International K-12 Teacher of the Year Award Announced
The 2013 International K-12 Teacher of the Year Award winner is Donald DeVito from Sidney Lanier Center School. In second and third place were Maria Eugenia Zelaya from Eastside High School and Judith Weaver from High Springs Community School. Robert Ponzio from Oak Hall School received an Honorable Mention.
The awards committee looked at the extent to which the applicant's teaching activities promote internationalization, provide opportunities for students to become interested in international issues, and to get involved in international classroom activities in the school, community, nation or internationally.
Donald DeVito - 2013 Award Winner
Donald DeVito is a Music and Special Education Teacher at Sidney Lanier Center School. The Sidney Lanier Music Program is global in scope and is linked with universities and music programs internationally through research, cooperative music projects, and professional music education organizations. Examples include projects in Haiti, Pakistan, Guinea, England, Ireland and Brazil in which his students either receive adapted music education activities with universities in these countries or engage with other students and children in creating music and sharing curriculum using Skype and interaction through the International Society for Music Education, a professional organization of 70 countries. Mr. DeVito has spearheaded projects that have provided aid and education to international populations, many who are often forgotten. “His aid has gone beyond monetary support. He has shared his passion and professionalism enhancing lives of individuals with and without disabilities,” said Ms. Denise Schultz, Principal at Sidney Lanier Center School.
Maria Eugenia Zelaya - 2nd place
Maria Eugenia Zelaya is a Foreign Language (Spanish) teacher at Eastside High School. Mrs. Zelaya teaches both regular Spanish I, II, and Spanish III honors as well as Pre IB Spanish II. She uses computer games, quizlet and other computer programs to provide a variety of activities to help students master the language, and she incorporates instruction in Latin American culture, as well. In addition to her teaching duties, Mrs. Zelaya sponsors several clubs including the Spanish club, Eastside Striders (which raises money to fight breast cancer), and Conferencia, which received first place in a state competition. Maria is also a member of the teaching staff of College for Kids. College for Kids is a summer program for middle school students organized by Community Education at Santa Fe College. In terms of community efforts, Maria Eugenia is an active volunteer in the Latina Women’s League. She helps with the organization of the Gainesville Latino Film Festival (GLFF), which draws up to 1000 people from the local community to its events. She also assists with the Latin American storytelling activities at the Alachua County Library by bringing her students as volunteers.
Judith Weaver - 3rd Place
Ms. Judith Weaver is the Media Specialist for middle grades at High Springs Community School. As an example of her creativity and leadership, Mr. Jeff Means, Principal at High Springs Community School says that “she recently spearheaded a unit of study centered on the book A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Parks. More than 400 students, in grades 4-8, read how children in Africa walk for sometimes 6 hours per day, to obtain this life-giving resource.” As a culminating activity, on World Water Day, students participated in a rotation of speakers who taught about topics such as water scarcity, ground-water pollution, xeriscaping, village life in Sudan and Tanzania, invasive and native species, global warming, water filtration systems, and other topics. Ms. Weaver believes that we no longer live in an isolated country. “Much of our world today is even located in cyberspace. Our students are citizens of a quickly changing world that can be either truly great, powerful, and good, or a very dark dystopia. Perhaps the ultimate reason to teach about other countries is that we bring home to our students that the world is made up of people just like us: mothers, fathers, children, families, old and young. We are each unique, different; but not so much as we are alike in our dreams and desires. We all share the same sky. We all need water,” said Weaver.
Robert Ponzio - Honorable Mention
Robert Ponzio is the Chair of Fine Arts at Oak Hall School, Director of the Cofrin Gallery and an internationally exhibiting artist. Mr. Ponzio and Richard Gehman, Principal of Oak Hall School, worked together to solidify a unique partnership school agreement with an excellent secondary school in Changzhou, China. Mr. Gehman says that Robert Ponzio was one of the driving forces behind the venture and that they are now in the sixth year of the partnership. He also says that Oak Hall’s students and the community at large have been the beneficiaries of Mr. Ponzio’s experiences and efforts because he is a leader of the art community in Gainesville and has helped to give the community more of a global perspective. “His passion for global education is deep and the education of his students has been truly enriched thanks to his consistent efforts to have them engage the world. Ponzio believes that his mission is to prepare students for ethical leadership in a global society. “I have strived to live up to this guiding educational principle. I view my classroom as a bridge to the world; my gallery and art as a window; and my curriculum as a vehicle to help my students explore the varied cultures of the world,” Mr. Ponzio added.
The awards were given on Wednesday, May 8 at the UF International Center during a reception honoring the awardees along with school representatives, family and friends. Finalists and their corresponding schools will receive a monetary award.
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