Educators Going Above & Beyond to Connect with Students Earns Them Teacher of the Year Recognition from Camelot Education
Several teachers across Camelot Education’s Philadelphia area schools were recognized for their ongoing passion to connect with students and allow them to realize their full learning potential. Camelot honors these educators with Teacher of the Year awards for their respective school.
Aspira Academy: Michael Donovan
Aspira Academy Executive Director JaQuay Waller is thrilled to work with Michael Donovan.
“Donovan is one million percent invested in being a teacher and improving his craft,” said Waller. “When I walk into his classroom, I am wowed. His classroom is always bright and fun. His students want to learn.”
Earlier this year, a parent told Waller that their child never talks about his teachers the way he talks about Donovan.
Donovan’s students are engaged because he is very diligent about knowing his students’ interests. His goal this year was to be as creative as possible, keep students engaged, and continue to meet their learning needs.
“My focus is to meet my student’s learning needs and prepare lessons that my students will enjoy,” said Donovan.
Donovan was honored, grateful, and a little surprised to have received the Teacher of the Year recognition. But what is most rewarding to him is being able to work as part of the Camelot team and being able to work well with his students.
“I am so happy to have found Camelot,” said Donovan. “I love to be able to bounce ideas off my colleagues and to be part of such a collaborative environment.”
Camelot Academy East: Viulka Guzman
In her second year with Camelot Academy East, Viulka Guzman rose to an important challenge. In addition to teaching her English classes, she instructed Spanish classes as well.
Camelot Academy East Executive Director Jennifer Green says that Guzman is a creative educator who is completely relatable to her students.
“She is always there for students who have a personal issue and she listens very well in those situations,” said Green.
Her upbeat, positive energy balances with patience to help her students become better readers and writers, which, Green feels, benefits all aspects of her students’ education.
Guzman’s goal for the long term is to always make her class more rigorous so that students catch up where they have fallen behind, but also learn to excel.
She strives to relate every piece of literature to the students’ lives so that they understand the importance of reading and personal expression. “I want my students to become better readers and writers so they can understand the world around them better,” said Guzman.
Guzman came into this year prepared to try new things. She incorporated a cooking lesson to make Puerto Rican empanadas in her Spanish class and held a Day of the Dead celebration, which is a Mexican holiday that recognizes friends and family members who have died.
Her positive energy and can-do attitude helped her and her students succeed through the COVID-19 school building shutdown. When learning shifted online, she took great care to pre-record lessons and serve as a live resource for students when it was time for class.
She was excited to be awarded Teacher of the Year and said it is likely due to all the work she put in this year to help her students succeed.
Camelot Therapeutic Day School of Philadelphia: Rebecca Jean-Beck
When Rebecca Beck, Science and Math teacher at Camelot Therapeutic Day School of Philadelphia, returned to work at Camelot last fall, Executive Director Brian Bienkowski was thrilled to have her back.
“She has a genuine passion for getting to know each student’s individual learning modality,” said Bienkowski. “She is so persistent and will do everything she can to help a student understand material that challenges them.”
Beck will do anything to ensure her students are successful. On one occasion, when she lost Wi-Fi at her home during the pandemic, she went to a local coffee shop with her own small children to connect to the wireless network and finish an education plan on time.
“I love Camelot’s model and pedagogy and love to be part of my student’s lives,” said Beck. “I am so thankful for how supportive and collaborative my staff is. This job gives me so much happiness that I always put everything into it to ensure success for my students.”
Beck was instrumental in creating an interactive lab space for her students. She found that kids greatly enjoy doing the hands-on work she sets up for them. Her efforts to connect with students was a main contributor to receiving the Teacher of the Year award.
Stetson Academy: Rasheed Dandridge
Rasheed Dandridge serves as a mentor to his students at Stetson Academy; he was in their shoes when he was in 8th and 9th grade. An alumnus of the school, Dandridge internalized Camelot’s principles he saw as a student: be steady, be fair, and be consistent.
Dandridge’s life purpose is to give back to the community. In his role as an English teacher, he can do that every day.
This year, Dandridge especially focused on relationship-centered classroom management. The most important aspect of teaching for him is to establish strong relationships with his students. “If you don’t establish a relationship with your students, you cannot reach them.”
His ability to create meaningful relationships with his students is what Camelot recognized in him when he was awarded Teacher of the Year.
“Dandridge not only does an excellent job with our students inside the classroom but outside of the classroom as well,” said Executive Director Johnathan Lanouette. “He helps his students with outside reading whenever they need it.”
Dandridge’s personal motto is “find a way to make a way.” This attitude helped him transition to online learning during the COVID-19 school building shutdown. He wanted to maintain the same level of consistency he brought to in-person teaching. He focused on helping students adapt and continued to push them to do their best.
He was surprised and honored when he found out he won the Teacher of the Year award.
“It showed me that through the challenges, I know I am making a difference in my students’ lives and look forward to doing so for a long time to come.”