BRIGHTON — Borrowing from an old proverb, it takes a village to educate a child. At Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School in Brighton, that village was recognized for the work it does all year long. Classroom teachers, culture employees and non-instructional staff each had their moment in the spotlight May 9 at the annual staff appreciation banquet.
Principal Brian Greseth opened the festivities by calling the name of every teacher, who stood up to be recognized. Applause filled the room as each teacher and staff member accepted the acknowledgment of their efforts in the classroom and around the school.
Greseth then announced the Employees of the Year, including fourth-grade math teacher Joy Prescott, who was named PECS Elementary Teacher of the Year, Glades District Teacher of the Year and a 2019 Florida Teacher of the Year finalist.
“This is the first time I’ve worked with a final five finalist,” said Greseth, who has been in education for 35 years and a principal for 22.
Earlier in the day, Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart surprised Prescott in her classroom with the news she is one of five finalists statewide and presented her with a $15,000 check.
“Joy Prescott is an excellent example of a teacher who exemplifies commitment, determination and the importance of being a lifelong learner,” said Stewart in a press release. “After 17 years as an educator, Prescott continues to pursue professional development opportunities to help her empower students to develop the skills necessary to succeed academically and personally. I appreciate that she sets high expectations and provides her students the support and encouragement they need to meet and exceed them. I am thrilled to congratulate her on this tremendous honor.”
The other PECS Employees of the Year were Middle School Teacher of the Year Mindy Wells, Culture Employee of the Year Ginger Jones and Non-Instructional Employee of the Year Vickie Stuart.
Jenny Shore, National Indian Education Association Elder of the Year, was also recognized and a video from the October 2017 NIEA convention was shown.
Honorees had the opportunity to accept the award and say a few words. Teachers were introduced by students.
“What makes a great teacher?” asked fourth-grader Miley Jimmie as she introduced Prescott. “A passion for teaching, keeping it fun, a love for her students and a love of the subject. I have a teacher who went above and beyond that.”
Prescott tried to describe her day, which was supposed to be a testing day in class.
“This was the most crazy, amazing, coolest day,” she said. “I was surprised, humbled, shocked and felt every emotion. I want to thank my biggest fans, Ms. [Diana] Harrison [paraprofessional/teacher’s aide] and Ms. [Mary] Bond [ESE inclusion teacher]. They allow me to do what I need to do every day, and that is to teach.”
Prescott believes any teacher at the school could have earned the honor bestowed on her. She noted the approach at PECS is different than any other school at which she has taught.
“I work with the best of the best,” Prescott said. “We are treated as professionals and are expected to do what’s best for the kids.”
Sixth-grader Jace Brown introduced his math and social studies teacher Wells, who has taught at PECS for almost 10 years.
“I get to see my students transform, grow and blossom,” Wells said. “Seeing that transformation and knowing I had a part in it makes me proud.”
Non-instructional employee Stuart used to work as a K-12 advisor in the Tribe’s education department and knew many of the Brighton students before she joined PECS three years ago.
“I love the kids here,” Stuart said. “Our goal is to get them all educated.”
The immersion program culture and language instructor Marcus Briggs-Cloud introduced culture employee Jones, who joined the staff in 2015.
“Instructors of endangered languages create our own curriculum,” Briggs-Cloud said. “She’s crafted effective lessons to impart the language to her students. It takes a deep desire and commitment to save an ancient and dying language and a special person to take on that role.”
Jones acknowledged her passion for teaching the language.
“I don’t want to see it die,” she said. “To be able to work at a school that teaches this is special. I will keep going and see how far I can take this.”
After a game of Dr. Seuss trivia led by the school’s student council, Brighton Board Rep. Larry Howard congratulated the staff for a job well done.
“Every one of you sacrifices to come out here to teach our kids the way they should be taught,” Howard said. “Congratulations and keep doing what you’re doing.”
After an evening filled with food, laughter and well-deserved accolades, Greseth concluded with an anonymous, yet apt, quote.
“I like a teacher who gives me something to take home to think about besides homework,’” he said. “We are fortunate to have a whole school of teachers who do that.”