Category Archives: Wellington Education

Palm Beach Central’s Linda Pearson Teaches Students How To Excel In The Culinary Arts

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Palm Beach Central’s Linda Pearson Teaches Students How To Excel In The Culinary Arts

Story by Chris Felker • Photos by Julie Unger

Much of the knowledge it takes to do well in culinary pursuits is rather cut-and-dried — consisting of the simple chemistry of salt and pepper of taste, and the meat and potatoes of math and science.

Those lay out the basic ingredients for Linda Pearson’s students in the Culinary Arts Academy magnet program at Palm Beach Central High School. But when it comes to all the various parts of the food service industry — to which the program is a steppingstone for more than half of Pearson’s pupils — things can get a bit cluttered, like the kitchen of a beginner chef. The kids who don’t stick it out, as well as those who take cooking classes just as an elective, learn quickly that the industry isn’t for them.

The cluttered-kitchen scenario is exactly what the intensive magnet curriculum is designed to avoid for students who have an eye toward the restaurant industry, either as a temporary job to help get them through college, or as a long-term career path.

Pearson, a West Palm Beach native, joined the Palm Beach County School District in the early 1980s.

“I went to culinary school as a public school student way back in the 1970s,” she recalled. “I attended South Tech, actually, which is now a charter school. I graduated early from that, went straight out into the industry and started working, and in about a year’s time, I was already executive sous chef at the Fountains Country Club.”

To further her knowledge, she took courses through what was then Palm Beach Community College, as well as Florida Atlantic and Florida International universities. After the Fountains, Pearson went on to work at other country clubs, until she entered the education field in 1981. Much of her own on-the-job experience influences Pearson’s method and substance of instruction to this day.

Her assignments after she started with the district added more seasoning to her recipe for education that Pearson brings to the table at Palm Beach Central. She was involved in the design of a mini-culinary “institute” in southern Palm Beach County.

“I originally started working for South Tech, the school that I graduated from, and then I did 10 years at North Tech up in Riviera Beach, in an off-campus program, and then I went back to South Tech,” Pearson said.

When South Tech was slated to close, the school district asked her to assist in the development and design of a new facility at West Boca Raton High School.

“I volunteered my time and traveled throughout the state actually looking at designs for kitchens for instructional purposes, and then I was actually able to work on that committee for the district to design and develop that [culinary program] kitchen at West Boca,” Pearson said.

She joined the staff at Palm Beach Central three years ago and is in her fourth school year now. Next spring, her program will graduate just over a baker’s dozen who’ve been studying with her for all their high school years.

The culinary magnet program was trimmed from two teachers to one — Pearson — just as she started. But it still has a demanding curriculum, involving both catering and an actual eatery.

“We lost a classroom, so I got the kids involved and had them start thinking about a new design of how to set it up so it was much more functional,” she said. “We run a restaurant called the Bronco Bistro. The upper-level kids — that’s kids in their third and fourth year, because this is a four-year program — are responsible for creating and generating all the menus that are used, the shopping list… the order taking, the deliveries, food prep, dining room service and they literally run the bistro.”

The bistro starts up in January, Pearson explained, noting that organizational tasks dominate the first semester.

“The level one kids are learning right now mostly what it is to be a good professional. They’re understanding employability skills, they’re writing résumés, doing professional writings and things to get them acclimated,” she said. “Then they’ll move on up and they’ll be in the kitchen and start cooking, probably with breakfast cookery first, and knife skills and things like that. It’s a lot of book-work in level one.”

The students also learn how to be safe in the kitchen.

“Level two students do a certification that they’re working on right now called Safe Staff, the same certification that employees get on the job. It’s with the student for three years, a small version of what proper safety and sanitation are involved in the handling of food,” Pearson explained. “The upper-level kids have a shot at… their national certification, and that is Serve Safe, a manager’s exam, and it’s good for five years. Those students are working diligently on learning all the material that has to do with the exam done through the National Restaurant Association.”

Getting the certification is a strategic move for students to do while in high school, Pearson said, noting that it costs approximately $500 to take that exam after graduation.

While she encourages the teens who seem sure they’re aiming for a culinary career, Pearson exercises empathy with all and expresses caution to some, even though she said her main reward is “getting the kids to get involved in the program.” She tries to guide her students, not dictate to them.

“I make them responsible, and they respond by running the place,” Pearson said of the Bronco Bistro. “I kind of guide them, but they own the place. It’s their place, and it’s that ownership that I think is so neat.”

In the early years of the program, students often drift in and out. But for a handful, the culinary arts will dominate their lives. “A few kids are absolutely interested in this as an occupation,” Pearson said. “I encourage them to go to college for business and get a job. Get work experience that way, get a business degree. That’s pretty much what I tell all my kids to do.”

Pearson admits she’ll feel a bit of nostalgia in May. “This is my group that is going to be the first that’s had me all the years,” she said. “We’re like family. When you hang with kids for four years, you become pretty close.”

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Mary Baldwin Of Wellington Landings Is Proud Of The School’s Extensive Afterschool Program

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Mary Baldwin Of Wellington Landings Is Proud Of The School’s Extensive Afterschool Program

Story by Chris Felker • Photos by Abner Pedraza

Veteran educator Mary Baldwin is among the first to arrive at Wellington Landings Middle School each day, and one of the last to leave. It’s not just because she enjoys teaching, of course, although that’s a big part of the reason.

Baldwin is a pioneer of the Middle School Afterschool Program, which began in 1995 with a Florida Department of Education grant awarded to the Palm Beach County School District. She has been running Wellington Landings’ program ever since. “It’s really unique and really cool, I think,” Baldwin said. “What’s so awesome about our program is we just have so much to offer.”

Although many other middle schools have similar programs, Baldwin doesn’t know of any others that are so extensive, offering the incredible range of activities available to Wellington Landings students who stay after hours because their parents work late or lack other options to ensure their children are supervised and safe after school.

So many activities are available that the school has its own full-color program brochure that’s given to parents. The program has proved so popular over the years that activities are also now available before the regular class day, starting at 7:30 a.m. and continuing until breakfast at 9:05 a.m.

Baldwin fills two other, complex roles in her regular school day job. “Right now I’m not in a classroom setting, I’m the eighth-grade and the ESE (exceptional student education) administrator. When the bell rings, I change that hat to this hat,” she explained. “My degree is in exceptional student education, and I’ve always worked with the ESE population.”

