Named for the Lee County educator who blazed a trail for African-American women, the Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator award celebrates teachers and administrators who make significant contributions to advancing the education of minority groups. The Hillsborough County winner will be announced March 28 along with Teacher of the Year and Support Employee of the Year. These are the finalists for 2013, and the following are excerpts from their essays.
Wimauma Elementary School
Language and social studies teacher, English Language Learners and Exceptional Student Education
"Fifth grade students serve our school community by participating in the 'Fifth Grade Reader Leaders' program I founded. This buddy reading program I created goes beyond the traditional buddy reading program. The Reader Leaders program encourages fifth graders to model lessons to their first grade buddies by sharing their think-alouds when they read. Students can be seen with teaching aids including pointers and post-its as they model great reading strategies. This 30-minute weekly program not only motivates all the students involved, it also fosters community among our school grade levels and classroom."
William F. Leonard II
Progress Village Middle Magnet School
Reading, social and personal skills teacher, Exceptional Student Education/Emotional Behavior Disorder
"Most young men just want that one person that they feel they can trust, confide in, depend on and respect. Once that hurdle is crossed, mentoring and academic achievement become easy. I have worked with FCAT Level 1 kids and watched them soar immediately to Level 3 in reading and mathematics. Level 2 kids have moved to Level 4 in a year's time. I've even had a few kids score a 5 in reading. Through parent collaboration, mentoring, classroom instruction and tutoring, all kids do achieve."
Dickenson Elementary School
Resource teacher, English for Speakers of Other Languages
"Dickenson Elementary is 70 percent Hispanic with a large number of Spanish-speaking-only students and parents, thus we have a great need for an ELL Resource teacher that has been trained in how to work with Hispanic families. Even though I am Hispanic there are more than 20 countries under the umbrella of the Hispano category. It is vital for me to be receptive and know the culture, customs and traditions of these other countries that are present at my school and district. Finally, respect is the most important value that teachers need to teach their students."
Stacey P. Hirn
FishHawk Creek Elementary School
Fourth-grade math, science and writing teacher
"Treating each child with respect and dignity regardless of the choices he or she makes has been my mission from my first years as a beginning teacher in an inner-city mixed-ability classroom. These amazing children who were often labeled "high risk and unruly" taught me so much more about their own survival and challenging obstacles than any textbook.
"The motto it takes three is used continuously with my students and their parents. Although many adults are unable to spend quality time due to work schedules, etc., the parents of my students know their presence in their child's life is of utmost importance."
B.T. Washington Elementary School
Kindergarten and second-grade reading coach
"Each school day I work very hard to close the achievement gap by listening, caring, and respecting the students that I teach and by understanding their family life and needs. I provide them with reading strategies, techniques, communication skills, and a variety of books to instill the love of reading and to become an avid reader.
"I often conference with parents by making home visits with the social worker and guidance counselor. These conferences provide information about their child's progress in school and share information on services that their child may need."