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Island’s top educators compete for Outstanding Teacher Award

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All ten finalists of the 2023 Bermuda Education Network Outstanding Teacher of the Year Awards (Photographs by Tristan Narraway)

Defining the essence of an outstanding teacher is a complex task because every educator brings something unique and invaluable to the classroom.

At the heart of it, the Bermuda Education Network Outstanding Teacher Awards aim to illuminate the extraordinary skills and personal qualities that set educators apart.

While acknowledging the inherent virtue of all teachers who dedicate themselves to the daily enrichment of their students and communities, these awards, now in their seventh year, spotlight those who go above and beyond.

Becky Ausenda, BEN’s founder and executive director, said: “Throughout the years, we have consistently observed that possessing a positive attitude, adaptability and an unwavering commitment to excellence are defining attributes of the most effective teachers.

“In certain years, the evolving landscape of education has emphasised specific qualities. For instance, during the challenges posed by the pandemic, technological proficiency and innovative approaches to online learning were highly prized.

“In the current climate of Bermuda's school reforms, the ability to remain composed and navigate change has emerged as the key strength essential for success in the Bermuda public school system.

“Noteworthy is the fact that all of this year's finalists for the Outstanding Teacher Awards are seasoned veterans, boasting a minimum of 20 years of experience ― an unmistakable testament to the significance of accumulated wisdom in the teaching profession.

“Consistently described by their colleagues as exceptionally supportive, these finalists embody the spirit of a familial bond within Bermuda's public education system.

“Empathy and patience stand as the distinguishing hallmarks of these esteemed educators, reinforcing the idea that, in the realm of teaching, experience and compassion are indispensable qualities that elevate educators to the status of true champions in their field.”

The awards are being hosted by BEN at HSBC this Thursday.

The ten finalists of the 2023 Bermuda Education Network Outstanding Teacher of the Year Awards

Shunna Muhammad

Preschool teacher at Southampton Preschool

Shunna Muhammad has more than 20 years of teaching experience and is described in the profession as “a pillar of knowledge and dedication”.

Her leadership in various preschool initiatives, from graduations to sports days, showcases her ease in handling diverse responsibilities.

Proudly serving as a public schoolteacher, she radiates creativity, enthusiasm, humility and empathy towards staff, students, parents and community partnerships.

Ms Muhammad's meticulous organisation is evident in her well-defined classroom areas, each serving a specific purpose. As a mentor, she generously shares her wealth of knowledge and collaborates seamlessly with colleagues.

Observing Ms Muhammad in action is a delight. Her classroom is structured for free play followed by focused lessons. The literacy and reading session is a testament to her teaching prowess.

Using the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, she engages students with interactive and creative props, fostering understanding of upper and lower case letters. Her use of questioning not only checks for understanding but prompts deeper thinking.

In this vibrant classroom, students are not only happy and excited to learn but also encouraged to make independent choices.

Ms Muhammad's joy in teaching is palpable as she creates a positive and engaging learning environment. This highlights the crucial role of dedicated educators in laying the foundation for a lifelong love of learning in early childhood education.

Dionne Tuzo

P1 teacher, teacher leader and mathematics co-ordinator at Northlands Primary School

When entering her classroom, every aspect of the environment in Dionne Tuzo’s classroom has been carefully and intentionally curated for a full day of investigation, new connections and exploration.

When students enter, comments such as “I found a new rock for the science station Ms Tuzo” exemplify a clear understanding that they too know why they have come to her classroom.

Ms Tuzo is more than just an educator ― she is a facilitator of deep, hands-on learning. She wears many hats such as “chief scientist”, “lead explorer”, “head gardener” and “master co-ordinator” as she guides her students through the various aspects of project-based learning.

She is also a pioneer, having been a part of the pilot launch of the Bermuda public school system’s latest curriculum implementation, the Creative Curriculum Kindergarten, which engages young learners in developmentally appropriate lessons and experiences that cater to the whole child beyond maths, reading and writing.

