It’s one of those rare competitions in which every competitor deserves to win. The five nominees for Broward County Public Schools’ teacher of the year award come from varied backgrounds but share an extraordinary dedication to their craft and to their students.
Seema Naik gave up an engineering career to teach fourth-graders at Eagle Ridge Elementary School.
“I don’t actually look at it as a job, I see that I get an opportunity to mold these young minds,” Naik said. “You know, I always believe there is no rigor without rapport. You have to first make that connection with them, like getting to know them, because every child is motivated with different things.”
It’s the “a-ha” moments that fuel Brandon Forbes in his AP Literature class at Hallandale Magnet High School.
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“Watching them first look at a text and be overwhelmed, and feel like they can’t do it, they don’t know what’s going on, and once they actually get it, the a-ha moment is what’s most rewarding for me,” Forbes said. “I like to try to connect with them in a way to where they feel like they are interested learners, like they have the actual investment, versus just I’m telling you what to do.”
This year’s nominees represent every level of K-12 education, including a technical school.
Esther Charles is a literacy coach and English teacher at Sheridan Technical High School now, but she has taught at every level during her career.
“So I have a plethora of different styles of teaching, different strategies, different ways to connect with the students, get them excited about their education,” Charles said. “They’re not just my little learners, but they are also people that have stories to tell and a lot of those stories tend to wrap around what we’re doing in the classroom and that gives me the ability to make connections with them.”
From being a marine biologist to teaching marine biology at New River Middle School, Elizabeth Fahy brings her passion to the classroom.
“Teaching middle school is challenging and so rewarding, I love teaching the 6th grade," Fahy said. "They’re fresh out of elementary, they are enthusiastic, they are curious, they want to learn more about, especially at this school, the earth and oceans and how we can protect it. I really try to reach the kids through experiential, hands-on learning.”
Jeannie Krouch says she builds relationships with her first-graders at Westchester Elementary, and learning follows.
“Anything I can do to get them engaged and involved, I like to use a lot of hands-on materials," Krouch said. "I don’t do worksheets. I believe if they’re manipulating things, especially at this age, I’m getting to them through auditory, through visual, through kinesthetic, and they’re gonna retain that knowledge and internalize the things I’m trying to teach."
Each classroom we visited Thursday had one thing in common: a terrific teacher.
One of them will be named teacher of the year Friday night.