Miami-Dade schools

The Best of the Best: Meet the Miami-Dade Teacher of the Year Nominees

One nominee teaches in an untraditional school setting -- behind bars

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Four teachers have been nominated, but only one will be declared the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Teacher of the Year. 

This annual exercise in bestowing that title on one teacher is an impossible task. They are all deserving of the distinction, so we will introduce you to each of these remarkable women. 

Let’s start with Denise White, because she has the distinction of teaching in a most untraditional school setting. White works with the kids inside the Juvenile Detention Center. These days she’s teaching them online because of the jail’s COVID-19 protocols. 

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“I think it’s a class of unique learners," White said. "Everybody has a spark, my job is to spark the spark so that education and learning can happen."

Yolette Mezadieu teaches computer science at her alma mater, Edison Senior High School. She feels like she’s giving back to the community in which she grew up. 

“Teaching is not a profession that’s going to make you rich," Mezadieu said. "You have to have a love for it, because my reward comes in seeing them graduate, seeing them become productive citizens."

From grade levels to teaching modalities to teaching styles, there are differences between the nominees, but they each have one thing in common: dedication to molding young minds.

“This is my calling, to be able to come in and help those who cannot help themselves,” Mezadieu said.

Candice Morris teaches at Goulds Elementary School. Usually, she’s in the classroom, explaining her belief that nothing adequately replaces being able to physically engage with her students, but her third graders are in a two-week quarantine right now, so we watched her teaching on Zoom. 

“I really feel like I was just born kind of just knowing that what I wanted to do was going to shape and impact young minds and make sure learning was fun for students,” Morris said.

27-year-veteran Teresa Murphy also would prefer to be in the classroom at Spanish Lake Elementary School. She’s teaching from home because she’s undergoing radiation and chemotherapy for breast cancer, which was diagnosed in August. 

Murphy says she never considered not teaching this year.

“Quite honestly, the children have added more to the experience than I could’ve imagined, because for these six hours you kind of forget you have cancer because we don’t have a desk job,” Murphy said. “20 years later kids come back, they find you and tell you something you said that you thought, maybe you haven’t even remembered you said it, and you realize just that little thing made such a big difference.”

The four nominees do this job to make an impact. 

“So if I can get them to interact with me, then I’ve done my job,” White said. 

Teaching is all about that human touch, in person, or through the computer screen. 

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