In Immokalee, where Bray has taught for seven years at Lake Trafford Elementary School, she is part of the family, she said.
“Immokalee is like my second home,” Bray said. “I love it here.”
For Bray, she wants to make proud those families who made her welcome.
Bray was one of 60 teachers representing 58 schools in Collier County to be recognized Tuesday with a Teachers of Distinction award from Champions For Learning. From this list, a selection committee will pick six teachers for a Golden Apple Award.
Every school in Collier County can nominate a teacher and that teacher’s best practice. Teachers receive a $250 prize, a nomination for a Golden Apple Award and participate in networking to share practices with other teachers.
Who is your school’s Teacher of Distinction? Collier’s education foundation released the list
In her classroom, Bray transforms her space into different experiences, like Multiplication Inc. based on Disney’s Monster Inc., because she wants her students more involved in learning.
“You learn more when you have a memory that goes with it rather than just memorizing things,” Bray said. “I try to always make my classroom memorable for the kids.”
At Eden Park Elementary, Monica Drew is creating leaders in her first-grade classroom.
One of those leaders is 6-year-old Jason Gomez. He takes his role as teacher’s assistant seriously.
He sharpens pencils, writes the date and mission on the board and plugs in their class laptops.
“I have to do my job,” Gomez said.
Her students, like Gomez, are motivated to be responsible for themselves, so Drew utilizes her best practice that keeps leadership exercises at the forefront.
“They all have those little incentives inside themselves, and that’s what I want to bring out,” Drew said.
Drew said she hopes her students will take what they are learning and bring what they learn home.
“Yes, they’re only six and seven years old, but they are capable of so much and if they can do that here, imagine what they can do when they get older not just in school and the community and in their homes,” Drew said. “That’s why I do it.”
“They can disagree with their opinions, but they always come prepared and it’s nice to see them self-motivated,” Wippel said.
Wippel, who started teaching in Collier schools eight years ago, said she tries to empower her students to be confident in their own abilities.
Wippel said she loves to teach in Immokalee so much that she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
In his more than 20 years in career and technical education, Immokalee Technical College’s executive director Dorin Oxender said he had never met a better instructor than Robert Boyle.
“He’s a rock star,” Oxender said.
Boyle started teaching Immokalee Technical College’s heavy equipment service technician program three years ago.
In the program, which has a 100% job placement rate, Boyle said he expects excellence from his students.
“I try to teach them that to get ahead in this business, to actually do well in this business, you have to continuously learn,” Boyle said.
His practice starts his students in the classroom working on reading, quizzes and open discussion about practices, and then he starts hands-on labs, like tearing apart engines.
“We do practical hands-on labs using all of the tools and equipment that they would normally use in the field,” Boyle said.
Boyle, who worked as a heavy equipment technician for more than 35 years, said he was “deeply, honestly moved” by the recognition.
“It means a lot to me to be recognized for what I do,” Boyle said. “But more importantly, for my program to be recognized for what it does because this is not just me, it’s the school. It’s the students. It’s all of my sponsors, my sponsoring employers. I mean they all have a big piece of this.”
Rachel Fradette is an education reporter for the Naples Daily News. Follow her on Twitter: @Rachel_Fradette, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.