Educator of the Year

    1. Cristen Magaletti, Saint Andrew’s School

    The brightest days begin in Cristen Magaletti’s classrooms each morning at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton. In her Social Studies and Social Entrepreneurship classes, Ms. Magaletti aspires to provide opportunities for students to develop an appreciation for the power of their unique voices to help them to recognize their roles in creating change as active participants in a global community. Through student-driven inquiry, students take ownership of their learning and present their work in authentic ways. Her courses are designed to encourage empathy-building by analyzing deep essential questions of topics that examine multiple perspectives. She is a passionate educator who aspires to spark curiosity and a love of learning for all of her students.

    Ms. Magaletti holds a B.A in Political Science with a minor in World Religions from Boston University, an M.A. from New York University in Secondary Social Studies Education, and dual certification in Social Studies and Exceptional Student Education. She is originally from Westchester County, New York and has been a teacher for13 years. She lives in Delray Beach with her husband and two sons, who are in 1st grade and 3rd grade at Saint Andrew’s School.

    2. Laura Vernon, PhD, Wilkes Honors College at FAU

    Dr. Laura Vernon is Professor of Psychology at the Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University. Since coming to the university in 2006, she has worked tirelessly to teach her students about psychology and to help them apply psychological concepts to improve their own lives and help those around them. Last year, Dr. Vernon received the university’s top award, the Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award, and soon after launched FAU Thrive in collaboration with FAU President John Kelly. FAU Thrive works with student groups to lead workshops and events and put out blogs and social media content that promote health and wellness. Vernon leads university-wide faculty and staff workshops on identifying and responding to students in crisis and partners with local community agencies and mental health providers to raise mental health awareness and provide support for FAU students.

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    3. Loverly Sheridan, Delray Full Service School

    “Loverly Sheridan is an author and educator who believes in the power of education in and outside of the classroom, which she contributes to her success, and is the main inspiration behind her books and campaigns, which raises awareness on the mental health and well-being of women and children. “There’s this enormous pressure placed on adults and children to succeed, but what’s the purpose of passing tests, yet failing at life?” asks Sheridan. “Our children’s mental health, and the mental health of each other should be our first priority.” She has penned five children’s books, all empowering children to love and value themselves and others. Her most recent focus and campaign is on anti-bullying in schools, based on her book, “Be a Buddy Not a Bully,” which she has partnered with the Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County to spread kindness and inclusiveness in schools through her Buddy Ambassadors/Buddy Bench program. For Sheridan, an Adult Education Instructor at Delray Full-Service School and International Athena Award Recipient, she believes that bullying is a global issue and an on-going problem in our world, and is the root of a lot of the problems we face today. “I believe it’s important that we begin to address the issues of bullying at a very early age and create a no-bullying culture from the on-set,” she explains. “If we focus on prevention, we won’t have to worry about the cure.”

    4. Ryan Smith, The Greene School

    Now in his 9th year as an educator, Ryan currently teaches middle school math, science, and digital design at The Greene School. He played an integral role in the planning of the physical design and curricular development of the school’s cutting edge fabrication lab, where students get hands-on experience with emerging technologies such as 3D printers, vinyl cutters, and laser cutters. In addition to his classroom duties, Ryan also acts as the school’s Green Team coordinator, leading a student-centered group that tracks the school’s water and energy consumption trends, and oversees their organic garden and recycling program. These efforts have lead to the school’s recognition as a Green School of Excellence for the past two years.

    Ryan is also an advocate for STEM education outside of his school, having co-founded the
    Stiles-Nicholson STEM Inventor’s Challenge with colleagues at the South Florida Science
    Center and Aquarium. The Inventor’s Challenge, now beginning its 4th year, will have placed 60 3D printers in local middle and elementary schools by the end of the year. Over one thousand students involved in the challenge have been introduced to the engineering design process and have gotten hands-on experience working with digital design software and 3D printers.

    5. Yash Bhagwanji, PhD, Florida Atlantic University

    Two experiences stand out as having changed the course of my life. The first one, when I was in my early 20s, my experiences as a volunteer at an orphanage affected my decision to become a special education teacher. Following my baccalaureate studies, my fortune led me to a pioneering school serving children with and without special needs. There I developed close relationships with children with profound disabilities and strong kinships with families and therapists. I had not realized this, but I was part of a national transformation occurring called “inclusion,” a movement to include children with disabilities in normal, everyday experiences and settings at that time. Years later, after I obtained my Ph.D. in Early Childhood Special Education, I was involved in developing interdisciplinary early childhood education degree programs, both at undergraduate and graduate levels, at the University of Louisville and Florida Atlantic University. The second of my life-altering experience occurred shortly after my arrival in Palm Beach County. I was deeply affected by the biological diversity that I found everywhere. That led to a commitment to make environmental literacy education a part of early childhood education. My efforts in environmental literacy education have led to the development of state-of-the-art university courses in early childhood environmental education, a handbook to assist child development centers in including environmental literacy education, and an international journal focused on advocacy, research, and policies in early childhood environmental education.

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