Those who experience her class describe it as highly intentional and engaging as she navigates each lesson tailoring instruction to meet the needs of her precious charges.

You will often find her busy about the classroom either leading a small group in a learning activity, observing students to document their progress, or celebrating a student’s discovery or mastery of a concept.

If ever there was a teacher who embodies the core values of impacting students and instilling a deep love of learning through discovery and investigation, it is Dionne Tuzo.

Wayne DeSilva

Visual arts teacher at Whitney Institute Middle School

Wayne DeSilva stands out in his unwavering passion for both his craft and his students at Whitney Institute Middle School.

The dedicated art teacher instils resilience and a spirit of risk-taking through hands-on activities. He fosters the Whitney Essentials of character development ― promoting respect and responsibility.

As a trusted source of knowledge and experience for middle school colleagues, Mr DeSilva establishes meaningful connections.

In his classroom, which is adorned with student work, Mr DeSilva has a dynamic and captivating teaching approach.

During a BEN visit, he seamlessly integrated a video presentation curated to showcase diverse ceramic and historical references, igniting enthusiasm for the day's exploration. Students actively participated in a do-now exercise, writing key concept words and reinforcing engagement.

It was notable how Mr DeSilva’s lesson transitioned smoothly from theory to practical, where he guided students through an amazing ceramics class.

His dedication extends beyond the curriculum ― he serves as a role model, encouraging students to push their artistic boundaries.

Under his guidance, some students have gained local recognition through artistic competitions. Mr DeSilva's impact on students is evident through their achievements and engagement.

Ayesha Vickers-Brown

Paget Primary School P1 teacher

Ayesha Vickers-Brown has received an unprecedented five nominations for these awards. She began her Bermuda teaching career at The Berkeley Institute in 2005 before moving on to primary level as a reading teacher.

She stands out as a literacy magician, transforming even the most reluctant readers into enthusiasts. Creating inviting reading environments with comfy chairs, loft beds and reading nooks, she ensures students eagerly anticipate independent reading time. Her impact is evident in the heartfelt praise from parents whose children's attitudes towards reading and writing have been transformed.

She has recently taken on a new challenge as P1 teacher and is shining in this new role by incorporating music, dance and storytelling to make her lessons a joyous learning experience. She also strives to modify her lessons to meet the needs of students who struggle, while also challenging students who are in need of enrichment.

Colleagues and parents recognise her as a caring and passionate teacher whose contribution goes well beyond the classroom.

At Berkeley she made a noteworthy contribution as the school's Chain Reaction Adviser, helping students to raise $9,000 for a Haitian orphanage in only ten days.

At Paget Primary her early morning Booster Classes and after-school Enrichment Clubs demonstrate her unwavering dedication. She ensures all her students receive a strong, healthy foundation for learning.

Hewitt Taylor

Mathematics teacher at The Berkeley Institute

Hewitt Taylor's remarkable achievement as a finalist for the second time underscores the profound impact he has had on The Berkeley Institute community. His popularity among students is unparalleled, thanks to his genuine gift for creating an inclusive and welcoming environment.

With an open-door policy during lunch hours and after school for tutorials, Mr Taylor goes above and beyond to ensure that students feel supported in their academic journey.

What truly sets Mr Taylor apart is his infectious enthusiasm and warm demeanour. His face lights up with joy when greeting students, irrespective of whether he teaches them directly. This genuine connection fosters a sense of belonging and inspires students to engage actively in their learning.

Colleagues admire his ability to simplify complex concepts, particularly crucial in a subject as challenging as mathematics.

In the realm of mathematics instruction, gentleness and patience can make a significant difference. Mr Taylor embodies these qualities, understanding that students may easily be discouraged if the subject does not come naturally to them. His kind and encouraging approach not only boosts confidence but also serves as a model for tact and patience that students eagerly emulate.

