The Education Department officially announced its 2014 Teacher of the Year winners this week, with Diana Tyson picking up the title on St. Thomas-St. John and Shabre Providence representing St. Croix.
For Tyson, the win allows her to come full circle. A product of the local public school system, Tyson not only graduated from Ivanna Eudora Kean, but completed two degrees at the University of the Virgin Islands. She says that working for the department for the past 14 years has allowed her to mirror some of "great things" she's learned from her own teachers.
"Winning 'Teacher of the Year' for St. Thomas-St. John will now also give me the opportunity to let the community know all the good things taking place in public schools throughout the territory," she said Wednesday. "We have a lot of great teachers, a lot of great programs and I think we're all doing a great job providing new opportunities for learning for our students."
A fourth-grade teacher at Lockhart Elementary School, Tyson said her teaching philosophy applies to both her and the students.
"Teachers should lead by example and demonstrate those kinds of behaviors that they want to see in their children, including a love of learning. We want our students to become lifelong learners and I think teachers that take the time to build their content area knowledge and show enthusiasm when delivering their lessons – especially those subjects the students don't tend to like – can really inspire their classes to succeed."
In the classroom, Tyson makes good use of the available technology – from computers to iPads – and gets students involved in more hands-on projects.
"I also take the time to get to know each one of my students so I can better understand what they need from me, and I try to keep them engaged and on task at all times," she said.
On St. Croix, Providence also said that making learning fun and interactive are the keys to keeping her students focused in the classroom.
A fourth-grade teacher at Ricardo Richards Elementary, Providence has been with the department for eight years but also taught for four years on the mainland. Getting into elementary education allowed Providence to explore all the subject areas and pushed her to look at new and creative ways of teaching everything from art to science, she said.
"My philosophy is based on creating engaging and modern environments for our students to learn in," she said Wednesday. "We use lots of technology in our lessons – the students use the Promethean boards every day – and keep the room interactive. I think this is the best way to prepare them for success in the global community, whose standards and expectations are always changing."
Providence said her class of 23 students is diverse and she makes a point of working with each child.
"Every one learns at their own pace and has different interests, so I make a point of working with each of them during the day," she said. "It is very important to keep them excited about the work and, as a teacher, you have to understand what each of them responds to."
While Providence said that her selection as St. Croix's Teacher of the Year "hasn't quite sunk in yet," she does feel "honored and blessed" to be recognized for her work.
Each year, district Teacher of the Year candidates are submitted for consideration by their respective public school principals. The candidates are then evaluated by committees made up of representatives from the department, district and other community organizations.
Each district winner then competes against the other for the State Teacher of the Year award, which gives them the chance to represent the territory at the national competition next year.