Born and raised in Gainesville, Baldwin earned her degree from Florida State University, married and moved to the area in 1984 with her husband, where they started a family. She has three grown children, and also a younger child, now in seventh grade.

Baldwin was certain of her calling even at a young age. As a student, she was drawn to helping those younger than herself, often students who were slower to learn.

“I’ve just always enjoyed working with children. I was good at it. I like kids — I love kids, actually — and to this day, probably one of the things I’m most proud about, is that after 34 years in education, I still love my work,” she said.

Her involvement with students outside the classroom has much to do with that. She explains that the afterschool program is free to all who qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program, with nominal fees for others. “You can get math help with a certified math teacher, and it’s only $3 a day,” Baldwin said, offering just one example.

The school’s brochure only begins to list the dizzying variety of enrichments that students can seek out. Among the clubs are: academic games, anime, audio-visual, chess, debate, drama, environmental, future educators, majorettes, National Junior Honor Society, newspaper, twirling, yearbook and more. Then there are intramural sports, such as basketball, fitness/conditioning, flag football, indoor soccer, lacrosse, track, volleyball, weight training and wrestling.

“Wellington is sports-driven. Kids play sports from very early ages. So to make any of the teams, it’s extremely competitive,” Baldwin said; thus, the afterschool sports activities at Wellington Landings are extremely popular.

Other afterschool activities include cheerleading, creative cooking, dance, fishing, game room, golf, homework help, Minecraft, scrapbooking, sign language and step team.

The Wellington Landings program draws accolades from students, parents and the school district.

“The Wellington Landings Afterschool Program is the best blend of afterschool and day school,” said Olivia Rogers, who manages Out of School Programs for the school district. “This program has always had a wide variety of activities so that many students can participate. The school has embraced the afterschool program as part of the entire school culture, which has made the program a huge success.”

That’s a big source of pride for Baldwin, who uses a tight annual budget to run the activities.

One component of the afterschool program is a series of built-in recognitions for students who might not otherwise stand out among their peers.

“I’m really proud of the fact that we recognize these kids all the time,” Baldwin said. “So someone who maybe really excels in flag football — they may not get recognition through honor roll or didn’t make a sports team — but we’ll put them on the morning announcements.”

They also regularly stage sports tournaments. “The entire school will come out and watch the championship game. We’ll have the cheerleaders come out — all their peers can see them,” Baldwin said. “The other thing is that we do a whole assembly in February. All of the afterschool programs perform, and all the kids are invited to watch.”

The activities make such an impression on the children that, at any given time, 10 high-schoolers come back and volunteer to help with the afterschool program, Baldwin said. Among those students was Theresa Cameron.

“As an eighth-grader, she started helping me in the program,” Baldwin said. “Then she came over every day after school in ninth and 10th grades. When she was in 11th grade, I ended up hiring her to help me.”

Cameron eventually earned an education degree and was hired as a teacher at Wellington Landings. “It was such a cool success story to have someone from eighth grade all the way through to now,” Baldwin said. “She’s my right-hand person here in the afterschool program.”

Baldwin said her biggest personal satisfaction comes from her relationships with students. “Every day is a challenge, but every day is a new day and a fun day, and I just love it,” she said. “The afterschool program gives us an opportunity to see kids in a different light, outside of the structured classroom, and build those relationships that are so important in their overall success as students.”

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Ana Groover Leads The International Spanish Academy At New Horizons Elementary School

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Ana Groover Leads The International Spanish Academy At New Horizons Elementary School

Story by Chris Felker • Photos by Abner Pedraza

In her 22-year educational career, Ana Groover has spent 18 years at New Horizons Elementary School in Wellington. Through that time, she has picked up additional administration duties. However, after missing her time working directly with children, she began this year determined to spend more time with students.

Groover is the International Spanish Academy coordinator at New Horizons. A native of Cuba, she arrived as a 6-year-old in Florida when her parents immigrated to the United States. She was raised in Belle Glade, which is also where she first taught in the 1990s, at Gove Elementary School as a dual-language English teacher who volunteered in the evenings to help adult learners.

Groover earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education from Nova Southeastern University.

When she started at New Horizons, Groover initially was an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) specialist, teaching science to older elementary school students. She was then given other hats to wear, including ESOL grade chair, testing/placement of English Language Learners (ELLs) and test scheduler.

“Last year, I actually had two administrative jobs and worked very little with children. I’m actually the ESOL coordinator, and that job I’ve had a long time,” Groover said. “Since we became a dual-language magnet school, I am now also the International Spanish Academy magnet coordinator.”

But she kept teaching kids despite the extra work, after gravitating almost completely out of the classroom.

“What I’d done in the past several years was pull groups of children to work with as a tutor almost, for 45 minutes a day — third, fourth and fifth grade. Last year, I wasn’t able to do that,” she said. “There just wasn’t time.”

The other major responsibilities Groover bears keep her a busy professional, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. The labels on those hats have her swimming in acronyms, too many to define, and some that have gone away. She coordinates all ELL testing, plus the state’s Access 2.0 test, and is APRENDA test administrator as well. In addition, she is New Horizons’ administrative liaison for the Educational Data Warehouse (EDW), which holds all student records.

“English Language Learners are the children who, when they get to us from other countries, they’re tested, and then according to the tests they’re placed in a room,” Groover explained. “There’s a plan drawn up so their instruction matches with their growth goals, and then they are reevaluated. I reevaluate them at certain times. There are actually guidelines from the government that we have to follow about how often and when they have to be reevaluated.

The goal is to get them completely proficient in English. The way they determine that, Groover said, is through the battery of tests that she largely administers for the school.

“APRENDA is a test that we give only to the dual-language children, anyone who’s in the Spanish academy, so I also manage that test and everything else to do with it. That one is like an FCAT but is all in Spanish,” she said. “It is given to them to see how far they are above or below grade level or whether they’re on grade level in Spanish… It is a cumulative exam, so we kind of see what they’ve learned between kindergarten and second grade, and then we get a baseline, so when they take it in fifth grade, we see how much growth there was.”

All that testing determines whether a certain moment has occurred for each student that Groover basically lives to make happen.

“I just love to see when the light goes on in a kid’s eyes because you have all of a sudden opened up an avenue of interest for them and motivated them to learn. That often comes through language, also through visual,” she said.

It’s what has kept her going back into the classroom for more than just supervising teachers; it’s why she enjoys her work.

