instructional leader and administrator in Florida, I am honored as your principal to be the one to thank you in advance for what I already know will be a year that impacts our state’s educational system in immeasurable ways because who you are.  Thank you for the privilege of working with and getting to know you.  You, Krista, are an agent of change and transformation.  You are the epitome of leadership; you make all those you come into contact with better. 

With the Ultimate Respect, Admiration, and Gratitude,

David Krakoff
Principal of Yearling Middle School