Described by peers as both a popular and efficient teacher, Mr Taylor is recognised not only for his pedagogical prowess but also for being a wonderful person. Students clamour to be in his class, drawn not only to the subject matter but also to the positive and uplifting atmosphere he cultivates.

Michael Beckles

Mathematics teacher at The Berkeley Institute

For more than a decade, Mr Beckles has served as a mathematics teacher at The Berkeley Institute, making significant contributions as an indispensable member of the maths team. His enduring impact is felt by students, parents and colleagues alike.

Mr Beckles is renowned across the campus for his fairness and openness. Students appreciate the relaxed environment in his classroom, where they freely express themselves while justifying their answers. His teaching strategies focus on extending students to explain the rationale behind their responses. Regular feedback, in the form of detailed comments on assignments, ensures clarity on areas for improvement.

Mr Beckles makes himself available during lunch and after school to students seeking additional practice or instruction.

He was voted “coolest teacher” in 2018 by S2 students. His commitment to helping students outside of lesson time reflects his belief that going the extra mile and investing in building a student’s self-belief can be transformative.

As the quote goes, “a teacher affects eternity”, and Mr Beckles has undoubtedly left an enduring influence at The Berkeley Institute, proving himself a valuable asset to students, colleagues and the Bermuda community.

Lutgarda Lambe

P3 teacher and IT leader at Purvis Primary School.

Lutgarda Lambe is held in high esteem by former and current colleagues. She is particularly known for her strength in IT and mathematics.

Before Purvis, she was the P6 teacher at Heron Bay and, with its closure, Ms Lambe brings a depth of knowledge. She was nominated by her colleague for showing adaptability and taking on the challenge of a new year group with enthusiasm.

Her strength in technology was on display in the new open classroom environment at Purvis. Coteaching a larger group of students requires differentiation and during BEN’s visit, Ms Lambe used a variety of technologies to encourage students to work independently at their own speed. The children were engaged and confident in asking for help or clarification from Ms Lambe.

She regularly invests extra time after school and on weekends, ensuring she is well prepared to support students at the lower school level.

Beyond her teaching responsibilities, Ms Lambe extends support to colleagues with IT needs, showcasing her willingness to share knowledge. Despite being new to Purvis, she quickly became a trusted resource for the staff, always ready to assist.

In her previous role as a P6 teacher, Ms Lambe went above and beyond preparing students for Cambridge exams and providing extra Saturday-morning practice sessions. Her commitment to communication with parents, even after students have left her class, reflects her ongoing dedication to their success.

As the organiser of the P6 leaving ceremony, she consistently ensured high standards, even thinking outside the box during challenging times, such as conducting the ceremony through Zoom and other virtual platforms during the year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Lambe's positive attitude, adaptability and commitment to excellence make her a standout candidate for recognition in the Teacher Awards publication. Her ability to navigate change and provide unwavering support to students and colleagues, exemplifies the qualities of an outstanding educator.

Makeba Stowe

Deputy principal and P6 teacher at East End Primary School.

Described by colleagues as a dynamic and selfless teacher, Makeba Stowe is both a leading teacher and someone who excels as a teacher leader. She is truly passionate about her classroom role and working with students.

Our organisation has appreciated her professionalism and willingness to go above and beyond in her interactions with community partners to support students and teachers.

Our team visited during a science lesson on Forces and observed the classroom buzzing with excitement as students eagerly rotated among six different stations, each designed to showcase forms of force in action.

This well-designed lesson was a “tour de force” in classroom management and demonstrated the teacher’s exceptional ability to monitor understanding, prompt critical thinking and achieve deeper learning.

Chatter echoed from another station where students engaged in a physical demonstration, holding up a book in each hand to showcase the effect of force. The students could experience and discuss how varying forces affected the stability and balance of the objects in their hands.

This is an educator who understands the power of experiential learning to make abstract concepts tangible. Students experimented with rolling a ball on a table over various surfaces and materials to observe how the ball's movement differed based on the textures and materials encountered, gaining insight into the impact of surface friction on force.

