“I teach through a literary-rich, integrated curriculum, which communicates the importance of real reading and writing. Students interact with emotional commitment, realize their value, feel respected, and develop their potential,” said Vixie. “They collaborate, solve problems, discover democratic values and self-governance and apply skills in real situations where their decisions affect the outcome.”
“Each year Disney recognizes a group of 45 exceptional teachers like Mr. Vixie. Our hope is that every community around the country will use this as an opportunity to help good teachers become even better, and to recognize their teachers’ commitment to encouraging and developing the next generation of learners,” said Terry Wick, vice president, Disney Worldwide Outreach. Disney has committed more than $700,000 to this year’s Honorees and their communities and will provide extensive professional development programs for the teachers and their principals.
“As an instructor Mr. Vixie instilled in me the values and work ethic which would prove to be essential to my success as I embarked on my college career. Mr. Vixie provided me with the one tool I most needed to succeed scholastically, as well as in life; the ability to learn. It is this attribute which separates David Vixie from other instructors,” wrote Jason Thomas, a former student, in a letter to Disney.
“The desks in Mr. Vixie’s classroom are seldom in the ‘standard’ classroom configuration. One day I walked into the classroom and all the desks had been moved to the side of the classroom and the room was filled with empty appliance boxes. The class was studying the depression in American history and this was their ‘shanty town.’ Each student had his/her own box and this was their living space the week they were studying the topic,” wrote Tim Bair, principal of Paradise Adventist Academy, in a letter to Disney.
Other teachers honored include:
- Outstanding Elementary Teacher: Dara Feldman, a Kindergarten teacher at Garrett Park Elementary School, Montgomery County, Md. Feldman’s commitment to teaching results in a creative, high-tech kindergarten where children learn about the wonder—and sometimes the tragedy—of the world they live in. “We communicate over the Internet with kindergarteners in other countries,” explained Feldman. “We try to show the children that we have differences, but that we are more than our differences. This year, our exchange was with children in Malaysia, and the tsunami hit there in December. The kids kept asking, ‘What can we do, how can we help?'”
- Outstanding High School Teacher: Randy Wormald, a math teacher from Belmont, N.H. “Worm,” as he is known to his students, bases his teaching style around making algebra and geometry exciting. “I try to bring in different approaches to the math classroom, dressing up, using sounds, things you don’t usually find in a high school math class. I try to bring the excitement and usually that helps the kids get engaged in the subject,” he said. That style can be seen in an activity called “Graph Master Boogie,” where instead of drawing graphs of functions on the blackboard, Wormald’s students stand up and dance the pattern of the graph. “Graph Master Boogie is a way of showing what graphs look like by acting them out,” Wormald said. “In the old days, you would just put it on graph paper and do it 50 times until you got it. The kids get up and move and can ‘get it’ and do transformations for the graphs quickly. Plus, it’s fun.”
- Outstanding Educational Specialist: Cynthia Pochomis, Newark, Del., a special needs teacher at Richardson Park Learning Center in Wilmington, is one of three Honorees being recognized for Special Needs education. “The children do better in every aspect when they are engaged and doing things they love,” said Pochomis. “Science just seems to naturally click with these children, because it excites them and they can ask questions.” In the past, she has participated in a two-year project to name the Delaware state butterfly. “My class produced a video describing each of the three choices for the state butterfly. We had enough copies sent to each school so every primary student could vote on which butterfly they wanted to be the state butterfly. We had about 3,000 responses,” said Pochomis. Her class was able to watch the bill signing ceremony naming the Tiger Swallowtail as the state butterfly.
- 2005 Youth Service America Award: Cindy Corlett, a science teacher from Sierra Middle School in Parker, Colo., won for her “Science Squad,” a learning program that empowers 8th-grade students to develop and present science lessons for elementary and special needs children. Corlett was presented the award by Youth Service America in cooperation with Disney. With “Science Squad,” middle school students excite their peers about science, provide a positive example for younger children and take more responsibility for their own learning. Since the inception of the program, “Science Squad” has expanded from a one-day event into a multi-day science extravaganza that now has a waiting list of interested elementary classes.
- 2005 Bubel/Aiken Award: Mary West, a special needs teacher from Montrose, Colo., was honored by the Bubel/Aiken Foundation for her commitment to working with children with disabilities. The Bubel/Aiken Award recognizes a teacher who helps promote full inclusion for students with special needs.
Since 1989, Disney has proudly presented the Disney Teacher Awards, a salute to outstanding members of the teaching profession that demonstrates our respect for teachers across the country. This award honors representatives of the teaching profession who construct learning environments where students and teachers alike explore, imagine, and engage in a variety of stimulating ideas and experiences. The Disney Teacher Awards is part of DisneyHand, worldwide outreach for The Walt Disney Company. For more information, please visit www.disneyhand.com.