UWF graduate inducted into National Teacher Hall of Fame

Students at Choctawhatchee High School in Fort Walton Beach are not the only ones getting good grades these days, one of their teachers is as well.

English and journalism teacher Linda Evanchyk, a 1979 graduate of the University of West Florida, was one of five teachers recently inducted into the National Teacher Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Emporia, Kansas. She joins only 90 others so honored since the recognition began in 1992. The organization is committed to drawing attention to exceptional elementary and secondary teachers through a museum, teacher resource center and recognition program that honors five of the nation’s most outstanding educators each year.

“They treated us like rock stars,” Evanchyk said, of her three-day induction experience which included downtown flags and banners, guest speakers, round-table discussions and a celebratory banquet.

The recognition is befitting a 31-year teaching career — Evanchyk has spent the last 26 of those years at Choctawhatchee High School, the school from which she was graduated in 1974.

“In high school, I was not planning to be a teacher, my goal was to be a professional journalist. Then I decided to become an English and journalism teacher, I thought I’d go that route and get to do both,” said Evanchyk, who was graduated from UWF with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts. She later earned her master’s in 1993 in the same field.

The biggest difference between her own high school days and those of her students’ involves the dominating presence of technology with which her students are much more at home than she. “When I grew up, we had more technology at school than at home, now it’s just the reverse,” she said. “Schools struggle to provide the best, most up-to-date technology.”

And while the latest smart phone may be a must for aspiring journalists, Evanchyk tries to ground those she teaches in the tenants of strong journalism – accuracy, fairness and relevancy – which will serve them well in whatever career field they may choose.

She maintains a close bond with her newspaper staff students.

“She’s up-to-date about everything,” said Bailey Brooks, who will be a junior this fall, her third year on the newspaper staff. “She always wants to be in with everything we’re doing. We will walk in her room and she has a Seventeen magazine on her desk.”

Brooks described Evanchyk as “motivating, but not mean.” Time management skills such as making deadlines and people skills such as handling difficult conversations and working together are a few of the skills they polish working on the school newspaper each week.

Those lessons were tested recently when the staff lost its student editor in a vehicle accident. Though shocked and grieving, the students decided to publish a memorial edition, putting what they knew about their friend and what they were learning from Evanchyk into action.

That heart-felt project is an example of why Evanchyk is now in the National Teacher Hall of Fame: She knows that preparing her students for the workplace as well as real life is an important part of her job.

For more information about the National Teacher Hall of Fame, visit

By Susie Forrester, University Communications