“I do a lot of virtual science field trips, where we do things like, I take them to the national parks via the computer,” Groover explained. “When they are studying erosion and they see something like Bryce National Park, or Zion, or the Grand Canyon, they’re just blown away. That then leads them to leave my room, and find a book or a computer and continue to learn more about that area. So that, I think, is what’s huge — that you start that ball rolling, and then it gets momentum, and then… boom: kids want to learn.”

Under her leadership, the International Spanish Academy has grown to encompass three-quarters of New Horizons’ student population.

“We work in partnership with the Consul of Spain in Miami. We teach half of the day in English and half of the day in Spanish. The kids get an hour and a half of reading in English, and then they switch and go to their Spanish teachers, [many of whom] are provided through the Spanish consulate. They’re actually teachers from Spain who are with us on a three-year visa.”

The students get many of their lessons in Spanish.

“When they leave us in fifth grade, they do get a graduating certificate from the ISA signed by the Consulate of Spain’s educational attaché in Tallahassee, and it gives them the right to study abroad,” Groover said.

The ultimate goal then is met.

“These kids are bilingual when they graduate,” Groover said, adding that New Horizons ISA grads are going on to bigger things, given that great dual-language advantage. “Remember, the ISA has only been in place for 10 years. So the kids who started out with us are just now reaching the high school level or getting ready to graduate. We’ve had several kids at Suncoast and several at Wellington High School who are in honors programs. I think there are going to be great things that come out of here.”

 

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Wellington High School’s Jim Marshall Helps Students Find Their Calling In Life

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Wellington The Magazine – September 2016

Wellington High School’s Jim Marshall Helps Students Find Their Calling In Life

Story by Chris Felker • Photos by Abner Pedraza

In his 34-year career in education, Jim Marshall’s focus has widened far beyond teaching science concepts to classrooms full of students. It has extended to helping guide groups of kids onto purposeful paths that can gain them swift entry into the work force, set them on their way to a career or reduce uncertainties about their future upon entering college.

As the choice programs coordinator at Wellington High School, Marshall was instrumental in the founding and growth of the school’s groundbreaking Fire Science Academy, which graduated its first class of cadets last May.

However, Marshall’s connection to WHS dates back decades. He started there the year the school opened in 1988 — as did his wife, Rebecca, in the math department.

Born in Spring Lake, Mich., Marshall grew up in the Tampa area after his family moved to Florida when he was a child. He met his wife while earning his degree in environmental biology from Emporia State University in Kansas, where they married and taught at local schools for about three years.

Yet Marshall started longing to get closer to the water. “Kansas was about as far as you could get from it,” he recalled. “My sister was down here, and the ‘Nation at Risk’ report had come out in the early 1980s. Pretty much every school district everywhere across the country was clamoring for science teachers.”

Originally, Marshall’s plan was to work as a field biologist for a government agency. “But the landscape had changed a lot from the 1970s. There weren’t many jobs out there, so I thought I’d do teaching as a part-time gig, but really fell in love with it,” he said.

His first job in Palm Beach County was as a dive instructor, but he was looking to get back into the classroom. “I interviewed at four schools, and picked up a job at Spanish River High School. I taught there for three years and was the number two guy in marine bio there. When Wellington High School opened in 1988, Principal Jake Sello hired me to teach science, and I have been here ever since,” Marshall said.

Over the years at WHS, he has taught several levels of marine science and Advanced Placement environmental science, plus has served as a department chair, activities director and assistant athletics director.

But it has been from his experiences helping to design WHS’s Equine Pre-Veterinary Academy, and then establishing the school’s Fire Science and Fine Arts academies, that has brought Marshall the greatest satisfaction of his educational career.

The pre-veterinary academy came first. “It has been about 10 years now since we started that,” Marshall said. “Cheryl Alligood was the principal, and she was looking to see where we could add some pieces and enhance what was already a great school. As we all know, what makes Wellington a little different is our equestrian community. So we took a look at this.”

Based on the school’s strong science faculty, Marshall helped develop a program designed to give students a firm equine/pre-veterinary background.

The idea for a Fire Science Academy arose in 2013 during the school’s annual “Shattered Dreams” production preceding prom, which is a mock teen fatality car accident staged with help from Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue.

“The kids go through about an hour lecture… giving them an awareness of what bad choices can look like,” Marshall explained. “Then there’s a mock event on the field. It’s all staged out, pretty dramatic. Principal Mario Crocetti and I were watching it, and he said, ‘You know, it’d be kind of cool if we had some sort of a public safety type of academy.’”

Marshall noticed several of his former students manning the rigs in the demonstration and got permission to do some research, during which he learned that many WHS alumni had gone on to become firefighters and paramedics. So, they decided to go ahead with establishing an academy.

“We partnered with Palm Beach State College early on,” Marshall said. “We knew they were going to be eventually where we’d send these students for their certification. We developed a plan for their instructors to come on our campus and teach, and that’s what we’re doing today.”

The academy is unique in Palm Beach County. While at least one other school has attempted it, WHS is the first to get the concept fully off the ground. “We are the first ones to put it all together and actually graduate, which we did this year, our first crop of candidates,” Marshall said.

The Fine Arts Academy came about at the school district’s suggestion, but Marshall was thrilled to help get it established.

“We know there are a lot of really quality, motivated, artistic kids who don’t get a seat at the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, so it was an idea to add into the western area a fine arts program,” Marshall explained. “And not only did we add it, but also Wellington Elementary School has added a program, as has Wellington Landings Middle School. So now, kids actually can come in as a [fine arts] choice program from all around the district into Wellington schools.”

Through these programs, he has seen students find their calling early in life. “We have very diverse programs to propel kids into college with a real sense of purpose, whether it be in the sciences, or in the marketing program, in business studies, even fine arts,” Marshall said. “The other piece of it that I’m really proud of is that the fire academy is a real high-school-to-work thing. Right now, our kids earn their first fire certification. They literally have just two more months of schooling to do, and they can become certified firefighters after high school.”

The youngest of Marshall’s three sons, Ian, is on track to reap the rewards. He is a senior in the WHS Fire Science Academy this year. Next spring, he’ll experience the thrill of a graduation co-celebrated by future potential crewmates. Local firefighters played ceremonial parts in the academy’s first graduation ceremony this past spring.

“It really was neat,” Marshall said. “The Palm Beach County Pipe & Drum Corps led the kids in, which was really special and set the mood for it. I think it was kind of the last link to propel these kids into a meaningful, purposeful life of service to their communities.”

