Meet the Finalists for Miami-Dade Public Schools' Teacher of the Year

UPDATE: Oliver Diez from Palmetto Elementary School in SW Miami-Dade was selected as Teacher of the Year in a ceremony Thursday night. Read about this year's nominees below.

By the time you read this, it’s possible that Miami-Dade Public Schools will have already announced the winner of its annual Teacher of the Year award, as the ceremony is taking place on Thursday night.

Each of the nominees have impeccable credentials and their own unique takes on teaching.

Adrienne Burrows says she was a lousy student, but when the academic light turned on for her, this teacher at Young Women’s Preparatory Academy saw her calling.

“When I decided that I wanted to become a teacher, I wanted to show other students who were like how I was in school that they, too, can do great things,” Burrows said.

Ray Parris teaches robotics, entrepreneurship, digital media, AP studio 3D design and a dual enrollment class at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School, with a goal for his kids.

“Changing their perspective on life as far as giving them opportunities through STEM-related activities, through digital media concepts, and also I think the key for me is giving kids that skill set they need to make a difference in the world,” Parris explained.

One thing you’ll hear from every nominee is how humbled they are just to be considered for this award.

“I’m still in shock that I’m actually going to this event tonight,” Burrows said, echoing the thoughts of her fellow nominees.

Oliver Diez sees the nomination as validation for years of hard work. He built a powerhouse music program at Palmetto Elementary School. Diez is proud to represent the arts among the nominees and says he gets intense satisfaction from creating musicians at this young age.

“I take them when they have no knowledge at all of music and I was confident that when they leave, they will be leaving with enough to join any middle school program,” Diez said.

Hope Grant says the spark to teach was ignited by the teachers she had growing up in Jamaica.

“Because of how teachers were revered in the community, I wanted a piece of that action,” Grant said.

Now she’s leading the young women at the COPE Center North alternative school, feeling rewarded every day.

“Satisfaction of knowing that my students are excelling and that’s how teachers get paid, when students do well and I can say I had a hand in that,” Grant said, explaining her daily motivation.

Only one can win the car that comes with the title, Teacher of the Year. All of them are great in the classroom, and their students are lucky to have them.

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