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Contest Winners

Zaner-Bloser wants to thank all of the educators who participated in the Which Teacher Inspired Your Future? Contest! We are proud to announce the five winners and the schools that will each receive a $1,000 grant:

Gary Bettinger
Bates Middle School
Sumter, SC
Grant Recipient: Bates Middle School

You Gotta Have Heart - He did a soft shoe while singing, "You Gotta Have Heart," and Edward Sleefe was my inspiration for teaching. In the mid-1960s, Copiague, New York’s Susan E. Wiley Elementary School was his stage and we, in all our sixth-grade, pre-teen glory, were his enraptured audience. Mr. Sleefe kept our attention through the day, weaving his educational magic with stories and tales. Engaged, we were learning without even knowing we were learning. Nattily dressed in his gray suit, white shirt, and bow tie, he brought near to us people and cultures that were far, far away. My love of science was kindled in his class; the space race was real, and we were a part of it. He took us outside our little world to places that were new and different—exciting journeys like going to New York City on the train and to Albany in a luxurious coach that shamed our usual yellow buses. Mr. Sleefe taught us science and English and life, showing us how to be the young men and women of the future that he knew we could be. To be a teacher "You Gotta Have Heart," and he did.

Lucinda Fleming
Riverside High School
DeGraff, OH
Grant Recipient: Riverside High School

Fan of Underdogs - Many teachers have influenced me in my journey of becoming an educator, but the most influential was Mrs. Houk. Mrs. Houk was the assistant principal of my high school and was a formidable presence everywhere she went. Her deep voice could stop students in their tracks and her imposing glare could quell the loudest classroom. But the thing that made Mrs. Houk special to me was that I always felt special to her. I spent most of high school unsure of myself and where I belonged. She changed that. She laughed when I told her I was going to grow up and be like her someday. Mrs. Houk had a soft spot for the underdogs, the students who weren’t “stars” in athletics or academics. That’s the category I was in: sandwiched between my smart older sister and smart, athletic younger brother. She never made me feel like I wasn’t as good as them or compared me to them, and I loved her for that. I like to think I am just like her; I gravitate toward the lonely, the unloved, and the quiet ones and do my best to show them they matter. I hope I have made her proud.

Lindsay Foster
Parkview Elementary
Fort Worth, TX
Grant Recipient: Parkview Elementary

Passion for Learning - Eight million… and twelve. Eight million and twelve—the favorite number of the teacher who inspired me to become a teacher. Not because it is high; not because it is even; it was her favorite number because she assigned that many homework assignments (purportedly) in a year. Veronica “Cruel” Juel taught English, literature, and grammar to countless students, beginning at the middle school level, where I first encountered her, and later, when she moved up with our class to the senior high school. I learned to appreciate the value of decoration—all of her classrooms were painted a shade of pink, filled with posters and stuffed animals, and covered with bulletin boards for concepts. I learned that all “As” are NOT equal as one-hundred percent equaled an “A+” and dinner with her (in her home), if you were the student who earned the most in a term. I gained an extensive vocabulary, an ability to think critically, and my passion for learning as I enjoyed “Doughnut Thursdays.” I learned that learning may be celebrated in other ways than by scores on a test or final grades: through the passionate discussion of ideas and over a piece of chocolate.

Lydia Gilbert
E. Roy Bixby School
Bogota, NJ
Grant Recipient: E. Roy Bixby School

Legacy of Inspiration - Shelia VerNoy was a master teacher in the classroom and life. As an English teacher, her lessons were always exciting to all. How lucky I was when I was cast in the plays Mrs. VerNoy directed with the same dedication and enthusiasm she poured into her classes. For my first three years of high school, I learned from every second of my time with Mrs. VerNoy. Sadly, in my senior year, Mrs. VerNoy was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, we were inspired on a different level as we saw Mrs. VerNoy battle her disease with courage as she continued to teach and direct. It was such a great honor to escort Mrs. VerNoy onto the stage as she took her final bow in the spring of my senior year. When I began directing years later on her stage, the first thing I did was to hang a picture of Sheila VerNoy. My students would enter and want to know about Mrs. VerNoy, and I would speak of her legacy of inspiration, dedication, strength, and courage, so it could continue to guide others. Mrs. VerNoy was and is an inspiration in my work as a teacher and counselor.

Maria Rodriguez
Rockway Middle School
Miami, FL
Grant Recipient: Rockway Middle School

Touching Students' Lives - The teacher that inspired me to become an educator was Herminia Miranda, my 7th grade ESOL teacher. I had just arrived from Cuba and was very scared and a little traumatized by all the new changes in my life. She held my hand and told me that everything was going to fall into place for me, little by little, but, in the meantime, she was going to hold my hand and help me cross the bridge. She would stay after school and come early to give me extra practice. In no time, I made new friends and started adjusting. She kept my first language alive by sending me to Spanish spelling bees, which she was positive I would win. I was dismissed from her ESOL program in one year. I grew up always saying I would become a teacher to help children the same way she helped me. I became a teacher for Special Education and my first job was at that same school teaching—with her as my mentor. I owe the kind of teacher I am today to the tender and loving care with which Ms. Miranda touched my heart.

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