Ben Wentworth III, who has taught math and science to students who are vision and hearing impaired was honored as the Outstanding Teacher of the Year on November 10 at the Lifetime Presents Disney’s American Teacher Awards, held at the CBS Television City in Los Angeles. The gala two-hour event, Lifetime Presents Disney’s American Teacher Awards, was taped on Saturday, November 10, and will air on Thursday, December 13 at 7 PM (ET/PT).
Wentworth was recognized for his creative approach to the classroom with such achievements as creating a walk-in anatomical model of an animal cell for low vision students. He is also credited with creating a 4′ X 4′ rug-map boards of the European and Pacific Theaters, using students as game pieces so they could learn history through direct experience.
He credits his students as his inspiration to “? gently, but firmly nudge each student to individually discover both themselves and the meaning of life so that they are empowered to reach for the highest quality of life obtainable.”
Wentworth was one of 10 finalists chosen from 35 honorees from across the country who were recognized for their extraordinary contribution to their profession and to their students. The honorees were chosen by a national committee of distinguished educators and nominated in one of 10 teaching categories. One finalist was selected in each category on at the November 10 celebration. All 35 honorees voted from among the 10 finalists for the Outstanding Teacher of the Year.
Jamie Lee Curtis was honored with the Frank G. Wells Award, presented annually and named for the late Disney executive. This prestigious award recognizes individuals who teach without being a member of the teaching profession and whose life of civility, compassion, integrity, humility and respect for all humanity provides a compass for human behavior.
“We developed Disney’s American Teacher Awards as a way of honoring members of the teaching profession, whose talent, commitment and creativity have a profound and lasting impact on our children as well as our society as a whole,” said Walt Disney Chairman and CEO Michael D. Eisner. “It is our privilege to celebrate their lives and to share their extraordinary stories with the nation.
On hand to honor some of America’s most dedicated educators were (listed alphabetically) Bonnie Bedelia (“The Division”), Vivica A. Fox (“Soul Food”), Kathie Lee Gifford (“Live with Regis and Kathie Lee”), Whoopi Goldberg (“Hollywood Squares”), Lisa Gay Hamilton (“The Practice”), Anthony Heald (“Boston Public”), Patricia Heaton (“Everybody Loves Raymond”), Marg Helgenberger (“CSI”), Allison Janney (“The West Wing”), Mimi Kennedy (“Dharma and Greg”), Peter MacNicol (“Ally McBeal”), Chi McBride (“Boston Public”), Marie Osmond (“Donny & Marie”), Jeri Ryan (“Boston Public”) and Jimmy Smits (“NYPD Blue”). Cameo appearances will be made by Richard Dreyfus (“The Education of Max Bickford”), Rue McClanahan & Betty White (“The Golden Girls”), Sela Ward (“Once and Again”) and last year’s Frank G. Wells Award recipient, Oprah Winfrey.
Each year students, parents, educators and community members from across the United States nominate about 111,000 teachers, representing all regions of the country, and this year 111,000 applications were returned. The honorees were chosen by a national committee of distinguished educators and nominated in one of 10 teaching categories. In the year 2001, 35 teachers are being honored for their classroom creativity. One finalist was selected in each category on November 10, and the night of the gala Wentworth III became the Outstanding Teacher of the Year.
Wentworth III is a Viet Nam veteran who decided to embark on a career in teaching after careers in the Air Force followed by a stint as an Army EMT. Teaching all the sciences at his school, Ben enjoys the challenge of taking what the eye sees and putting this into meaningful images for his blind students’ fingers to “see.” Ben created the only self-standing tactile planetarium in North America and was a consultant on NASA’s Braille book, Touch the Universe.” Using and creating tactile materials to explain visual concepts makes learning fun and enjoyable for Ben’s students.
He was selected as Outstanding Teacher of the Years after being selected as a finalist in his category. The ten finalists are designated below by an asterisk *
Disney’s American Teacher Awards for 2001
* Paula Reckley, Madison Elementary, 2nd/3rd grade, Lombard, IL
Ann Short, F.J. Varieur Elementary School, 2nd grade, Pawtucket, RI
Judy Sink, Hardin Park, 2nd grade, Boone, NC
Michael Beranek, Western Hills Elementary, 3rd grade, West Des Moines, IA
* Jason Michael Unger, C.A. Dickison Elementary School, 5th grade, Compton, CA
Kathryn Yahr, Twin Hills School, 3rd-8th grades, Twin Hills, AK
Middle School/Junior High
Tammy King, Mt. Ridge Jr. High, 7th-9th grades Math, Highland, UT
Peggy Myers, Canaan Middle School, 6th grade Life Sciences, Plain City, OH
* J. Catherine Roberts, W.E. Waters Middle School, 7th grade Life Sciences, Portsmouth, VA
Jan Coleman-Knight, Thornton Jr. High School, 7th grade World History, Fremont, CA
* Kathleen Esmiol, Eagleview Middle School, 8th grade Language Arts, Colorado Springs, CO
Jonathan Wenn, 7th/8th grades World History, Roosevelt Middle School, Glendale, CA
Kenna Barger, Randolph County Vocational Technical Center, 9th-12th grades Algebra, Geometry, Elkins, WV
Karen Stiles, Central Campus, 10th-12th grades Marine Biology, Des Moines, IA
* Benning Wentworth III, Colorado School for the Deaf & Blind, 7th-12th grades All Sciences, Colorado Springs, CO
* Nora Flanagan, Lane Technical High School, 9th grade English, Chicago, IL
Donna McCreadie, Temple City High School, 12th grade Economics, Temple City, CA
Linda Sandra Squier, Eleanor Roosevelt High School, 9th-12th grades Latin, Greenbelt, MD
Kindergarten through 12th Grade
* Terri Graham, Bayonne High School, 9th-12th grades Ceramics/Sculpture, Bayonne, NJ
Margot Olsen, Roseville Area Middle School, 7th & 8th grades Orchestra, Choir, Theatre, Little Canada, MN
Bonnie Pierce, Viewmont High School, 10th-12th grades Dance, Bountiful, UT
* Shannon Lea Espinoza, Crescent Core Alternative Middle School, 6th-8th grades Alternative Education, Cheney, WA
Catherine Kelly, Walnut Street School, 1st-5th grades Resource Center, Woodbury, NJ
Robert Peck, Washington State School for the Blind, Students who are Blind &Visually Impaired, Vancover, WA
Loretta Evans Heigle, Nancy Kaufmann, Sara McKinley, & Molly Todd, Jones Middle School, 6th grade, Upper Arlington, OH
* Maureen Ortiz & Laura Auch, Phoenix Alternative High School, English, Cupertino, CA
Victoria Newberry & Dara Lukonen, Kualapuu Elementary School,5th & 6th grades, Kualapuu, HI
Sandy George, Calipatria High School, Physical Education, Calipatria, CA
* Danette Lansing, Eagle Hills Elementary, Physical Education, Eagle, ID
Deborah Lynn Tackmann, North High School, Health, Eau Claire, WI