Suhani S. Vakil, an exceptional education teacher who works with third- and fourth-graders at Swansboro Elementary School, has been named Richmond Public Schools' 2012 Teacher of the Year.
Vakil, one of 47 nominees for this year's award, received her honor at a special reception at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Nov. 17.
A teacher for five years, Vakil has found her niche in working with special students. "As the lead exceptional education teacher I learned how rewarding it is to enrich the experiences of other teachers and their students," she said. "I think outstanding teachers recognize that the best teachers are always students themselves. My passion for professional development and learning is one of the things that sets me apart as a teacher."
Now in her third year at Swansboro, Vakil has been one of the key drivers in developing the school's new systems for compliance, creating effective IEP goals and service plans, and providing specialized instruction in the least restrictive environment. This year, she hopes to begin work on obtaining her National Board Certification.
For being named Richmond's 2012 Teacher of the Year, Vakil received $1,000.
Heather Crone, an English teacher at Richmond Community High School, is this year's first-runner-up. She has taught for 14 years, all of them at Community. Crone compares teaching to running. Each day, she runs three and one-half miles along the same route through her neighborhood. She admits that she can do without the sweating and panting it produces, but when the run is completed she feels her muscles working and getting stronger. Crone continues, "This is how I see teaching. Metaphorically my students and I run together every day and we both benefit from it… I run because I need to, I want to, and I love to. I teach for exactly the same reasons."
Thompson Middle School history teacher Matthew Diamond is this year's second runner-up. He believes no job is more rewarding than teaching. "I find that the greatest rewards in teaching are not the pats on the back from administrators or praises on evaluations, but the best rewards are the thank you letters and "high fives" students give after they have achieved their goal," said Diamond.
Crone and Diamond received $750 and $500, respectively.
This year's other top ten finalists include: Melanie Agee-Wade, Miles Jones Elementary; Cameron Ammann, Chimborazo Elementary; Dwayne Jefferson, Woodville Elementary; Mary Gresham, Richmond Technical Center; Jane Hardin, Bellevue Elementary; Edward Ingold, Open High; and Christopher Lombardi, Mary Munford Elementary.
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