The time that Ms Stowe invested in creating these hands-on activities paid off and made her lesson memorable for young learners.

She is a model for our school system and inspires her colleagues, parents and students with her deep commitment to education.

Richard Lindsay

CedarBridge Academy automotive technology teacher

In an educational landscape often emphasising traditional academic subjects, it is crucial to spotlight educators who excel in imparting practical skills and vocational knowledge. In his five years at CedarBridge Academy teaching automotive technology, Mr Lindsay has demonstrated unwavering commitment to his students and equipped them with valuable skills for their future.

He has not only empowered students to excel in their studies but has also paved the way for numerous opportunities by facilitating the attainment of their City and Guilds designation ― a direct gateway to lucrative careers as skilled car mechanics.

What sets Mr Lindsay apart is his innovative and comprehensive approach to teaching. His automotive technology lessons foster a dynamic and hands-on learning environment, ensuring that every student, regardless of their previous knowledge or experience, finds the material engaging and accessible.

BEN visited a lesson on how to identify engine parts and their components, and demonstrate how to plan, remove, pre-clean and replace parts.

Students were tasked with disassembling parts of an engine within a timed window while the teacher provided guidance to ensure adherence to safety protocols and proper handling techniques. Mr Lindsay asked probing questions about suitable tools for the extraction process and was supportive and active in his teaching throughout the lesson.

Colleagues hold Mr Lindsay in high esteem for his remarkable ability to build rapport with students and recognise their unique needs and aspirations. His mentorship instils a strong work ethic in his students and promotes team work and critical thinking essential for a career in the automotive industry.

Creating a sense of community is at the heart of Mr Lindsay's teaching philosophy. Within and outside the classroom, he establishes a friendly and inclusive environment, and provides additional time before and after school, as well as on weekends, to provide hands-on training to young aspiring mechanics, further enriching their learning experience.

In essence, Mr Lindsay's dedication extends far beyond the conventional role of a teacher. His holistic approach to education, coupled with his genuine investment in the success and wellbeing of his students, makes him a truly deserving candidate for recognition through our Teacher Awards.

Helen Paynter

Whitney Institute Middle School M3 English teacher and M3 head

With more than 20 years of teaching experience, Helen Paynter is a finalist for BEN's awards for the second time. Returning to Whitney Institute Middle School as an English teacher and M3 Year head after a successful stint as deputy principal at Prospect Primary, Ms Paynter continues to leave a lasting impact.

Her organisational excellence permeates every aspect of her role. It is evident in well-conducted meetings and a meticulously arranged classroom. Ms Paynter's class is a realm of order, with labelled resources and clear directions, fostering a structured and conducive learning environment.

Her leadership meetings are marked by a professional yet warm demeanour, creating a positive atmosphere among her colleagues.

In the classroom, Ms Paynter was observed by BEN employing engaging strategies, such as using a dice to determine the chapter students explore, ensuring active participation in independent group work.

Beyond the school, we know her to be highly committed to extending literacy wherever she can as evidenced by her involvement in our Summer Learning Programme, where she helped us to support young primary school students with the boost they needed in reading skills.

She also extends her influence as an education leader in the community, actively participating in church initiatives and organising fundraisers for various causes.

Throughout her extensive career, Ms Paynter has consistently boosted students' confidence, promoted literacy and made a remarkable difference in countless educational journeys. Her dedication to education and community engagement sets her apart as a truly impactful educator.

Step into Ms Paynter's classroom, and you enter a world of order and purpose.

Eight of the ten finalists of the 2023 Bermuda Education Network Outstanding Teacher of the Year Awards. Helen Paynter and Dionne Tuzo missing from picture (Photographs by Tristan Narraway)

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Published November 27, 2023 at 7:55 am (Updated November 27, 2023 at 7:55 am)

Island’s top educators compete for Outstanding Teacher Award

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