Five elementary school teachers and an alternative school teacher are the six teachers selected to be among the best of the best in Broward County Public Schools (BCPS). The six – Suzanne Clancy, Challenger Elementary School; Monica Fernandez, Hallandale Adult Community Center; Dr. Miranti R. Murphy, Boulevard Heights Elementary School; Traci Porter, Harbordale Elementary School; Marie Rho, Lauderdale Manors Elementary School; and Evelyn Schwartz, Oakridge Elementary School – are finalists for the 2014 Teacher of the Year award. They are among the nearly 200 Teacher of the Year nominees from Broward County’s 232 schools and centers. The District has 14,327 teachers, according to Nadine Drew, spokesperson for the Broward County School District.
One of the six finalists will be named the BCPS 2014 Teacher of the Year on March 19 in an awards ceremony. The winner will also become the District’s nominee for the 2014 Florida Department of Education/Macy’s Teacher of the Year award.
The Teacher of the Year finalists and all teacher honorees will be honored at BCPS Caliber Awards, which recognizes Broward’s Outstanding Teachers, Principals, Assistant Principals and School-Related Employees on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. at the Broward County Convention Center.
Following are the 2014 Teacher of the Year finalists:
Suzanne Clancy, 2nd grade teacher at Challenger Elementary School
Clancy believes that teachers are the steps in students’ stairways to future success. “My role in that stairway is to develop students’ critical thinking, literacy abilities and problem-solving skills,” said Clancy. “Equally essential is my duty in fostering a pathway of positive traits, so students demonstrate responsibility, trustworthiness, perseverance and respect.” With 12 years of teaching experience, Clancy has become a mentor sharing her expertise and experiences with new teachers and teacher candidates. She believes collaboration is paramount to advancing the teaching profession.
Monica Fernandez, 7th – 12th grade teacher at Hallandale Adult Community Center
Fernandez, who made a conscious decision to teach at an alternative school, is dedicated to meeting the dramatic and significant needs of at-risk students. Using her background in film has become one of her most successful and impactful teaching strategies. Fernandez coaches her students in translating their experiences with and reactions to literature, into inspiring and powerful multi-media products of their own. She has borrowed the sentiment of a popular home improvement company, “You can do it! I can help,” to provide her students with the support and guidance they need.
Dr. Miranti R. Murphy, 3rd grade teacher at Boulevard Heights Elementary School
A 28-year veteran teacher, Murphy believes that her role as a teacher is to motivate, challenge and engage students for life-long learning, as well as to actively involve parents in the process. She believes that in order to have influence on students, teachers must understand what motivates them and become an integral part of their daily lives. Murphy, who considers herself an extended member of her students’ families said, “Unified partnerships and shared accountability among teachers, students, parents and the school is essential because each is interdependent of the other.”
Traci Porter, K – 5th grade teacher at Harbordale Elementary School
Passionate about home, school and community partnerships, Porter believes, “Family involvement in schools has been shown to improve student achievement, increase attendance rates, and develop pro-social behavior. It also helps to promote a positive school culture.” With such benefits attributed to family involvement, Porter focuses on increasing successful school, home and community partnerships. She has worked to improve her school’s volunteer program by connecting parents with their areas of interest. Also, with a major focus this year on connecting more with the community, she has lead the effort to more than double community partnerships that support her school’s initiatives.
Marie Rho, 3rd grade teacher at Lauderdale Manors Elementary School
In her eight years of teaching, Rho has never started the year with preconceived notions of her students. She believes a positive mindset, setting goals and having high expectations is all she needs to make sound decisions about how to best support and serve her students. “Decisions made for the good of my students will ultimately impact their growth and achievement,” said Rho. “It’s imperative as educators that we strive to not only meet the demands of state mandates, but to also put the needs of our students first.”
Evelyn Schwartz, 1st grade teacher at Oakridge Elementary School
For the last 12 years, Schwartz has focused on inspiring and encouraging her first grade students to achieve their highest levels. “My students’ mission statement is: ‘I am responsible for my learning, safety, health, happiness and making the world a better place,’” said Schwartz. “My students are only six and seven, but they understand our mission.” Her goal is for her students to be in an engaged, positive, safe environment where they can view school as a place where they can learn and contribute to the world around them, according to Drew.