When Courtney Flohr Zeleny began teaching at Riviera Beach Elementary School four years ago, she became part of a family legacy started by her mother, Peggy Flohr, who is beginning her 28th year at the school. With Zeleny as the school's pre-K teacher and Flohr teaching kindergarten, the mother and daughter have become unique colleagues.
Zeleny is the first and only pre-K teacher the school has had since pre-K began at RBES in 2015. Since she is the only pre-K teacher, Zeleny does not have colleagues educating the same grade. Zeleny said her mother immediately became her “team” and professional mentor. She was especially excited to work with her mother because her first year of teaching, just before coming to RBES, was difficult.
With her daughter teaching students in the grade level just under hers, Flohr feels she already knows some of the children when they come to her classroom. Zeleny also said she forgets she and her mom are colleagues, and on occasion, calls Flohr “Mom,” which some students have affectionately repeated when addressing their teacher.
Until this past May when Zeleny was married, she also shared the name Flohr with her mother. Zeleny said she is proud to be Flohr's daughter, as her mom has a rich history at the school. Changing her name was a hard transition for Zeleny, but only at the RBES community, where the family name is well-known and respected. “I feel famous here,” Zeleny said enthusiastically.
During the time Flohr and Zeleny have been teaching together, there have been three different principals. Flohr said all three administrators have been supportive of her and Zeleny's desire to work closely. “I am very appreciative of administrators to allow us to work together,” she said. For example, when new pre-K and kindergarten classrooms were built at the school this summer, Flohr and Zeleny requested their rooms be next to each other, and the principal agreed.
Zeleny said that being colleagues with her mother has brought them closer together. Though they spend much of their day together, they also talk in the evenings. They vacation together in the summers as well. Zeleny said she has become more protective of her mother while at work. “It's a balance between a professional life and family,” she related.
Flohr said she is nearing retirement, though, she is unsure which year will be her last. Zeleny responded jokingly, saying, “I am not going to let her retire. I do not know how to function without her.” Flohr said even during retirement, she will continue to be a part of the RBES community through substitute teaching and volunteering.
Zeleny said she hopes she continues to teach pre-K because she enjoys the age. “Four-year-olds are the best age,” she said. “They are like sponges.” Though her last name may have changed, it seems likely Zeleny will continue the family legacy at the school for years to come.