Daniel Shapiro, a guidance counselor at Bennett Elementary "determined to be a leader in his school and community," has been named Broward County's Teacher of the Year.
Camille Pontillo of Coral Park Elementary School was named principal of the year and Gina Montagnino of Lauderhill 6-12 magnet school was assistant principal of the year. The three were among those honored Wednesday evening at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
Shapiro developed groups called the Men and Women of Distinction at his Fort Lauderdale school. These groups emphasize skills for academic success, goal setting, character education, social skills, career education and preparation for school and community service.
Students dress professionally each week, participate in school and community service projects, host guest speakers and take educational field trips, including a university campus tour.
Participants have shown marked improvement in their academics, behavior and social skills, he said. He also coordinates the school's peer mediation program, where students are trained to resolve their conflicts in a peaceful manner.
Shapiro "gives his best every day as a professional, going above and beyond to make a change for the advancement of students, parents, staff and the community," the judges said.
Shapiro said it's important to remember what motivates people to be teachers.
"Educators need to remember those initial sparks that inspire them to love teaching and learning," he said.
The other finalists were Sheryl Arriola of Westglades Middle in Parkland, Brenda Farkas of Glades Middle School in Miramar, Christopher Crossman of Seagull Alternative School in Fort Lauderdale, Star Rosario of Silver Shores Elementary in Miramar and Andrew Shipe of Pompano Beach High.
In honoring Pontillo, a 30-year educator, the judges said she is "relentless in her pursuit of educational excellence for her students." She focuses on faculty development and student success.
"As I learn and grow, I believe it is my fundamental responsibility to share the knowledge with teachers," she said.
Also honored Wednesday was Christopher Gales, a computer specialist for Broward Virtual School.
Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said all the educators nominated in the various categories are inspiring.
"The common thread that we see here is not something that can be acquired through training or education," Runcie said. "It is a passion and compassion for doing society's most important job: nurturing and educating our youth.."
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