Marie Bracciale will compete with other educators throughout the county for the 2019 title.
Each week the Port Orange Observer will highlight a teacher nominated for the title of Volusia County School District's 2019 Teacher of the Year.
Sugar Mill Elementary School Counselor Marie Bracciale, who was nominated for the honor, has been at Sugar Mill for two years. Prior to Sugar Mill, she worked at South Daytona Elementary, Deltona Middle School, CLCW, Storefront Schools and DeLand Middle School.
Volusia County public schools each selected a Teacher of the Year in order to vie for the title of Volusia County School District's 2019 Teacher of the Year. This year, 71 winners were chosen by their peers. The current Volusia County Teacher of the Year is Jason Kester, who teaches culinary arts at Mainland High.
The 2019 district Teacher of the Year winner will be announced on Friday, Jan. 12, and will be nominated for the state Teacher of the Year program.
Answers have been edited for clarity and length.
1. How do you feel to be nominated?
I feel honored to be representing Sugar Mill Elementary School teachers, they are some of the most dedicated and outstanding teachers in the county. I was not expecting it, and Mrs. Inge and Mr. Interdonato, my fellow nominees, are also phenomenal teachers at our school and really make a difference.
2. Why did you want to be a teacher?
This was a character trait ingrained in me as a young child by my parents. They were always helping someone in need. They were always involved in our school projects and had the patience to teach us various things we wanted to learn about. My older brother was a great mentor and coach, and he coached my younger brother and I in multiple sports. We were all very athletic in high school and college sports.
I became a coach for over 20 years especially for the Master Level Special Olympics both here and in California for special athletes 18 years old and above. Of course they beat me in everything — swimming, basketball, soccer you name it, and they are really fantastic at everything. I get so much back working with special need students and athletes. So teaching sort of came naturally out of coaching. A great coach can teach and a great teacher can coach.
3. What is the most challenging part of teaching?
Time management is a big part of any school counselor's day. Some days it is with myself, maybe not reaching all the students I would like to each day. If I could clone myself I would, so instead I try to take one day at a time and do my best to meet our students needs each day.
4. What is the most rewarding part of teaching?
Of all the grades I have taught, the most rewarding position has been the one I am in currently in on the elementary school level. Each day I learn something new from our students and staff. They are exemplary. This includes our office staff, kitchen staff, custodial, academic coaches, outstanding ESE department, PTA and SAC, school social workers and school psychologist, assistant principal and leading us all, Dr. Mary Ellen Speidel, our principal. They all lift me up each day and provide a positive environment so we can all be there for our students each day. We put them first in all we do and it shows, the students love coming to school and excelling. Creating a care school culture is what I feel called to do.
I am given the freedom to provide innovated hands on service learning programs for our students some of which include edible garden groups, cooking club, K Kids leadership club, support groups, music and art therapies and attendance initiatives, which keep our students motivated and wanting to attend each day. I can provide counseling on many levels at the school and it provides me with great satisfaction. When my student achievements surpass my own, I know I have been an effective influence on their lives.
5. If you could tell students one thing what would it be?
You are special and unique, always believe this in yourself. I believe in you and whatever you want to become. Never believe anything negative anyone says to you or about you, when you know you are a good person. Stay motivated and goal driven and you can accomplish your dreams.