Suzette Gomez-Smith Named St. Thomas-St. John Teacher of the Year

Suzette Gomez-Smith On Sunday, Oct. 18, longtime E. Benjamin Oliver Elementary teacher Suzette Gomez-Smith was named the St. Thomas-St. John District 2016 Teacher of the Year at a selection luncheon themed “Hats Off to Our Educators” held at Marriott’s Frenchman’s Reef Beach Resort. The affair was attended by District personnel, teachers, family, friends and well-wishers.
Gomez-Smith was among four nominees in line for the prestigious annual recognition, which, for the first time this year, involved more than submitting a written application, according to Superintendent Dionne Wells-Hedrington.
“The applicants completed their normal applications that came from the U.S. Department of Education, but in addition to that, I had a panel of five that went out and conducted classroom observations,” she said. “They had a checklist, a rubric that they all used and visited the teachers’ classrooms during particular class periods to rate the teachers’ performances. So, we judged on performance, plus the written application with principal recommendations and colleague input, as well.”
A video montage was shown of each teacher in her classroom, and Gomez-Smith was praised for her creativity and commitment to her students over the 29 years she has spent at E. Benjamin Oliver. During her remarks, Gomez-Smith noted the ways in which classroom instruction has changed since she began teaching in 1986, and she said her passion for seeing students succeed motivates her and her colleagues to keep “coming back for more.”
Sharing the stage and the spotlight with her were Antis George-Birmingham, English teacher at Charlotte Amalie High School since 1989, a member of the American Federation of Teachers and the celebrated award-winning coach of the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts’ ‘Poetry Out Loud’ competition; Joycelyn Bryan-Ledee has been an elementary teacher at Joseph Sibilly Elementary since 2011, where she also serves as the school’s eSIP chairperson; and Monika Szczepaniak-Emeran, originally from Poland, is a French teacher and the Foreign Languages Chairperson at the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School since 2014.
As District Teacher of the Year, Gomez-Smith will be afforded the opportunity to learn much about public education from the policymaking level by being a part of various taskforces and committees. Additionally, if she is named State Teacher of the Year, she will travel to Washington, D.C., to meet President Obama, among other events.
The winner and nominees each received a host of gift items, including electronics, a plaque, a bouquet of flowers and other tokens of appreciation from colleagues, family members, friends and students attending Sunday’s ceremony. In order to identify the State Teacher of the Year, Gomez-Smith will next compete against the 2016 St. Croix District Teacher of the Year, who will be announced at a ceremony on St. Croix on Oct. 24.

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