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Integrated Fine Arts Programs Are Providing Unique Opportunities For Wellington Students

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Wellington The Magazine-August 2016

Integrated Fine Arts Programs Are Providing Unique Opportunities For Wellington Students

Story and Photos by Julie Unger

Expanded fine arts programs at Wellington schools are making it easier for art, band, chorus, dance and drama students, among others, to further their artistic education without leaving the community.

No longer do these students need to be bused out to specialty schools now that several area schools at all grade levels are expanding their fine arts academies. With the addition of a new fine arts choice program at Wellington Elementary School, local students can now follow an expanded fine arts curriculum from Wellington Elementary School to Wellington Landings Middle School, and on to Wellington High School.

Perhaps nowhere is this expanded curriculum more noticeable than in the amazing show beings produced by Wellington kids at all levels. At the very end of the last school year, Wellington Elementary Choral Director Dave Morrison led his students in a mesmerizing performance of Annie Kids. At WHS, Drama Director Dennis Schaber directed, designed and choreographed while Chorus Director Bradford Chase provided musical direction for recent productions such as Guys and Dolls and The Addams Family. Wellington Landings will be getting ready for its first production this school year.

Wellington Elementary Principal Dr. Maria Vaughan explained that she worked with Wellington Landings Principal Blake Bennett and WHS Principal Mario Crocetti on the creation of this integrated fine arts curriculum once she realized that her colleagues were also working on expanding their fine arts programming.

Aligning the programs, she explained, is the ideal scenario, because it gives the students continuity and somewhere to go.

“When you set up an academy, you really want it to have the kids be able to transition from each level — elementary, middle and high,” Vaughan said. “Once we realized all three of us were doing that, we met and talked about what we were offering at our school and what they’re offering at the middle and high school levels to try to make sure that we’re offering the same types of programs.”

For Vaughan, it’s exciting to work with nearby schools in this groundbreaking project. For her students, she said, it is also exciting because it gives them a glimpse at the future.

“It gives them a goal and ambition. It gives them motivation to continue doing well where they are, and helps them to strive for what’s at the next level,” Vaughan said.

The schools performed together at Wellington Elementary in the spring, with the chorus directors of each school speaking about their respective programs. Chase and Morrison joined Alayna Morton, the chorus director at Wellington Landings, to discuss the hard work and dedication it takes to be a choral student. Even in elementary school, rehearsals are up to four times a week, and it can take months to perfect a song. “It was an amazing experience for the kids,” Vaughan said.

About two months later, Vaughan’s students performed Annie Kids, and all three principals were on hand to enjoy the production. “It is absolutely amazing what Mr. Morrison has done with that program,” Vaughan added. “That show was just astounding. I don’t know how he’s going to top this one. It was pretty amazing, from the costumes to the set design to the acting… I’m very proud to be a part of that and to be able to help make that possible.”

Vaughan is looking forward to developing the school’s strings program with kindergartners and seeing the fine arts progress and integrate into the school’s curriculum. Hand bells, guitar, ukulele, TV production, art, journalism, chorus, drama, the student news crew and yearbook are just some of the ways the students have become engrossed in Wellington Elementary’s new fine arts academy. She noted that students will be able to select their strengths and develop as the program evolves.

Through the drama program, Vaughan said, once the students know what they are expected to do, they rise to the challenge and consistently exceed expectations. As students excel in the arts, other areas improve. “This is going to really impact the whole child. We’re looking forward to seeing how our kids are going to blossom,” she said.

At Wellington Landings, students do not need to have prior experience to take part in the fine arts curriculum, Bennett explained. Advanced classes, however, are audition-based.

Each student has two elective classes that can be filled with fine arts academy classes, such as journalism, band, chorus, hand bells, dance, art, speech/debate, law studies, drama and TV production.

Out-of-boundary students have to apply to the Wellington Landings academy, but all students zoned for the school automatically have access to the program.

“When I first came here, all we had was band, chorus, art and hand bells. All of the other ones, I’ve added over the years in hopes of pulling it all together to be a fine arts academy,” Bennett said.

Starting as early as kindergarten, Bennett said, allows the students to discover what they enjoy and where the arts take them. Having the options from kindergarten through their senior year in high school is a huge opportunity for the kids, she added.

Unlike specialty schools, the students at Wellington Landings are able to shift their focus from one type of fine arts to another and are able to take part in multiple classes, choosing to use one or both of their electives for fine arts classes.

“They’re performance-based classes, where they’re not being graded paper- and pencil-wise, they’re graded by their projects, products and performances,” Bennett said. “For example, in TV production, they’ll be producing the news — live. They’ll be writing scripts and producing.”

Children get to explore their creative side and are able to find different interests through arts programs, she explained.

“I think it’s just great for the kids,” Bennett said. “I think every community should have all the arts programs so that children can benefit from them. I’m really glad that the three of us worked together to make sure that all of the kids can enjoy the programs through their entire K-12 experience.”

On Aug. 8, new students can attend an orientation at Wellington Landings, where incoming sixth-graders can get their bearings.

As students progress to high school, they have access to remain with high-quality arts programs without leaving the Wellington area, Crocetti explained.

“We’ve had a fine arts program for quite a while, but with Wellington Landings and Wellington Elementary jumping on board, it makes a nice progression,” he said. “I’ve seen Wellington Landings students perform over the years and had the opportunity to see Wellington Elementary’s presentation of Annie, which was just phenomenal. It’s going to be a great pipeline.”

As part of the integrated program, the high school theater is going to be made available to the elementary and middle schools, Crocetti said.

Each of the schools are bringing in somewhere between 40 and 60 students from outside their boundaries to participate in their programs.

“They’re moving in all different aspects of the arts, whether it be the visual arts, vocal, instrumental, dance, theater — all areas,” Crocetti said.

Chase is excited about the new integrated fine arts curriculum, adding that it will make his job easier — especially with recruitment. “Having these kids discover what they’re interested in and find their passion, when they come to the high school, they’ll seek us out,” he said. “By the time they get to high school, we should have some students who are not only passionate about what they do, but they’ll also have training in those various art areas.”

In high school, the students take two fine arts classes each year and are encouraged to try different arts to be exposed to different things, he explained.

The WHS academy is in its third year and continues to grow. This is the first year with open doors through the lottery system.

Crocetti is excited to see what students from outside the area bring to the program through a fresh perspective and different, diverse points of view. “They’re an asset to the school,” he said. “They come with a different perspective,” he said.

