Choosing a teacher to honor as the best of the year seems like an impossible task in the nation’s sixth-largest public school district, but the nominees have been whittled down to five.
Five extraordinary teachers were nominated by their peers, with the ultimate winners selected by a Broward County Public Schools committee. Here are their stories:
Stacey Brown is a natural. As a young girl she was the kid who wanted to grow up to be a teacher, and says her fourth graders at Pompano Beach Elementary School keep her enthused about her chosen profession.
"They are definitely my influence for getting up in the morning and my inspiration for coming to work every single day and I absolutely adore the lights in their face when they’re making progress and learning, and it’s just a joy," Brown said.
Frank Pizzo knows a thing or two about teaching financial literacy. His wife is a teacher, and after volunteering in her classroom, he caught the bug. Pizzo left the business world to teach at Miami Northwestern Senior High, and these days, it’s the kids at Deerfield Beach High School who get the benefit of his experience.
"The kids really need your help, and just by giving them something a little extra every day on an individual basis really makes a difference in their lives and I always like to say i’m only there for an hour, but that hour really has a big impact,” Pizzo said.
When Coral Cove Elementary jumped from a "C" grade to an "A" this year, the principal gave much of the credit to Diana Escobar, the school’s literacy specialist. It’s Escobar’s job to roam from class to class, working with kids on reading skills, and tracking their individual progress with data. Escobar went from engineering to teaching, and brings that flexibility to class.
"Every day is a new day, I can never say that today I have this lesson plan drafted, I have this day planned out because every day they surprise me and I adapt my schedule to their needs,” Escobar said.
Helen Kassim teaches first graders at Sunland Park Academy. Kassim says it’s incredible to be nominated for Teacher of the Year, especially considering that she would’ve failed eighth grade if not for a teacher who took her under his wing and changed her life.
"And just seeing how one person can have such a major impact on someone else’s future,” Kassim said, “Makes me want to do the same for someone else so that’s why I teach."
Monarch High School English teacher Tammy Freeman has a similar background. She grew up in poverty and says no one believed in her except for her teachers at school.
"My past is the past of hundreds of thousands of children who are in the school system who may not have anyone but their teachers so I want to impact my students, and not just my students but all students the same way that I was impacted when I was growing up,” Freeman said.
The winning teacher will be announced Thursday night. Besides bragging rights, the big prize is a new car.