Seaford educator named Delaware’s 2019 Teacher of the Year

Dana Bowe becomes Delaware’s nominee in national competition

An elementary special education teacher from the Seaford School District is Delaware’s 2019 State Teacher of the Year.

Governor John Carney made the announcement tonight at the annual banquet honoring the 20 district and charter teachers of the year at Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center in Dover.

Dana Bowe, who teaches kindergarten through second grade for the Sussex County Orthopedic Program at West Seaford Elementary School, now is Delaware’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year, a title she hopes will allow her to share her message about all children’s abilities.

One in six children in the United States has a developmental disability, ranging from speech or language impairments to intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy or autism.

“But all of these children have capabilities. Their value and worth are beyond measure. Each student has a different story, different journey, and different abilities,” Bowe said.

After the Sussex Orthopedic Program moved to West Seaford Elementary School, Bowe helped start a “Spread the Word-Respect” campaign at her school, part of a national effort to discourage the use of the derogatory word “retard” and to promote acceptance, compassion, understanding, and inclusion of people with disabilities. This was important for the culture of the school, where some students had not before seen children walking in orthopedic braces, communicating with speech generated devices, or using assistive technologies, she said.

“Sometimes it is difficult to see the initial impact of an initiative. Other times, although it is not blatantly obvious, there is a quiet victory: Students holding hands walking down the hallway; a child in a wheelchair tutoring other children in class; or a regular education student asking a child to be his partner even though they can communicate only through gestures, signs, or the use of a ‘talker,’ ” Bowe said.

Bowe said she also had the chance to witness “a big, loud victory.

“One of my students with Trisomy 18 ran into the middle of a heated basketball game against many of the boys who were much larger and tougher,” Bowe said. “She put her arms up to catch a rebound and was pushed aside by some of the bigger boys. The leader of the group, CJ, shouted, ‘Pass her to ball. She is in the game.’ They did. She didn’t make the shot, not even close. But she was open, and the boys kept her in the game. CJ stood up for her and changed lives that day; not just for my little basketball player but for many students. He became a leader by modeling acceptance and respect of others.”

Bowe, who has been teaching for 17 years including five in her current position, shared stories in her application about students who made significant progress in her class.

“Children with special needs are capable of love, friendship, and academic achievement. We must encourage true inclusion with acceptance and kindness. We must see our children without labels and limitations,” she said. “We must discover the greatness that is already inside them and share their greatness with others. We must teach all students.”

Bowe can be so effective because she also builds strong relationships with her students’ families.

Sometimes that means efforts that go beyond the work day – delivering a forgotten tooth that fell out at lunch to a child’s rural home so the Tooth Fairy can visit that night or sitting in the dunk tank at a local carnival to raise money for a student’s drug trial.

“We are partners,” Bowe said. “We become so close through text messages, phone calls, and home visits.”

Joni Smith, whose son is now in his third year in Bowe’s class, said Bowe cares about all her students and finds ways to engage each of them as well as their families in their learning.

“Mrs. Bowe always includes us in his progress and his struggles and is always right on board to help in any way,” Smith said. “She always makes us feel like family and friends — we are a team to work together to help our child progress.”

Bowe earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from East Carolina University and a master’s degree in special education from Wilmington University. She also was named the Down Syndrome Association of Delaware 2017 Teacher of the Year.

Bowe inherits from outgoing Teacher of the Year Jinni Forcucci the responsibility of representing all teachers in Delaware. She will address community groups, business leaders, legislators, and educational organizations to inform the public about the status of Delaware schools. She also will become Delaware’s candidate in the National Teacher of the Year Program, a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers sponsored by the Voya Foundation.

By action of the General Assembly, she will receive a $5,000 grant to use for the educational benefit of her students, as well two personal grants totaling an additional $5,000. The remaining 19 school district/charter candidates each will receive a personal grant of $2,000. All 20 teachers also receive a gift from Advantech Incorporated.

