Two new but very familiar faces – Deanna Sims and Kristy Walker – are now heading up the education department at Northeast Florida Association of REALTORS® (NEFAR).
Sims, who has served NEFAR for the past 11 years in the role of Member Services Coordinator, has moved her office in the Resource Center to its education wing where she is serving as the organization’s new Director of Education and Professional Development.
Sims takes over for Ruth Bonfante, who served as NEFAR’s Education Director for six years before deciding on a career change. As she left for new horizons in early April, Bonfante said she loved her time working at NEFAR and expressed her appreciation to all the “wonderful people” she has worked with within the Realtor® community over the years.
Sims is not the only one making a move. She will work hand in hand with Walker, who was also a NEFAR Member Services Coordinator and her former colleague. Walker will serve as the new Assistant Director of Education and Professional Development. Meanwhile, Joy Huber, who worked alongside Bonfante for many years, will continue in her role as Education and Professional Development Coordinator.
As she begins in her new position, Sims is no stranger to education. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Phoenix in Business Management and is just a few classes short of obtaining a Master of Science in Education degree from Nova Southeastern University. Prior to coming to NEFAR, she has served as a substitute teacher and as teaching intern at the preschool and elementary levels as she worked on her master’s degree. She has also served as school office manager before coming to work at NEFAR.
“I enjoy working at NEFAR because of the daily interaction I have with our members,” Sims said. “I get a deep sense of satisfaction helping and solving problems for them. In my new role, I look forward to continuing the excellent training and education that our Realtors® have received for many years. With the increasing number of agents joining NEFAR on a daily basis, it is my desire to help them learn the skills they will need to be on top of their game.”
Apart from work, Sims said she enjoys spending time with her family and traveling to the West Coast, where she visits with her two adult sons and her two-year-old grandson.
Like Sims, Walker also has a great love of education, and she worked for several years as a teacher before transitioning into the real estate industry.
A native of Jacksonville, Walker attended Ramona and Ortega Elementary before her family moved to Savannah, Georgia, where she spent her middle and high school years. “One of my fondest early childhood memories was serving as school patrol for Ortega Elementary and travelling to Washington D.C. at the end of fifth grade,” she said.
Graduating as her high school valedictorian, Walker maintained her high academic standing in college where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Armstrong State University in Savannah, which is now part of Georgia Southern. While living on campus, she met her husband, Lucas, and served three years as a resident assistant in her college dormitory.
Shortly after her college graduation, Walker returned to Jacksonville, where she taught young children from birth through Pre-k for seven years, in both the private- and public-school settings. She began working with NEFAR in the summer of 2016 as a Member Services Coordinator and “fell in love” with the real estate business. “Some of my favorite memories while working at NEFAR have been the times we get out in the community together, working for charities like Hunger Fight, where NEFAR and NEFMLS staff, Realtors®, Affiliate/Business partners and community members come together for a good cause,” she said, adding she thrives in NEFAR’s “fast-paced work environment” that is filled with networking and educational opportunities.
“Having worked as a Member Services Coordinator for five years, I have realized just how varied and talented our Realtor® members are, with their many different backgrounds and experiences that have led them to starting their real estate journey,” she said. “In my new role as Assistant Director of Education and Professional Development, I am most excited for the opportunity to provide informative and engaging courses to our real estate professionals and their growing business needs.”
In her spare time, Walker said she enjoys working out at the gym, spending time with her family and friends at the park, eating out, and sipping on an iced coffee while shopping. She also enjoys travelling to new places while vacationing with her family and discovering new foods in locally owned restaurants.