All three Wellington schools are designated as choice schools, and are accepting students from out of the area to join in the programs. Students outside school boundaries are able to apply for the programs through the Palm Beach County School District.

For more info., visit www.palmbeachschools.org/choiceprograms or contact the schools directly. Call Wellington Elementary at (561) 651-0600, Wellington Landings at (561) 792-8100 or Wellington High School at (561) 795-4900.

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Anita Kane Of #1 Education Place Gets Joy Out Of Helping Her Students Succeed

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Wellington The Magazine-July 2016

Anita Kane Of #1 Education Place Gets Joy Out Of Helping Her Students Succeed

Story by Chris Felker • Photos by Abner Pedraza

The life of local educator Anita Kane, co-founder of #1 Education Place in Wellington, has come full circle. Growing up in a private school setting, she has now created an educational institution to meet the unique needs of today’s students.

As a child whose entire youth was spent on the 25-acre campus of one of the largest private day schools on the East Coast, located in the outskirts of Washington, D.C., Kane was exposed daily to the educational world her parents occupied full-time.

They owned and ran the Potomac Country Day School in Maryland, founded four years before she was born.

“We also ran one of the largest summer day camps on the East Coast,” Kane recalled. “I grew up with a lot of that stuff, a lot of involvement, and I think that’s probably why I thought I wanted to get away from it.”

Growing up, the school was always a large part of life.

“People would forget their books at school, and they had no problem just coming up to the house and knocking on the door while we were eating dinner and saying, ‘I need you to go unlock the school building.’ It was a real community, and I thought I wanted to get away from that.”

So, she left for Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va., and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. Then it was off to law school at George Mason University. “I told myself that I wasn’t going to do the education thing; I was going to go to law school,” Kane said. “Until I had a child, and then I decided I needed to be involved in that.”

She got married while attending law school and had her son, Sean Joseph Kane. “But I was a single mom from the time my son was 2,” Kane said. “So I went back and got several levels of Montessori teacher training, and I got a master of arts in teaching from Trinity College in Washington, and then started working at the school in Maryland that my son went to.”

She came to Florida when she was recruited by a private school in Palm Beach in the mid-1990s to help establish a new program. “After three years, we agreed that things weren’t working out,” Kane said. “I found myself without a job and with six horses, three dogs and a child. I walked away from a job for the first time in my life.”

So, years after she had left behind the educational community she grew up in, Kane joined with a former colleague to establish #1 Education Place. “Interestingly enough, that’s what we’ve really tried to create here — a community,” she said.

Now located in the original Wellington Mall, #1 Education Place grew in large part out of her and her son’s connections in equestrian circles. “I had been involved in the horse-show world my whole life,” she said. “We were supposed to go to the Charleston Summer Classic that summer.”

It was 1999. “Everybody said, ‘Oh… go ahead anyhow, you can groom for me, and you can do this…’ Then people started asking me to tutor their children. From tutoring children over the summer, it got to be doing school with children in their homes during the school year. Then, after a year or so, it got so big that I couldn’t handle it.”

That is when she partnered up with co-founder Judy Blake. “For about two years, we did this school from our cars,” Kane recalled. “We traveled around, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger, between circuit clients and year-round students.”

That’s when #1 Education Place got a permanent location, just across the street from where the school currently resides. “What we thought originally was just going to be a tutoring service wound up turning into a private school,” Kane said. “The need became apparent very quickly for a private school that would serve children who have different needs than a child who can go to school from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.”

Many of their clients are either professionals or athletes, as are a good number of the students.

“Many of our students are athletes, not just equestrians, but we’ve also had race car drivers and models and ice skaters,” Kane said. “What happens with those children, who really have a profession basically at the tender age of 15, is that they can’t really go to school on that kind of a regular schedule.”

#1 Education Place, which serves students in first through 12th grades and sometimes beyond, now is going into its 16th year. It has around a dozen faculty members, serving between 40 and 60 students at any given time during the year, and a dozen or more during the summer.

Kane went on to earn certificates from Independent School Management (ISM) in school policy design and implementation, and now is teaching mostly English at her school. She has also taught business communication, English, professional development and computer skills to adults in the past, but is now concentrating on her duties at the school.

Part of that is deciding which students to accept. “About 20 to 30 percent of our students are just those for whom traditional school doesn’t really work,” she said. “We accept something called the McKay scholarship, and it’s for students who have any kind of learning need from an undiagnosed one to those who have muscular dystrophy or other disorders that make it very difficult for them to be in the public school system.”

Yet the school remains very well known for its connections to the horse community.

“It began through the horse connection, and still, I would say, it’s a very strong connection,” Kane said. “This school is really a microcosm inside of that community. We get a lot of repeat people, and friends and family. We’ve had all the Gracida kids.”

Her personal reward from her full-circle career has changed, though, since she first started the school. It’s partly because last year she lost her son, who taught math at the school. He went to sleep after a normal day last fall and never woke up. She has started a scholarship in his name.

“So yeah, my focus has changed now. It keeps me alive; it keeps me happy. Always my focus has been, I get great joy out of giving to these children,” Kane said.

What she gets out of it is a lot of gratitude and the joy of seeing their success.

“To have a child who couldn’t succeed someplace else, or who everybody else thinks is a pain in the pitfeathers, and to be able to connect with that child, to be able to be a participant in somebody’s transformation, that’s my reward,” Kane said.

For more information, call (561) 753-6563 or visit www.1educationplace.com.

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Student Grades Are Going Up, Thanks To Wellington’s Keely Spinelli Education Grant

images from the january 2016 issue of wellington the magazine. all content ©2016 wellington the magazine

Wellington The Magazine – June 2016                                                          Student Grades Are Going Up, Thanks To Wellington’s Keely Spinelli  Education Grant

Story by Jason Stromberg  •  Photos by Julie Unger

At Binks Forest Elementary School, children are receiving additional instructional time to assist in closing achievement gaps in reading and math. The students’ self-esteem and academic motivation have increased.

In reading, 100 percent of the students in the lowest 25 percentile of test scores improved. In math, 95 percent of the students in that lowest percentile improved their scores.

Somewhere up above, Keely Spinelli, the former principal at Binks Forest who passed away after a long battle with cancer in 2008, is smiling. That’s because the Wellington Education Grant named after Spinelli is working hard to help students across the community.

“The Keely Spinelli Education Grant has positively impacted Binks Forest Elementary School students in the areas of reading and math,” current Binks Forest Principal Michella Levy said. “Binks was able to hire three qualified tutors to serve students in first grade through fifth grade during the school day.”

