“Celebrating the Gift of Teaching”

Following the tradition of previous years, the Beta Xi Chapter of the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc. recently held its annual Awards Luncheon, “Celebrating the Gift of Teaching,” to honor those who make all other professions possible.

“Celebrating the Gift of Teaching” Awards Sponsored by the Local Chapter, National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa

By Lillian Lancaster

Exemplary examples of achievement in the Orange County Public School district and the Central Florida community abound. Achievement at the highest levels can be found at the school district level, in the classrooms, throughout school campuses, community centers, churches, among parents, volunteers, business partners and corporations. Examples of such excellence came to the forefront during this year’s 13th annual “Celebrating the Gift of Teaching” awards luncheon sponsored by the Beta Xi Chapter of the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc. on March 11th at the Rosen Plaza Hotel.
Following the tradition of previous years, the Beta Xi Chapter of the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc. set out to honor those who make all other professions possible: Educators with additional support that is available from “the village.”
Members of the sponsoring chapter presented award recipients with the specially designed trophies and shared a statement about each honoree or group.
The high honor of “Outstanding School District Leadership Award” was presented to Dr. Barbara Jenkins, Orange County Public Schools Superintendent. As leader of the 10th largest school district in the United States, she continues to be recognized locally and nationally. Recently Dr. Jenkins was named “2017 Florida Superintendent of the Year” and one of four finalists for the “U. S. Superintendent of the Year”. Numerous recognitions and awards including the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education have been received by the district during Dr. Jenkins’ tenure. The Broad Prize provided over $750,000 in scholarships for graduating seniors. Recognized for her commitment and influence, both the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Magazine named Dr. Jenkins as one of the most powerful people in Central Florida. National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa’s Leadership Award was presented by Lillian Lancaster to OCPS Chief of Staff, Dr. Bridget Williams, a previous award recipient who accepted on behalf of Dr. Jenkins.
The recipients of the 2017 Gift of Teaching Award were three outstanding classroom teachers as representatives of the excellent teachers in the classrooms of this district. These awards were presented by Dr. Della Paul.
Dr. Jeffery Redding, Director of Choral Activities at West Orange High School. is recognized nationally and internationally, has received numerous awards and served in many roles of leadership in choral music and music education. While participating in the International Music Festival in Verona, Italy, West Orange High received the Gold Award for best choir, with Dr. Redding being honored as top director. He was a Quarterfinalist for a Grammy Award for Music Education. He is the leader and founder and Artistic Director of the Garden Community Choir in Winter Garden, Florida. His “Gift of Teaching” award was received by Mrs. Redding.
Mr. Eric Yuhasz, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) teacher at Howard Middle School has taught for fourteen years. Mr. Yuhasz was selected as one of five finalists for this year’s “Orange County Teacher of the Year.” He is Nationally Board Certified in Science and has a Master’s degree in math and science education. He engages his students in learning through hands-on by building objects such as flight simulators, flying drones, and robots. His passion to learn drives him to continue his education through college classes and work toward upgrading his pilot’s license to fly for the Civil Air Patrol.
Mrs. Aimee Anderson, 7th grade math and intensive math teacher at Meadowbrook Middle School, became a teacher after working as a Training/Human Resources Administrator of a corporation. Her enthusiasm in the role of working to provide educational activities for children of employees led to her desire to teach and her love of teaching. Her principal stated “Aimee Anderson is a dedicated, hardworking first year teacher at Meadowbrook. She regularly studies math content at home, working out problems to find different ways to make them relevant to her students. She puts forth tireless effort to achieve student results in her math classes. Her motivation and exemplary attitudes towards her students, the staff and teachers is evident in her daily actions.”
The school district is supported by over 40,000 school volunteers and 1,500 business partners. The responsibility for overseeing and coordinating volunteers along with the help of seven district support staff, 350 school volunteer and business partner coordinators is part of the work of Mrs. Pamela Carson. Since 1999, Mrs. Carson has been the Senior Manager of the Community Resources Department of Orange County Public Schools. Under her leadership, the department organizes volunteer efforts district wide and serves all schools in the areas of recruitment, program development, recognition and more. As manager for the district’s employee recognition program and gala events, such as “Teacher of the Year” and “Support Person of the Year,” “Retirement Celebration,” she ensures that each OCPS employee who participates in the gala events receives royal treatment. The Outstanding Community Resource Development Award was presented to her by Mrs. Patti Moore.
An example of the many outstanding community partners, Mr. Al Scotti received this year’s Outstanding Community Supporter of Education Award. Mr. Scotti is Territory Manager of Strawbridge Studios, the oldest school photographer in the South, a fourth generation family-owned business. Strawbridge Studios, Merritt Island, Florida, is a Partner in Education with Orange County Public Schools. Throughout his work with OCPS, Mr. Scotti has been especially generous and has contributed to an environment of positive change across the entire school district. He has dedicated an incredible amount of his expertise towards helping the school district focus on its goal of “Sustained Community Involvement.” His award was presented by Mrs. Sheleen Kennedy.
Highlights of the awards program included “The Lord’s Prayer” as the opening meditation and “Wind Beneath My Wings,” as a tribute to honorees sung by nationally known vocalist, songwriter, actress, comedian, Sissy Peoples; Mr. Reginald McGill, Mayor’s Office who brought greetings from the City of Orlando. The Opening Prayer, Grace and Benediction were delivered by Rev. Pamela Bell-Wilcox of First Christ Ministries Church, Orlando. Dr. Bridget Williams, Chief of Staff, Orange County Public Schools, brought greetings and congratulations on behalf of Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins and the school district. A rendition of “”I Look to You” was rendered by vocalist Jessie Bell during the luncheon Presiding the event was Dr. Clara Walters “Celebrating the Gift of Teaching” Program Chair for this event, retired OCPS administrator currently educational consultant and also trainer. She shared insights into the edu-cation process, the theme focus. “Educators Make a Difference” and emphasized considering all children as “at promise.” A statement of the occasion was made by Mrs. Lillian Lancaster.
This annual “Celebrating the Gift of Teaching” awards is part of the local, regional and nat’l YES program (Youth, Education and Service) of the national organization of educators. This year as in the past, OCPS administrators, other educators, city officials, members of the community, table and community sponsors, past recipients, came to salute this year’s honorees. The Chairperson of “Celebrating the Gift of Teaching” was Dr. Clara Walters with Co-Chairs Mrs. Mildred Wilkerson and Mrs. Patti Moore. Mrs. Georgia Hicks is Basileus of the chapter. Beta Xi Chapter, a professional organization of current and retired educators, has a history dating back to May 1923 on the national level and December 1956, now celebrating its 61st year, in the Central Florida area.

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