Significant annual program bestows honors on local "Classroom Heroes"
Philadelphia, PA, March 14, 2012 - Twenty exceptional Philadelphia-area educators received the annual National Liberty Museum “Teacher as Hero” Award, sponsored by State Farm®, on Wednesday, March 14, during an evening ceremony at the Museum.
The 20 winners included teachers from Philadelphia schools (William Rowen E.S., Woodrow Wilson M.S., Children's Village Preschool, School of the Future, Germantown H.S., Allen M. Sterne E.S., Youth Study Center, Overbrook E.S., Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia); New Jersey schools (Samsel Upper E.S., Parlin, NJ; O'Brien Academy, Ewing, NJ; Clearview Regional H.S, Mullica Hill, NJ); Pennsylvania suburban schools (Wissahickon H.S., Ambler, PA; Middle Bucks Institute of Technology, Jamison, PA; Rose Tree E.S., Media, PA; Neshaminy H.S., Langhorne, PA; Hillsdale E.S., West Chester, PA; Beverly Hills M.S., Upper Darby, PA; Chester H.S., Chester, PA) and one school in New York (The Richard H. Hungerford School, Staten Island).
The “Teacher as Hero” Award, sponsored by State Farm®, recognizes outstanding educators for excellence, commitment, leadership, conflict resolution and community service despite the ever-increasing challenges they face in today's schools and classrooms. This annual program is judged by a panel of Museum officials and educators from throughout the tri-state area. Winners receive a free guided tour of the Museum for their class; their story featured in our “Teacher as Hero” exhibit; participation in one of the Museum's Act 48 Teacher Training Workshops; Museum membership for their family; and various other gifts.“Our honorees excel at preparing the next generation of Philadelphians and beyond for future challenges,” said Gwen Borowsky, CEO of the National Liberty Museum. “All teachers make a footprint on a student's life, but our winners make a deeper one than others. We are grateful to them for going the extra mile beyond the classroom - with others. We are grateful to them for going the extra mile beyond the classroom - with creativity, dedication and inspiration.”
“On March 14, we saluted our real heroes. We, at State Farm®, recognize the passion to teach during challenging times is a unique gift. As the saying goes, ‘Teachers give you something to take home to think about - besides homework.' All of these educators' accomplishments reflect the very best of our area,” said Dwayne M. Redd of State Farm®.
Beth Becker - William Rowen Elementary School, Philadelphia, PA
A special education and reading teacher for more than 33 years, Beth Becker has fought tirelessly to have her students fully included with regular education students. She mentors her fellow teachers; works with students on her own free time; and has devised many creative ways to help youngsters learn more effectively.
Hytolia Branch - Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Philadelphia, PA
This 8th grade math teacher is so successful in engaging her students in their lessons, there are no acts of bullying or violence in her classroom and students request to be transferred to her class. She also mentors her colleagues without compensation and assists them in dealing with unruly students.
John Conahan - Wissahickon High School, Amber, PA
The music director for his school, John Conahan uses the gift of singing to teach students to be caring, compassionate people. He has created musical tributes to the Heroes of 9/11, takes his singing groups into the community to perform for senior citizens and encourages as many students as possible to participate in the school's yearly musical productions.
Grace Gabriele - Samsel Upper Elementary School, Parlin, NJ
A teacher for over 35 years, Grace Gabriele truly contributes to shaping the minds of young people and encouraging them to be active citizens in their community. She has involved her students with local veterans' organizations, led a fundraising event for the victims of 9/11, and always makes character education a priority.
Mark Gage - Middle Bucks Institute of Technology, Jamison, PA
Mark Gage takes an active role in his students' overall education experience. He uses a variety of teaching techniques to facilitate learning and does exceptionally well with those who are academically and economically disadvantaged. He is also deeply involved in community service, working with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bucks County, the Peace Valley Holistic Center, the Christ Home, and many other local community agencies.
Debra Geller - Children's Village Pre-School, Philadelphia, PA
A forty-year veteran in the field of early childhood education, Debra Geller teaches in a school where the majority of the students are from low-income families who do not speak English at home. Her warm, sensitive, and responsive interactions demonstrate respect for each child's diverse background, as she nurtures their social, physical, intellectual, emotional, and creative development.
Nancy Gheysens - Rose Tree Elementary School, Media, PA
As Rose Tree's “Response to Instruction and Intervention” Teacher, Nancy Gheysens helped to craft an improvement plan which moved Rose Tree up from #425 to #2 among Pennsylvania schools in the category of “Elementary School Student Achievement.” She also increased the school's percentage of student proficiency in reading and math from 75% to 97%.
Danielle Hickey - O'Brien Academy, Ewing, NJ
A special needs teacher at an alternative learning program, Danielle Hickey believes in the abilities of all her students and creates an effective learning environment that meets each student's individual learning style. When she is not working in the classroom, she can be found mentoring other teachers, coaching her Special Olympics bowling team or attending a Teacher Leadership Meeting at Rider University.
Dennis Howie - Neshaminy High School, Langhorne, PA
A teacher for 19 years, Dennis Howie has had significant influence on his students in-and-out of the classroom. He has served as the advisor of numerous extracurricular activities, including the literary magazine and the Spectrum Club, which builds alliances between gay and straight students. He's also recognized as someone who always goes the extra mile for his students, writing letters of recommendation to their prospective colleges, spending several periods a day holding interventions for at-risk kids, and serving as the facilitator of a drug and alcohol support group.
