BRIGHTON — Every year, Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School selects some of its most dynamic and creative risk takers as teachers and non-instructional employees of the year.
Chosen by their colleagues, they exhibit genuine passion for education and exceed daily expectations to lead students to brighter futures.
Elementary school teacher of the year
Heather Dobbs, a fifth-grade teacher who also taught seventh and eighth grade in the past, is this year’s elementary school teacher of the year. Dobbs served as assistant principal for Osceola Middle School in Okeechobee before coming to PECS.
Dobbs feels right at home in her fifth-grade classroom, she said.
“I think fifth grade is a perfect grade level to teach. The students are old enough to learn challenging material that’s fun to teach, but they are also young enough that they are still sweet because they haven’t yet entered the tough adolescent years,” Dobbs said.
Receiving a “C” in Honors Calculus 2 during her freshman year at the University of Florida prompted Dobbs to pursue a career in teaching.
“To me, that was a bad grade, and it made me stop and think hard about what I was really meant to do with my life. My own teachers had made such a tremendous impact on my life that I wanted to be that in someone else’s life, to pay it forward,” she said.
Honored by her award, Dobbs said she enjoys being part of the team at PECS and has learned a great deal about the language and culture. In fact, she has won the staff Creek Spelling Bee for four years.
“The teachers here at PECS are top ranked in our profession, and to be seen as worthy among such an amazing group of teachers was extremely humbling,” she said.
Middle school teacher of the year
PECS middle school teacher of the year is Kelly Bass, who currently teaches science but began her 27-year career teaching P.E. Her passion for physical fitness led her into the science field.
“In order to be a good P.E. teacher, I needed to understand the body and how it worked. Science shows connections and explains why things occur in nature, and it is important for students to know these things about their world,” she said.
Bass was inspired into the field by a former teacher.
“Ms. Hyatt was the only P.E. teacher that actually played and ran right along with her students. I was a shy and insecure teenager, but Ms. Hyatt always made me feel as if I could do anything. I wanted to make children feel the ways she made me feel – unstoppable,” Bass said.
Bass still enjoys that moment when she helps a student “get it.”
“The best part of my day is when I get to see the light come on in my students,” she said. “Watching a child understand and be able to apply the information is what I strive for every day.”
“Being voted teacher of the year among my peers is a great honor. To me, teacher of the year is a celebration of what every good teacher does each day. It is not about the individual, but what the individual represents – a caring provider of information that does the very best they can to propel their students to success and prepare them for their next step in education,” Bass said.
Non-instructional employee of the year
Holly Sheffield, a third-grade paraprofessional of five years at PECS, is this year’s non-instructional employee of the year. In order to help the school run like a well-oiled machine, non-instructional employees like Sheffield work alongside teachers to ensure daily success across the board.
Before pursuing a career in education, Sheffield worked in real estate.
“This was a big career change for me,” she said. “After starting at PECS I felt we had a very unique atmosphere, from the classroom sizes to the unlimited resources available to teachers and students.”
Sheffield understands that students’ success in the classroom is based on leadership.
Teaching third grade is challenging, she said, because it is the grade when students are introduced to the FCAT.
“I feel us as teachers/paraprofessionals owe it to the students to give them 100 percent, just as we expect of them in return,” she said.
Sheffield’s selection as non-instructional employee of the year means a lot to her.
“When they announced that my co-workers had chosen me as non-instructional employee of the year, I was honored. I take pride in what I do and want the best for the students at our school,” Sheffield said. “I feel a connection with each one of the students and when I came to PECS five years ago, I realized that my family of four had grown tremendously into countless numbers of children.”
Culture teacher of the year
This year’s Culture teacher of the year is Jenny Shore, who continues to carry on the pride of the Seminole people by teaching the language and culture each day.
For more than 30 years, Shore has dedicated her time to the Culture Department on the Brighton Reservation as a teacher and mentor to the community. She began her career while she was still in high school as a preschool aide then moved on to work with the Adult Education Department as a language interpreter. She later worked in the Tribe’s Housing Department before finding her way to Culture, where she has spent the last 30 years.
When the Charter School opened, Shore gladly agreed to fill one of the primary language instructors positions. In addition, she also teaches the high school foreign language class for Seminole students.
“I think teaching language and culture is important because we need to keep our tradition alive and this is the only way,” Shore said. “Culture and language is a person’s identity.”
Shore speaks both the Mikasuki and Creek languages and works hard each day to help students become fluent Creek speakers.
“I feel it is important to be able to say yes when I am asked if I speak my language. It is who I am as a Seminole,” she said. “My favorite part of the day is when I hear a student speak a complete sentence in Creek.”
Shore was more than surprised when she learned she was chosen as Culture teacher of the year.
“To me it means that the other staff members value and respect the job I’ve done,” she said. “I love my job because we finally have access to teach our kids every day.”
Shore said she is thankful for her family, Lorene Gopher who gave her the opportunity to teach many years ago and to the students who make her day every day.
The teachers were recognized for their achievements Feb. 5 by the Glades County School District at the annual Golden Apple Banquet in Moore Haven.