They're the Best of the Best: Meet the Miami-Dade Teacher of the Year Nominees

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The best teachers always find ways to connect with their students. 

“You cannot start your class with just book work, you have to reach the kids mentally before you can reach them academically,” said Renee O’Connor, who teaches global perspectives and African American history at Norland Senior High School. 

O’Connor is one of four nominees for Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year award. The winner will be announced next week. 

“If you are not able to connect with students on a one-on-one level, and if they see you only as an instructor, they are not gonna open up to you,” O’Connor said. 

“I try to bring it down so that it’s not authoritative and it’s communicative,” said nominee Unethia Fox, who teaches math at her alma mater, South Miami Senior High School. 

“You know I kind of get them going and motivated before I kind of get them into the math and then I make the math relatable in terms of what they’re interested in,” Fox explained. 

“In my classroom, it’s not just open up to the book,” said nominee Andres Cerrato, who teaches history at the same school, Southridge Senior High, at which he went to school. 

“For me, making history interesting is, you have to make it relatable to them, and you have to be engaging, you have to be entertaining,” Cerrato said. 

There’s always one teacher of the year candidate who comes from a non-traditional school. This year it’s Derek Bostick, who teaches air conditioning repair at South Dade Technical College. 

“I teach from my heart, I teach from what I know,” Bostick said. 

He definitely knows air conditioning. Bostick took this same class after high school, started an air conditioning business, and now teaches the subject to students he says are just like he was many years ago. 

“My philosophy is you gotta drop to the students’ level, get to know them, and then you can feed them the information necessary,” Bostick said. “If my kid was in the classroom, what would I want the teacher to do with my kid? That’s how I drive my lessons.”

We don’t know who the winner will be. We do know their students are fortunate to have them. 

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