Beloved teacher dies in Ocala
Lake Weir High educator apparently had a medical issue that contributed to a vehicle crash.
It only takes a few minutes of watching the video from the 33rd Annual Golden Apple Gala to realize that John Gibb, who was one of this year’s five honored educators, was adored by his students.
The Golden Apple program is organized by the Public Education Foundation of Marion County, in concert with Marion County Public Schools. In the video from the Feb. 4 gala, some of Gibbs’ students speak highly of him and one girl alludes to his popularity on social media, including a dance scene on TikTok, and says “He actually has a big following.”
Gibb, a teacher at Lake Weir High School, died March 21, after experiencing what authorities said appeared to be a medical episode. He was 31.
Law enforcement officials said Gibb was driving on Maricamp Road on Tuesday morning when his vehicle crossed the median and stuck objects including a sign and a fence, near the school. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.
Grief counselors were present at the school, where Gibb taught Pre IB English and where he was named a rookie teacher of the year in 2018 before being named a Golden Apple Teacher for 2023 and a finalist for Teacher of the Year.
In his speech from the gala, Gibb opens by telling the audience that before he became a teacher, he was a journalist.
His teacher page on the MCPS website states that he is from Marlington, West Virginia, and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Marshall University in West Virginia and a master’s in mass communications from the University of Southern Mississippi. He worked in radio production and newspaper reporting, and even interned with Sydney Educational Radio in Australia. He moved to Florida in 2015 to begin his career in education.
He said in the video, which can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Js0TIUFhZmY, that he was inspired by the late Anthony Bourdain to pursue journalism.
“His style of storytelling was brilliant. More importantly, Bourdain taught me a lot about the power of human connection, the beauty of humanity, and the importance of amplifying marginalized voices. In my short stint as a journalist, I interviewed many politicians, celebrities, and hometown heroes. It was certainly a rewarding time, but something was missing. I remember interviewing a veteran who had served six tours in Iraq and who suffers with PTSD. He looked at me and said, ‘Whatever you do in life, make sure it is meaningful, and purposeful.’ I have always remembered that,” he read from his notes.
He said that working as a substitute teacher put him on a path to become a classroom teacher.
“Ultimately, it was one of my best decisions. In my classroom, I—like Bourdain—always look for ways to amplify students’ voices,” he said. “By promoting student voice in the classroom, engagement increases, a community of collaboration is fostered, and student achievement improves.”
He said that teaching at Lake Weir High School “has been the greatest joy in my life.”
Details about any funeral or memorial arrangements were not available at press time.