Ashley Hunter - School of the Future, Philadelphia, PA
Beginning as her school's “Autistic Support Educator,” Ashley Hunter worked tirelessly to provide her students with both a quality education and access to post-secondary training. She has since earned her “Special Education Administrator Certificate,” and now works as the liaison who oversees the efforts of other educators who teach students with disabilities. Ashley also initiated the Special Olympics program at her school.
Mary McInerney, Phd. - The Richard H. Hungerford, Staten Island, NY
(Mary McInerney's impressive record in the field of education spans more than two decades. She began at Hungerford in 1988 and was the youngest person ever to become a principal within the
New York City Department of Education. In addition to her roles as teacher, administrator, and supervisor within the school system, Mary has served as an adjunct professor at Adelphi University and as an assistant instructor at Columbia University. She is also a published author, with many previous awards and honors, including being named “Principal of the Year.”)
Catherine Michini - Germantown High School, Philadelphia, PA
At a "persistently dangerous" school, where approximately 1/3 of the students are diagnosed with special needs, 22-year veteran math teacher Cathy Michini accepts challenges realistically and rises to meet them. She recognizes that students learn in many different ways and structures her lessons to provide maximum opportunities to deepen their conceptual understanding of the materials presented. She is also a role model and mentor for other teachers.
Joanne Newton - Allen M. Sterne Elementary School, Philadelphia, PA
Employed by the Philadelphia School District for 32 years in various capacities relating to special education, Joanne Newton now serves as an Autistic Support Teacher. She believes that the contributions of autistic students' should be assimilated into the mainstream and developed a training program called "A Mile in My Shoes," which teaches tolerance and acceptance to those who understand little about autism. Joanne also offers excellent life skills training to her students and has helped several achieve developmental goals that they struggled with for years.
Joyce Randell - Youth Study Center, Philadelphia, PA
As a math teacher for at-risk incarcerated students, Joyce Randell makes every effort to bring math and financial literacy into the "real world" by using “manipulatables” such as Legos, X'nex, and algebra tiles. She has successfully received and implemented 10 grants for language arts, math, and science. In addition, she has published two journal articles, mentored a number of her peers, and volunteered for 25 years with the Boy Scouts of America as an Assistant Scout Master.
Sharon Reitman - Hillsdale Elementary, West Chester, PA
Sharon Reitman has been a teacher for over 27 years. Her expertise in the 4th grade curriculum, as well as her love of children and her ability to get along with others, all contribute to her incredible success as an educator. The effectiveness of her methods is borne out by test scores; for two years in a row, 100% of her students were proficient in math.
Jennifer Satterfield - Clearview Regional High School, Mullica Hill, NJ
Described as a “role model who puts extra effort into everything she does,” Jennifer Satterfield created her Humanitarian Studies class after researching the devastating effects of global poverty and human trafficking on our world. She also brought “Challenge Day” (popularized through MTV) to Clearview, a program that encourages the actions of “noticing,” “choosing,” and “acting” in order to encourage acceptance and understanding of others, and minimize bullying and neglect.
Rita Sorrentino - Overbrook Elementary School, Philadelphia, PA
Rita Sorrentino's teaching career now spans 35 years, 15 of which have been at Overbrook, where she is the computer and reading teacher. An inspiring educator who strives to engage students through the use of cutting-edge technology, Rita also runs parent workshops in technology and reading. In addition, she is one of the founders of the “Teachers Institute of Philadelphia,” a highly regarded partnership program between UPenn and the Philadelphia School District, and an active participant in the “Philadelphia Writing Project” and the “Philadelphia Technology Education Center.”
David Tatum - Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia, Wynnewood, PA
David Tatum has been an educator for over 34 years. He works not only to help his students' master history, but also to give them the tools they need to succeed throughout their academic careers. His classroom control, achieved not through fear but through love, is excellent, as is his ability to connect both with gifted students and students with academic challenges.
Margie Tavakalian - Beverly Hills Middle School, Upper Darby, PA
For nearly three decades, Margie Tavakalian has led the English Language Learners' Program at Beverly Hills, a school that serves students who have come to the U.S. from 70 countries, in most cases to escape war, poverty or severe hardship. Working as part of a team with the schools network of guidance professionals, Margie helps connect the children and their families to the resources they need to transition to their new life and language. She does this with compassion, care, pride, and professionalism and no child feels unsafe in the caring atmosphere she creates.)
Ray Thompson - Science and Discovery High School, Chester, PA
Ray Thompson is the developer and co-founder of a youth court system at his previous school, Chester High School. This groundbreaking system is student-run and focused on restorative rather than punitive justice. It is designed to prevent student offenders from being suspended or expelled from school, while the student volunteers learn important academic, civic engagement and socialization skills. In addition to his work in the youth courts, Ray has been chair of the English Department at Chester High School, is currently president of a local theater, and directs the children's choir at his church.
Detailed winner summaries and interviews are available by contacting Nick Ospa at 215-925-2800, ext. 140 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dave Phillips - Public Affairs (610) 358-7667.
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About The National Liberty Museum
The National Liberty Museum is dedicated to preserving freedom and democracy by fostering good character and understanding of all people. The museum's exhibits of glass art - combined with heroes from around the world - inspire visitors to appreciate the strength and fragility of democracy and recognize the role we all play in safeguarding our freedom. The Museum is open 10am-5pm, Tuesday through Saturday, 12pm-6pm on Sundays. The facility is fully wheelchair accessible. For more information, call Sherry Hawk at 215-925-2800, ext. 105 or visit www.libertymuseum.org. Also, visit us on facebook and follow us on Twitter.