WEST PALM BEACH – In a year focused on battling learning loss, Palm Beach County public school leaders on Tuesday recognized educators who found new ways to improve student learning on campuses with outsize challenges.
As its principal of the year, the school district named Robera Walker, the leader of Belle Glade Elementary, which has seen its state grade rise two letter grades under her leadership.
The district’s teacher of the year award went to Annabel Wagner, a resource teacher and dual-language coach at Greenacres Elementary, who designed her own Spanish-language teaching tools for the school’s students.
Both winners were singled out for their work to elevate learning at schools with high numbers of students from poor or marginalized communities.
At Belle Glade Elementary, in the heart of Belle Glade, 98% of student are poor enough to qualify for federal lunch subsidies. In the first year that Walker took over, the school had an F rating from the state.
Within two years, the school’s state rating had risen to a C. Student achievement rose in math, reading and science. Teacher turnover dropped.
After years of turnover in the school’s leadership, Walker, a Belle Glade native, is serving her eighth year at the helm, the longest-serving leader there in at least two decades.
At an awards ceremony Tuesday, Walker said her time as principal has only inspired her to work harder to raise the school's achievement.
“We have work to do,” she said, “and I am not tired.”
Dual languages coach at Greenacres Elementary is teacher of the year
At Greenacres Elementary, Wagner gives extra teaching support to students with learning disabilities or for whom English is not their native language.
After struggling to find the right teaching materials for her students, she took matters into her own hands.
“I noticed the lack of Spanish resources, so I created my own materials and sequence for teaching Spanish literacy,” she wrote in an award-nomination letter.
Working with a colleague, she devised not only a teaching curriculum for educators at the dual-language school but a Spanish phonics evaluation tool as well.
"There is much more work to do," she wrote, "but we are in the path to reach our goals and expectations."
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Awards for assistant principal, admin assistant land at Jupiter High, New Horizons Elementary
As assistant principal of the year, the school district named Amber Saunders of Jupiter High School.
The award for school-related employee of the year went to Connie Leonardi, an administrative assistant at New Horizons Elementary.
The winners were announced at an outdoor awards ceremony at the Cox Science Center and Aquarium in West Palm Beach, the district’s first public awards event since the coronavirus pandemic began nearly two years ago.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Palm Beach County principal and teacher of year named