Since 2013, the Wellington Village Council has allocated $275,000 to provide funding for the 11 public schools in the Village of Wellington to assist students in the lowest 25th percentile in reading and math. The Wellington Education Committee is responsible for monitoring and administering the grant.

At their meeting in August, committee members will hear from all 11 local schools for 2016-17 grant requests.

“Binks Forest is so grateful that we were recipients of the grant,” Levy added.

The other 10 schools that have benefited from the Keely Spinelli Education Grant are Elbridge Gale, Equestrian Trails, New Horizons, Panther Run and Wellington elementary schools; Polo Park, Emerald Cove and Wellington Landings middle schools; and Palm Beach Central and Wellington high schools.

Each school has used the money to provide additional resources and tutoring to students.

“The students really enjoy the non-fiction, high-interest Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) books that are on their specific reading levels,” Levy said. “Leveled Literacy Intervention is used with small reading groups.”

Equestrian Trails Elementary School Principal Michele Johnson is also thankful for the Keely Spinelli Education Grant.

“The teachers and parents have been greatly impressed with the growth of these students and grateful that this generous grant has been given to these students to succeed,” Johnson said. “I personally did not know Keely, but I can only imagine how much it would mean to her, knowing a grant in her name and honor, made such a difference for struggling readers.”

Things weren’t easy at Equestrian Trails before the Spinelli grant was created.

“As a non-Title 1 school, we don’t get the teachers to work with our lowest 25th percentile scored students,” Johnson said. “It’s hard. To pull out the small group for instruction is a tough task. These students are now getting the instruction they need that we couldn’t afford previously without the grant.”

Spinelli worked as a teacher in the western communities before becoming a principal. The grant is a fitting tribute to an educator who was so dedicated to her craft. Reading and math were near and dear to her heart.

“I knew Keely very well,” Elbridge Gale Elementary School Principal Gail Pasterczyk said. “She had a true passion for literacy and was an expert in the field. She would be thrilled to know that her legacy is living on in the community of Wellington. She has truly made a difference in the lives of so many children, and that’s what it’s all about. It was an honor for me to know her and work with her.”

Pasterczyk was assistant principal at Manatee Elementary School when she met Spinelli’s husband, Peter, who was a teacher at Manatee. At that time, Spinelli’s son Andrew was in kindergarten at Manatee, where Spinelli volunteered for special events — like the time she came in dressed as Cruella de Vil for Storybook Character Day and thrilled the students.

At that time, Spinelli was principal at Belvedere Elementary School.

“When I opened Elbridge Gale 11 years ago, Peter Spinelli was one of my original teachers,” Pasterczyk said. “I recall her sitting on the floor of his classroom helping him sort and set up his leveled library.”

Spinelli served on the board at Palms West Hospital and led the West Area Literacy Training Center. Due to her passion to teach children to read, her colleagues created a library in her honor for children at Palms West Hospital.

“After she left Binks Forest, Spinelli was in charge of the West Area Literacy Project for two years on the campus of Elbridge Gale,” Pasterczyk said. “She trained teachers on the components of Balanced Literacy. She demonstrated lessons. Then they observed teachers in classrooms and, finally, they practiced what they had learned with a group of students, all under her watchful eye.”

Students in the lowest 25th percentile at Elbridge Gale have made tremendous gains, Pasterczyk said. “Last year, and the year before, we only had one third-grade retention,” she said. “We are extremely grateful for the Keely Spinelli grant, as it has provided funds to provide tutoring for our students. We have also been able to purchase Leveled Literacy Intervention kits, Reading A to Z, Reading Plus and technology to assist our struggling students.”

Pasterczyk is very thankful to the Village of Wellington for the program.

“There aren’t words that could ever adequately express our gratitude for these funds,” Pasterczyk said. “We don’t receive any funds for tutoring and materials, since we are not a Title 1 school, so this is a true blessing for our students.”

At Panther Run Elementary School, the Spinelli grant has allowed the school to provide students with tutors in the primary grades to supplement its reading program. This year, Panther Run added a math tutor.

“I have had teachers in primary grades who have expressed overwhelming appreciation for the extra help that they have received from quality tutors to raise student achievement,” Panther Run Principal Pamela Strachan said.

With the Leveled Literacy Intervention kits, Panther Run students in the program are given books to take home on a daily basis to read with their parents.

“We have had the opportunity over the last three years to purchase reading materials for reading interventions,” Strachan said. “These Leveled Literacy Intervention kits are not provided to non-Title 1 schools by the Palm Beach County School District, so the Wellington grant gave us the opportunity to purchase the kits. We have been able to purchase more kits each year to supplement our reading intervention program.”

Strachan taught with Spinelli at H.L. Johnson Elementary School in Royal Palm Beach.

“She was that special teacher who we all wanted our children to have as their teacher,” Strachan said of Spinelli. “When she became the principal at Binks Forest, she had an incredible effect on her staff and students. Her passion was reading, and passing her love of reading to her students. I feel honored that her spirit lives with us today through this grant honored in her name.”

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May 2016 Wellington Education

Nicholas Palmieri

Wellington Education

Palm Beach Atlantic’s Nicholas Palmieri Helps Adult Students Achieve Their Full Potential

Story by Chris Felker

Photos by Abner Pedraza

Professor Nicholas Palmieri is nearing his 30-year anniversary in the field of guiding adult students who are seeking more meaning and fulfillment out of life after devoting decades to nurturing careers and families. To this day, he is still is thrilled when such a student succeeds.

“When a student realizes that he or she has something important to offer in this world, and she finds the courage and the means to express all of what she has to offer through her unique set of gifts and talents, that is extremely rewarding,” Palmieri said.

Palmieri is an instructor at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He lives in Royal Palm Beach with his wife, Tress. The couple celebrates 40 years of marriage this month.

Palmieri is a professor of adult education, teaching in the Catherine T. MacArthur School of Leadership. He gives classes both there and at the main campus in West Palm Beach. He has also served as a faculty development coach.

For 16 years before he joined Palm Beach Atlantic in 2004, Palmieri was on the faculty of the University of South Florida in Tampa. He grew up in the Pittsburgh area, earning a bachelor’s degree in counseling from California University of Pennsylvania, then continuing his education at Penn State to get his master’s degree.

“I began my career working in social services,” he recalled. “I was providing professional development training for people who wanted to be foster and adoptive parents.”

