Teacher of the Year Nominee –
It wasn’t necessary to ask me the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” From about the age of 6, it was obvious; I had transformed the family garage into my classroom, fully equipped with makeshift desks, blackboards, and even dolls serving as my students – I knew then I was destined to be a teacher. I decided to attend the University of Miami to obtain my teaching degree. In 1972, my teaching career was launched – I landed my first job at Miami Edison Sr High where I taught students of varying exceptionalities and served as the ESE department chairman for 4 years. I then decided to move to the Big Apple to attend Columbia University and teach high school reading and social studies at the renowned Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, N.Y. Missing warm, sunny Florida, I returned to Miami and received a master’s degree in Behavior Disorders and Diagnostic Teaching from FIU. My current areas of certification are Emotionally Handicapped, K-12, Elementary Education, 1-6, ESOL K-12, Mentally Handicapped, K-12, Physically Impaired, K-12 and Reading, K-12.
In 1976, I became the first teacher hired at the ‘newly’ created Merrick Educational Center where I spent the next 8 years teaching in numerous adolescent psychiatric wards. This was by far my favorite teaching assignment – getting to work at an inpatient, therapeutic environment helping mentally ill and troubled teens. I also served as the department chair while assuming these teaching duties. I took several years off to raise a family, but was still working part-time teaching for MDCPS Adult Ed. teaching classes in GED preparation, ESOL, and SAT prep. Finally returning to work full-time in 1989, I became a curriculum writer and illustrator for MDCPS for Project Compacand created and illustrated lessons for a book on how to accommodate the physically impaired, including wheelchair bound students, to participate in adaptive, competitive sports. Missing my Merrick family, I returned to teaching in 1990.
During my time at Merrick, now Brucie Ball, I wore many hats. I served as an itinerant teacher, department chairman, mentor teacher, intake specialist, test chairman, reading coach, and finally a teleclass instructor. Even after 45 years of teaching, it still feels fresh for me. There are always new challenges to face, new practices to learn, and new children to inspire.
It’s no mystery to anyone what makes a good teacher. Diligence and dedication, compassion and creativity, energy and enthusiasm, patience and praise – these are all traits that are essential to the mechanics of an effective teacher. However, these are merely words, and not necessarily specific to describing an educator. These attributes can apply to any type of work or leadership role. I would argue that what truly matters, and maybe the only thing that matters, is that your students are all that matters to you. If that’s the case, then all those buzzwords simply become a natural and automatic reality. The age-old adage holds true – our students will never care how much we know until they know how much we care. If one truly and whole-heartedly cares about their students and is fully invested in them, their education and their aspirations, and enhancing every facet of their lives – that’s what elevates us from being a good teacher to a great one. That’s when you become their hero and can undoubtedly make a far more meaningful difference. Those are the teachers who are never forgotten, the ones who touched us and impacted our lives so profoundly that we can never forget them. We have all had one of those teachers. We remember how they never gave up on us. We remember how much they cared.