Six County Teachers Win Dwyer Awards

April 2017

Exemplary educators consider profession as more than a job.

By Andrew Marra Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

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Diane DiMarco, of Freedom Shores Elementary School west of Lantana, speaks after receiving the Dwyer Award in elementary education Tuesday at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. “The work that we do every single day is the most important job in all the world,” said one winner. BRUCE R. BENNETT / THE PALM BEACH POST

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Meredith Miller, a teacher at Boca Raton High School, acknowledges the audience after receiving the Dwyer Award in senior high education. Miller built the school’s college-level microeconomics program from scratch. BRUCE R. BENNETT / THE PALM BEACH POST

WINNERS OF THE DWYER AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION

Career Education — Bethanne Reichard, Bean Independence Middle School

Elementary Education — Diane DiMarco, Freedom Shores Elementary School

Senior High Education — Meredith Miller, Boca Raton High School

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) — Mira Dhond, Palm Beach Lakes High School

Special Programs — Rebecca Currie, North Grade Elementary School

Middle School Education — Victor Fernandez, The Conservatory School at North Palm Beach

 

WEST PALM BEACH — One teacher designed a microeconomics program for an entire high school. Another set up a food-donation program for hungry students. Yet another built up a tiny musical program to include more than 400 students a year.

One by one, six exemplary Palm Beach County teachers were honored Tuesday night at the 2017 Dwyer Awards for Excellence in Education, an awards program for going above and beyond in educating the county’s youth.

The annual awards honor outstanding teachers in the county’s schools, and the winners this year ran the gamut, representing elementary, middle and high schools on campuses from Boca Raton to Jupiter.

The teachers who won the top honors this year all indicated they consider teaching as more than a job. In essays submitted as part of their awards applications, winners characterized their work as everything from expressions of love to a form of performance art.

Rebecca Currie, a teacher at North Grade Elementary in Lake Worth, wrote in her award application that love was the way she oriented all of her teaching efforts, which included great measures to reach students emotionally as well as academically.

Not only did Currie set up a program so needy students could take food home on Fridays to nourish them during the weekend, she helped to form an art tutoring program for disadvantaged students. She worked to find an Arabic translator for three students who had immigrated from Syria, and became a legal guardian for a student who had been sleeping on the floor in the home of a family acquaintance.

“In my moment of fear that I would not be good enough, this voice reminded me of the path that would always help me find my way with students,” she wrote. “Love would be the catalyst to impact the students to the level my heart yearned to accomplish.”

Meredith Miller, a teacher at Boca Raton High School, built the school’s college-level microeconomics program from scratch and dramatically boosted the number of students who enrolled and passed the Advanced Placement test for college credit.

Her secrets to success, she said, included envisioning teaching as more akin to performance than lecture and marketing her class to students. She went so far as to pitch her class to the school’s student body via a video commercial on the school’s in-house news program.

“I consider the delivery of my curriculum a performance, so I put on an unforgettable show six times a day — reserved seats only!” she wrote in her award application.

Outside of the classroom, she went the extra mile on another issue important to many students — finding a prom date. She created “Miller’s Prom Date Service” and worked to match up dateless students so no student who wanted a date would have to go to prom alone.

Victor Fernandez, a teacher at The Conservatory School at North Palm Beach, is credited with helping to turn the once-struggling school into an arts and academic powerhouse through the joy of music. He established the K-8 school’s thriving orchestra program and brings it around the county to perform in support of charity causes.

“The work that we do every single day is the most important job in all the world,” he said in his acceptance speech.

The other winners included Bethanne Reichard Bean of Independence Middle School in Jupiter, Mira Dhond of Palm Beach Lakes High School in West Palm Beach and Diane DiMarco of Freedom Shores Elementary School west of Lantana.

Now in its 33rd year, the Dwyer Awards are organized by the Economic Council of Palm Beach County and the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County. Teachers are nominated by their colleagues at each school and finalists and winners are selected by panels of volunteer judges. Winners receive $3,000, while finalists receive $500.

In remarks after the winners were announced, Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa congratulated the honored teachers and said they were representative of countless educators doing similarly great work across the county.

“There are so many others that are just hidden gems doing this sort of work every day,” he said. amarra@pbpost.com

Twitter: @AMarraPBPost

MORE ONLINE Get more news every day about Palm Beach County schools at the Extra Credit blog. extracredit.blog.PalmBeachPost.com.

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