That experience got him interested in teaching adults, rather than primarily young adults, at the undergraduate level. He decided to get his doctorate at USF while working at the Florida Mental Health Institute.

“It was there that I provided professional development for police officers and for public and private social service agencies that helped protect children,” Palmieri said.

While there, he worked with a small group to develop a statewide instructor certification program, and earned his doctoral degree in educational program development with a specialty in adult education.

Right now, Palmieri is teaching many empty-nesters who are transitioning, in many cases, toward second careers that more closely reflect their true passions.

“Quite a few of my students are already in leadership positions — with the [Palm Beach County] Sheriff’s Office, fire-rescue services, with hospitality companies, with nonprofit organizations,” he said.

Palm Beach Atlantic caters to people working full-time, offering a one-night weekly evening program. “It’s at both campuses, and master’s classes start back up again in the fall at the Wellington campus,” Palmieri added.

The leadership school, which has had enrollees associated with Leadership Palm Beach County, aims to hone these adults’ altruistic instincts.

“Our Master of Leadership program is distinctive in that in addition to equipping students to cast vision, conduct thorough organizational assessments, develop strategic plans, and coach and consult, it helps them establish their own virtue-based foundation for leading with integrity, wisdom, courage, humility, altruism, hope and perseverance,” Palmieri said.

He instructs multiple generations of students.

“We have an undergraduate degree in organizational management, and we also offer a psychology degree, and those are specifically tailored for adult students who are working during the day,” he said. “We have quite a few students who are raising families, who are supervisors in healthcare facilities and things like that, and they want to earn the degree, and many go on for an advanced degree.”

Palmieri is proud to work with many local undergraduate and graduate students.

“This is something that’s unfinished business for them,” he said. “What’s happening is they’re coming into a new chapter in their life and they want to explore some of their deep interests and passions, look for a meaningful life, and create a life that is in sync with their deepest intentions.”

In about two years, Palm Beach Atlantic’s leadership school will host a groundbreaking event for the county.

“We have a connection with some of our students working with the organization that has the World Leaders’ Conference, which will be at the convention center, and we’re also going to be partnering with the International Leadership Association for 2018,” Palmieri explained. “There’ll be leaders from all over the world coming into Palm Beach County to have their 2018 Global Conference, and we’re going to be the partner school.”

It’s for both governmental and private-sector leaders, and there will be many different workshops and networking opportunities, he said.

Palmieri, who turns 64 this month, isn’t ready to start contemplating retirement, but his interests outside education will be enough to keep him busy indefinitely. Last year, he took a sabbatical and began an initiative to help bring character development into secondary school curricula in El Salvador. That involved trips to Bogota, Colombia and Peru, and along the way he became enamored with Latin music.

Now, Palmieri, who plays guitar, is also studying music online with the Berklee College of Music in Boston, taking songwriting classes, and has his own music publishing company called Suavoro Music Co.

So, is he contemplating his own second career? “I love that question. I’m going into a new chapter in my life, and it has to do with elevating the quality of life for children and families in Central and South America. That’s one part of it. And the other part is [doing] the music to generate funds for my travels,” Palmieri explained.

Palmieri is interested in having his music used in other genres as well. “I’d like to play one or two of my Spanish songs in a Latin film, as background music for different themes,” he said. “I’ve also been doing some Christian music that I hope to bring to the Gospel Music Association.”

It seems that the dreams of his students have rubbed off on him.

For more information about Palm Beach Atlantic University, visit www.pba.edu.

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February 2016 Wellington Education

Education_Khessia Jean-Baptiste

Wellington Education

Elbridge Gale’s Khessia Jean-Baptiste Has Created A Unique Mentoring Program

Story by Chris Felker

Photos by Abner Pedraza

Now in her seventh year at Elbridge Gale Elementary School, teacher Khessia Jean-Baptiste is carving out a special space for students who lag behind their peers.

Jean-Baptiste is teaching familiar lessons — ones she had to learn herself as a child — to a select group of these children as part of twin mentorship programs she recently started at the Wellington school.

Growing up in New York, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, she was drawn to education at an early age, learning skills that later would come in handy helping her mother run a home daycare facility.

“My mother always taught smaller kids, and at church, she ran the children’s ministries, so I would always see her in her behavior management style. She was a pretty big influence,” Jean-Baptiste recalled. “And then I realized that I was just good at it.”

She quickly learned that education would be a pathway to success in the United States. “My parents really, really pushed education, and put a lot on me to get it, because they weren’t English speakers,” Jean-Baptiste said.

She arrived in Florida with her family in 2000, when she was 14 year old. She completed her education locally, graduating from Wellington High School and attending Palm Beach Community College (now Palm Beach State College) before earning her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Florida Atlantic University.

“During my time at FAU, because I was in Wellington, they placed me at Elbridge Gale for my student teaching,” Jean-Baptiste said. “The teachers I worked with, the third-grade staff, we got along really well. They could see that I was really driven and dedicated and wanted to do well, so they recommended that I try to get a job there.”

With support from her future colleagues, Principal Gail Pasterczyk offered Jean-Baptiste a position.

Jean-Baptiste stayed teaching third grade for a while, until she ventured out on a different path. “I started studying for the Exceptional Student Education certification so I could become an ESE teacher,” she said.

After completing the training, she taught half regular classes and half ESE classes until she decided that she wanted to give her full attention to ESE classes.

“My classes are for kids who have learning disabilities or some other exceptionality. Usually it’s the ones who are slower learners, those with emotional behavior disorders or some other health impairment that affects their ability to learn at the same rate or the same content as other students,” she said.

Jean-Baptiste explained that she is drawn to helping those children. “I like trying to find different ways to present things to them so they get it, because when they finally get it, it means so much to them,” she said.

But she came to a realization. “After being exposed to more grade levels, especially fifth grade, after I finished my first year with fifth grade, I felt concerned that some of the students were going on to middle school without having what we call ‘soft skills,’ like self-control and time management,” Jean-Baptiste said. “They didn’t really know how to do a big project from start to finish without having me help them a lot.”

It’s a problem she recalled from her own formative years. “My parents didn’t really teach me time management, and so I struggled with it a lot,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I knew that there were other kids who always just seemed to have their projects turned in on time. As I got older, I realized that I need a planner. I need to set small goals.”

With this idea in mind, she created programs to fill this need. In 2013-14, she instituted the GOLD program for girls, followed this school year by the TAGS program for boys.

