District Teachers Sweep Dwyer Awards

District Teachers Sweep Dwyer Awards
Posted on 05/27/2021
2021 Dwyer Awards

Teachers from Palm Beach County School District-operated schools swept all seven categories of the 2021 William T. Dwyer Awards for Excellence in Education presented by the Economic Council of Palm Beach County Foundation, Inc.

Six of the seven winners are from Title I schools around the District, and four of the winners are from Glades-area schools.

The winners were selected for setting the benchmark in excellence in education in the seven categories – Grow Up Great: Early Learning Education, Elementary Education, Middle School Education, Senior High Education, Student Advancement & Career Education, Special Programs, and STEM Education.

Each of the winners shared their thoughts on their work and accomplishments:

Jayna Adams Smith, Gove Elementary School – Grow Up Great: Early Learning Education

Adams Smith is a Pre-K teacher for special needs students in the Belle Glade school. “There are accomplishments every day in a special education classroom,” she said. “I love my students because they are happy to be here every day and it makes me happy to be there.”

Adams Smith has more than 29 years of teaching experience, and her mother was also a Dwyer award winner.

Dr. Laquandra Golf, Rolling Green Elementary School – Elementary Education

Golf says her work at the Boynton Beach school is her way of giving back to the community. “I’m teaching my students to be productive citizens,” she said.

Golf was the first in her family to graduate high school, and she later went on to earn her doctorate. “Anything is possible with equality and an equitable education, and I’m proof of that.”

Andrea Kennedy, Congress Middle School – Middle School Education

Kennedy says her Comprehensive Science Class in her Boynton Beach school is the one that none of her students want to attend, because it’s seen as too hard. But she says by the end of the first semester, her class is where all the students want to be.

“I’m the teacher who is going to push you,” Kennedy said. “I’m going to show you that you can overcome just about anything and get where you want to go.”

Carla Little-Griffiths, Glades Central Community High School Senior High Education

Little-Griffiths is a 10th grade reading teacher at the Belle Glade School and says that her students motivate her to come to work each day. “It’s not about where they are today, it’s about what they are going to become.”

Benjamin Ford, Gove Elementary School Special Programs

Ford is the second winner this year from Gove Elementary School, and is a former Gove student himself. He says he connects with his students' families and understands their community.

Ford teaches students with special needs at the school. “The first thing I do is change the word from [special] ‘needs’ to ‘differences’,” he said. “These students learn differently from other people.”

Syndie White, Elbridge Gale Elementary School STEM

White teaches third grade math, science, and social studies at the Wellington school. She was the School District’s Teacher of the Year in 2020 and a finalist for the state competition.

She says that she values what she can bring to her students’ lives and the impact she can make on them. “There is this passion and power inside of me that makes me be the best teacher I can.”

Mari Orsenigo, Glades Central Community High School Student Advancement & Career Education

Orsenigo is the second of this year’s winners from Glades Central, and an agriculture teacher at the school, “by choice, not by chance,” she says. “I’m an advocate for the greatest vocation on earth. Every day I have the opportunity to motivate and create an environment where students can identify, set, grow, and accomplish their goals, not only as individuals but as members of the community.”

The seven winners were selected from a field of more than 450 nominees from Palm Beach County public, charter, and private schools. The list of nominees was then narrowed down to 28 finalists who are judged by nearly 100 business leaders from Palm Beach County.

According to the Foundation, the winners are judged on their classroom accomplishments, personal education philosophy, leadership, and outside of the classroom school-related or community-based activities. Each winner receives a $3,000 award from the Foundation.

Established in 1975, the Economic Council of Palm Beach County is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that supports an open and collaborative relationship between the public and private sectors in Palm Beach County. Membership of the Council is comprised of a diverse mix of different industries of varying sizes in the area whose leaders have an active and influential role in the community.

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