Bowe also will receive: a $1,000 grant for educational/classroom use from American Institutes for Research; grants from the Delaware Association of School Administrators, Delaware State Education Association and the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce; a State of Delaware Teacher of the Year commemorative plate from the Division of Motor Vehicles; a full doctorate program from University of Delaware and Wilmington University; a gold watch from the Delaware State Teachers of the Year Association; a 10-karat gold ring from Jostens; and lunch in Washington D.C. with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper.

Other organizations that honored the newly-selected Teacher of the Year include: the Delaware Chief School Officers Association, Delaware School Boards Association and Educators Rising.

This year’s celebration was sponsored in part by Voya Financial.

 

Find last night’s press release here.

Find photos from last night’s celebration here.

Find the video presentation on all 20 teachers shared last night here.

Find the classroom photos of all 20 nominees shared last night as well as portrait shots of each teacher here.

For media interviews with Dana Bowe, please contact Duncan.Smith@seaford.k12.de.us.

 

Media Contact: Alison May, alison.may@doe.k12.de.us, 302-735-4006

 
 


Delaware Teacher of the Year reflects on past year

Editor’s note: This Take Note guest post is written by Jinni Forcucci, a Sussex Technical High School English language arts teacher and the 2018 Delaware Teacher of the Year. (Photo credit: Shannon Marvel McNaught/Gatehouse Delaware.) 

 

My family and I live in Rehoboth Beach, DE, and spend each summer visiting our favorite spots along the Atlantic Ocean in Sussex County. Attracted to the tides, the waves, the calm and the consistency of the water’s presence, my sons, my husband and I use these spaces to laugh, to exercise, to commune and to reflect.

One of my most treasured memories of our time on the beach, however, occurred when my youngest son was about five or six. After spending almost an hour sitting on the jetty rocks, looking out over the horizon, Cooper made his way back to where my husband and I sat. My husband, always the consummate observer, could tell that Cooper had something on his mind, so he asked him what he’d been thinking about as he sat on those rocks overlooking the seascape. Through his bleached blond eyelashes, my kiddo looked at us and said, “You know that line where the sea meets the sky? I thought about what I’d find if I went there.”

This past year, as Delaware’s 2018 Teacher of the Year, I feel like I had the chance to visit the space my son imagined on that summer day: the space where inspiration and curiosity abound, where challenges and experiences prompt self-discovery and untapped strength, where sunrises offers a new opportunity to make a difference, and sunsets prompt the rest and reflection necessary to keep doing the important work that benefits the children in our schools and in our communities.

After overcoming the initial shock of being named DE STOY (and please know that I still struggle with imposter syndrome when in the company of so many exemplary educators in our state and from around the nation), I began my journey toward fearless leadership and increased advocacy. And while I’ve always valued and embraced these skills, employing them on a state-wide level was completely new. Former TOYs like Wendy Turner (2017), Sandra Hall (2016), and Megan Szabo (2015) were just a few of the teacher leaders who tried to ready me for the year in store. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for my first meeting held by the CCSSO – The Council of Chief State School Officers in California with the 2018 National Teachers of the Year cohort.

The whole experience was nutso. I’m serious. I was hanging with educational professionals who’d already written and published books, who’d led for racial equity on a national stage, whose impressive resumes made me feel like a Shetland pony in the Kentucky Derby. I had so much to learn from these compassionate, innovative, and gloriously welcoming hearts belonging to educators I now call dear friends and confidantes.

Exhausting and transformative, my time in California solidified what I already knew about this noble profession: teachers are total and absolute rock stars who need more resources and support to help students thrive, and ALL learners benefit when ALL perspectives are valued. Why, then, did I need to go to all the way to CA if I already understood the goals CCSSO was trying to fulfill? Because when one is truly valued, when professional development is housed at Google (that place is magical… for real), when collaboration results in a nation-wide push for equitable outcomes, when heartfelt tears and giggles, that can make your bones hurt, start and end each day, one feels like she just might be able to change the world. So, I came back to our state, and I was ready. Ready to lead DE schools in a direction that embraces culturally responsive teaching and implement strategies that deny institutionalized racism.

