Seminole County teacher of the year uses positivity, passion to share love of math

Samantha Neff known as 'Susie Sunshine' at Idyllwilde Elementary School

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Some teachers are carrying the torch of those who inspired them when they were students, including the new Seminole County Public Schools teacher of the year.

Instructional math coach Samantha Neff grew up in Seminole County and credits her ninth-grade algebra teacher with turning around her frustrations with math. Now, she helps students do the same. 
"I like to bring enthusiasm and positive peace to the classroom and to the teachers because they can do it and they are doing it," Neff said. "It's amazing to see just the growth and having them make sense of the math they're doing, and standards, it's really made a big difference."

"Her biggest quality is her ability to connect with people. She builds these relationships whether it's parents, students, staff, she builds these relationships where they automatically trust her," principal Lenore Logsdon said.
Nicknamed "Susie Sunshine" because of her positivity, Neff has been teaching in Seminole County schools for 17 years. She has a passion for making learning fun and building confidence in students that leads to success. Through planning with teachers, co-teaching in the classroom and meeting with students, she helps get results in math for Idyllwilde Elementary School.
"She's a very positive person, so whenever I think what would Mrs. Neff do, that changes my whole entire emotion," Jayden Stokes, a fifth-grade student, said. 
"She has games and the standards, and she breaks down the standards for us and basically explains to us how we're going to explain it to the students," first-grade teacher Briana Willett said.

Neff also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Central Florida, where she instructs future teachers on how to teach math.

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