“GOLD stands for Goal-Oriented Ladies of Distinction. We had a small group of about 15 girls, and I had about five or six mentors, and everybody at school was extremely receptive to it,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I knew that we’d have to start this for boys as well. So this year, we started the TAGS program, which stands for The Association of Gentlemen Scholars.”

The small group programs cater to girls who are often quiet and don’t advocate for themselves or ask for help, and boys who are often tardy, have disciplinary problems and are under-achieving. They are matched up with mentors from among about a dozen of Jean-Baptiste’s fellow teachers. She also invites outside speakers, all adult professionals, to address to the groups.

“They talk to them about what they do, try to instill in them the importance of education and being motivated and responsibility and having your own drive and not always having people telling you what to do,” Jean-Baptiste said.

The students meet with their mentors a few times a week, just to discuss problems they’re having, situations they’re dealing with and any social or emotional difficulties they’re facing. They’ll often role-play to learn different ways of coping with life’s setbacks.

“I definitely like to focus on the social and emotional learning, because kids are smart. They learn a lot. If we’re not intentionally giving them positive social things to pick up on, they’re going to pick up on the negative,” Jean-Baptiste said.

For girls, the mentoring focuses on esteem-building, goal-setting, learning how to navigate social situations, making more friends and maintaining those friendships, even social etiquette and dining etiquette. For boys, the lesson sets are a bit different: self-control, different ways to solve conflicts, the value of apologizing, being accountable for your behavior, dealing with frustrations and etiquette.

Jean-Baptiste is planning an end-of-year luncheon where the students can invite someone important to them and must RSVP and dress up.

All together, these activities add up to life and attitude training, not just education. And Jean-Baptiste thrives on seeing all the parts come together in her students before they head off to their next phase of education.

“My biggest reward is seeing the kids enjoy learning,” she said. “It is hard to enjoy learning these days. The way the curriculum is changing is great for them; it’s really going to prepare them for college. But some of it is kind of boring. I strive to help them get interested in it. I love to see kids happy in school.”

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EDUCATION: Darleen Torres | Puerto Rico Native Shares Her Love Of Spanish With Students At PBCHS

16_EDUCATION Darleen Torres

Wellington Education

Story by Chris Felker

Photos by ???

It’s a safe bet that Daleen Torres won’t ever suffer from empty nest syndrome, even though her children are now grown and on their own. Torres tends a nest of fledgling Spanish speakers daily for most of the year, as a teacher of Advanced Placement and Cambridge Program classes at Palm Beach Central High School.

Torres started out as a Palm Beach County School District substitute teacher back in 1998. She later became a permanent substitute before being promoted to a full-time teaching position. Now Torres is head of the World Languages Department at PBCHS.

“I grew up in Puerto Rico and moved to the [mainland] United States when I was 27,” she recalled, noting that it was her husband Francisco Rivera’s idea. “Of course, I was a good wife. I followed him. I had gone to the University of Puerto Rico, and my career was as a social worker.”

Married for just a few years at the time and with two young children, Torres began her time in Wellington was stay-at-home mother. She soon made friends with a neighbor, who began encouraging her to find a part-time job so that she could exercise her education and get some time out of the house.

“It was at a Christmas party at her house, with some other friends, and they said they were looking for substitute teachers,” Torres said. “She knew that I had a bachelor’s degree — not in education, but I have a bachelor’s, and that’s what you need to be a substitute. So I went and applied, and I got the job.”

Torres started out as an elementary school substitute, teaching a little bit of everything. “I tried to, of course, do some Spanish, and I taught math,” she said. “I worked in ESE (Exceptional Student Education) programs at an elementary school, and also at Wellington High School.”

Eventually, a perfect opportunity arose. “I applied to be a permanent Spanish substitute teacher at WHS, and that’s how I actually opened my doors,” Torres said. “I decided to certify myself [to be a full-time teacher], so I was going to school and working at the same time.”

Torres completed that program in 2003 and received her permanent teacher certification. In 2007, she became national board certified in world languages, and a short time later became department head, where she now oversees eight other teachers.

Even as a supervisor, she is still fully hands-on. “I’m teaching five classes, but one of them is a combo, so that would give me six,” Torres said. “All my classes are college-level.”

She is very proud of her work with the Cambridge Program.

“It’s an international examination program, including not only world languages, but all the subjects, and we are one of the schools that offers this program,” Torres said. “We have been very successful. The first year we offered the program, as related to world languages, we offered pre-courses getting the students ready to move on into college-credit classes. We still offer some of the Advanced Placement courses here, and I actually also teach those courses in advanced Spanish.”

And these courses are not just for juniors or seniors. “Actually, the program is open for kids that are already maturing and they’re college-bound,” Torres explained, noting that Cambridge classes are open to freshmen, and at the AP level, there are actually more 10th and 11th graders.

“In one of the highest courses for Spanish, the advanced level, that includes leadership — those are more for juniors and seniors,” she said. “So it’s a combination.”

But Torres aims to be far more than just a Spanish teacher to her students. She sees herself as a mentor, encouraging their potential.

“I try to encourage kids where we see they have potential, but they haven’t considered themselves to be college-bound,” she said. “When we see their talent, we encourage them to participate in the program, and some of them have continued in different classes after that.”

Torres tries to explain to her students how important it is to follow up on their studies in today’s fast-paced world.

“Many of my students who go to college minor in Spanish while they study nursing, business or other fields,” she said. “They understand how important it is to be bilingual right now. We are a multicultural society, particularly in Florida.”

Torres recommends that her students continue their Spanish studies after high school.

“You don’t learn a language in four or five years; you keep learning something new every day,” she said. “And I use myself as an example, because, of course, I have a strong accent. I’m aware of that, and sometimes I mispronounce [words in English]. I’m aware of that, but I learn new vocabulary all the time.”

Asked about the greatest reward she gets out of her career, Torres cites the fledglings coming back to the nest as full-plumed adults on a trajectory to success.

“Before Thanksgiving, I had one of my world language students come back — and this is an American student telling me he’s holding Spanish conversations through Skype,” she said. “He’s actually using the language and talking, and he came back to thank all the teachers. He was telling me how much he had gained… Those things keep you going.”

Her biggest reward?

“When I see my kids actually learning something that really has gained them some proficiency,” Torres said. “When they pass the test, I feel like a proud mother.”

 

 

This year’s Wellington Education series profiles some of the many educators who are expanding the minds of today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders.

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