In my past 22 years as an English teacher, I’ve committed myself to cultural proficiency as I’ve devoted my days to listening and learning from the valuable voices in my classroom. Fostering an environment that encourages individual truths and communal acceptance, I rejoice when students deny and overcome, with tremendous strength, the pervasive biases that injure and often halt the progress of our Black and Brown children. And while we celebrate growth and progress, there is work to be done.

Supporting me each step of the way this year, DOE’s beloved and devoted TOY coordinator Chris Kenton graciously drove me all over the state as I spoke to pre-service teachers, worked with doctoral candidates, presented to the House and the Senate, trained with DOE staff, and advocated for necessary training in my own district. I’ve also had the indelible pleasure of learning from the influential and tireless commitments of racial equity leaders like Faye Blake, Jacques Bowe and Maria Stecker. Their vital contributions change lives, for they know that the equity lens is the tool that all district, building and teacher leaders must look through when dismantling the systems that have historically hurt our youth. And please know that if this lens is ignored, we will continue to blindly dismiss so many beautiful hearts and minds that have so very much to offer.

In October, I will attend the DE STOY banquet that names the next winner of this humbling award. I will offer advice to the blessed educator who is in for a life-changing year, and publicly thank the state for bestowing this incredible honor on me, a gal from Felton, DE who loves books and yoga and belly laughs. I will leave that banquet with my sons and my husband, knowing that it is my responsibility to help every child visit her/his version of Cooper’s horizon. And I will wake up the next morning, ready to learn and grow from the kiddos who await me in room 837.

 

For more information on the great things happening in schools across Delaware, sign up to receive Take Note: Education in the First State at http://www.doe.k12.de.us/takenote. Take Note is published the final Wednesday of each month.


2019 District/Charter Teachers of the Year named

Twenty Delaware teachers are finalists to be named Delaware’s 2019 State Teacher of the Year.

Selected from among the 9,000 public school teachers in the state, the candidates were nominated by their districts or the Delaware Charter School Network because of their ability to inspire students with a love of learning, demonstration of professional traits and devotion to teaching. Already leaders among the colleagues in their buildings, each now has assumed a role representing educators in their districts or the charter network. In October, one will take over the state title from 2018 Delaware Teacher of the Year Jinni Forcucci, an English language arts teacher at Sussex Technical School District’s Sussex Technical High School.

 

The 2019 District/Charter Teachers of the Year are:

  • Appoquinimink: Sara Anderson, Cedar Lane Elementary, grade 5 inclusion
  • Brandywine: Bonnie Yurkanin, Claymont Elementary, library media
  • Caesar Rodney: Ashlee Upp, Allen Frear Elementary, grade 3
  • Cape Henlopen: Robert Harrod, Cape Henlopen High, grade 9 biology
  • Capital: Joseph Fuller, Dover High, Intensive Learning Center math/science
  • Christina: Jennifer Montanez, Etta J. Wilson Elementary, grade 5
  • Colonial: Mark McKenzie, William Penn High, Grades 11-12 chemistry
  • Delmar: Michelle Howard, Delmar High, Grades 9-12 physical science/chemistry
  • Indian River: Courtney White, North Georgetown Elementary, grade 5
  • Lake Forest: Sara Bushey, Lake Forest North Elementary, grade 3
  • Laurel: Carly Carrier, Laurel Middle, grade 6 science
  • Milford: Veronica Evans, Milford Senior High, grades 10-12 U.S. government and politics/social studies
  • New Castle County Vo-Tech: Lindsay Hoeschel, Howard High School of Technology, grade 11 English language arts
  • POLYTECH: David Watson, POLYTECH High, engineering/calculus/physics
  • Red Clay Consolidated: Lia Zucchino, Evan G. Shortlidge Academy, grade 2
  • Seaford: Dana Bowe, West Seaford Elementary, K-2 special education
  • Smyrna: Virginia Hoye, Clayton Intermediate, grade 5 English language arts/social studies
  • Sussex Tech: Anthony Natoli, Sussex Technical High, grades 9 and 11 English language arts
  • Woodbridge:  Heather Kerrick, Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center, grade 1 reading/social studies
  • Charter Network: Thomas Becker, MOT Charter High, grades 9-12 math

Media Contact: Alison May, alison.may@doe.k12.de.us, 302-735-4006