podcastED: Florida’s Digital Educator of the Year shares secrets to success

Jessica Strong, a sixth-grade teacher at Florida Virtual School and the first person in her family to graduate from high school and college, received the 2022 Ron Nieto Digital Educator Award.

On this episode, ReimaginED Senior Writer Lisa Buie talks with Jessica Strong, a sixth-grade English language arts teacher at Florida Virtual School, who recently received the Ron Nieto Digital Educator of the Year Award for 2022. Named in memory of Nieto, who served as Florida’s first deputy commissioner of innovation, it is given to a Florida educator who excels at using technology in the classroom to positively impact student outcomes.


As the only child of a single mom whose struggles had forced her to leave school in seventh grade, Mrs. Strong never imagined she would go to college, much less become an educator. But not only has she become a teacher, but also one of the best digital educators in a state that pioneered high quality virtual education.

“My internship was with FLVS, and it was a unique experience, and I fell in love. I saw how innovative and interesting things can be done with a student who isn’t right in front of you…Students are tech natives, so their natural inclination is to learn and find out things on the computer, so putting education on computers is such a fascinating concept and with a little ingenuity, there’s nothing I can’t do.”


  • How Strong became her family’s first high school and college graduate
  • How her mom’s struggles in middle school inspired her to become an educator
  • What drew Strong to digital education
  • The difference between best approaches to in-person and virtual instruction
  • Why Strong thinks little things are big deals
  • How Strong turned students into published poets and got their book in the Library of Congress





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BY Lisa Buie

Lisa Buie is senior reporter for reimaginED. The daughter of a public school superintendent, she spent more than a dozen years as a reporter and bureau chief at the Tampa Bay Times before joining Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, where she served for nearly five years as marketing and communications manager. She lives with her husband and their teenage son, who has benefited from education choice.