Congrats to teachers

Published 9:31 pm Friday, July 10, 2020

On today’s front page, you can see the end of our series on Suffolk Public Schools’ teachers of the year for the 2019-2020 school year.

The end of this school year was nothing like the beginning, and it was not something any of these teachers could have envisioned when they set up their classrooms in late August and welcomed students for the year on Sept. 3. Of all the things these teachers knew would be asked of them over the course of the year, teaching virtually for three months was surely not on their list of possibilities.

But the teachers of Suffolk Public Schools, more than 1,200 of them, rose to the challenge throughout the coronavirus pandemic. After the heartbreak of seeing the in-person school year end so suddenly on March 13, they did what teachers do best — they adapted, got creative and kept on rolling.


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We think every single one of them deserved an award, but like every year, only four could be named citywide teachers of the year. The division always chooses a citywide rookie teacher of the year, an accomplishment that is sure to start any career off right. The division also chooses the elementary, middle and high school teachers of the year, and the citywide teacher of the year is chosen from among these three winners.

The rookie teacher of the year this year was Sahmod Earls. He is the agriculture teacher at Lakeland High School. “I felt like I needed to be a presence for the upcoming generation,” Earls said when we interviewed him for the article. “That came on my heart.”

The elementary teacher of the year was Gwendolyn Mann, a second-grade teacher at Pioneer Elementary School. She has a great philosophy on her teaching methods: “It’s not one size fits all,” she told us. “You have to meet them where they’re at.”

Sharon Criner, an IB chemistry teacher at King’s Fork High School, is the high school teacher of the year. We love how she says her students helped her shift from a career in a research laboratory to the classroom: “I’ve grown more comfortable with my subject, I’ve grown more comfortable taking risks and reaching out to my students. I like for them to have a good time, so we’ll go outside and we’ll do problems on the sidewalk. Every day is different in my classroom.”

The citywide teacher of the year is Emma Neave, an eighth-grade English teacher at John F. Kennedy Middle School. She shared this about her compassion for her students: “These kids, we need to address the social and emotional issues before we can address the academic issues. That’s probably my biggest thing. because a kid can’t learn if they’re hungry or if they didn’t sleep last night. Over the years, I’ve really come to understand that.”

We think these quotes perfectly sum up the heart of a teacher and why these four were chosen to honor this year. Congratulations to all of them.