Stephanie Killingsworth, an International Baccalaureate (I.B.) Science teacher at Conniston Middle School, fought back tears Monday as she was surprised by a cafeteria full of students, her family and representatives from ValuTeachers with news that she has been chosen for the “LifeChanger of the Year” Award.
Her eligibility for the award was a result of being selected as the School District of Palm Beach County’s Teacher of the Week after she was nominated for the award by the parents of one of her students, who had nothing but high praise for her dedication both inside and outside of the classroom.
“Your love goes beyond the classroom…” they shared. “For the last two years, we have watched our daughter feel so excited about science and its relevance to our world. You’ve taken kids from CMS to India for 10 days over the summer, shark tagging with the ANGARI Foundation…even taking students who have already gone on to high school. We love that you are so committed to their learning. We are so thankful that our next two kids will have you…you are phenomenal!”
Killingsworth, who was one of 850 nominees, was selected as one of the top five finalists in the United States, earning her $2,500 for herself and $2,500 for her school, and she also receives a trip to Bermuda where the top winner will receive $10,000.
Ms. Killingsworth has traveled to India with students during the summer months as part of Conniston’s most recent I.B. service project, Water for India. During the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years, her students dedicated their studies to not only learning more about the culture of India, but to bringing clean drinking water, sound infrastructures, sanitation, and wells to rural parts of the country for an organization called Water for People.
The initiative allowed students to step outside of their comfort zones and engage in real-world problem solving, culminating in summer trips to the South Asian country to engage in hands-on learning. In June 2017, 20 students traveled across the world to reflect on their learning and collaborate with a group of Indian students in Agra.
“I want them [the students] to experience learning through other forms, not just the traditional four walls, beyond the classroom,” Ms. Killingsworth shares. “I took a group to India this past summer as part of an I.B. service and learning project that we did…it was life-changing, I think, for not only for myself, but also the students. I’ve got a group going to the Galapagos this summer with me, and another group that’s heading over to Spain in March…[I’m] just trying to get them experiences outside. From shark tagging to cleaning the park next door, whatever it might be.”
This is the second time in two years that a School District teacher has been selected for the award, last year Michele Mohl from Palmetto Elementary School was also named a LifeChanger.