Delco school district sets record with most Pa. Teacher of the Year finalists

Spring is usually a time to recognize students from graduations to award ceremonies, but 12 teachers from across Pennsylvania are also getting their due.

The state’s Teacher of the Year finalists were announced last month, and one school district is setting a record.

The Rose Tree Media School District has a finalist for the 7th year in row.

Aaron Goldfarb, a 5th grade teacher at Media Elementary School, is representing the Delaware County school district this year.

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The school district’s had 11 finalists — including the 2014 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year Anthony Grisillo — since 2012.

That’s the most finalists of any school district in the past 20 years. Northern Lebanon School District in Lebanon County has had nine finalists. While three other school districts have had seven finalists: Abington School District in Montgomery County; Montoursville Area School District in Lycoming County; and Pine-Richland School District in Allegheny County.

There are 27 school districts that have had three or more finalists since 1997, out of the state’s 500 public school districts.

Rose Tree Media Superintendent James Wigo says part of the reason is the district’s culture of celebrating the achievements of students, parents, parent groups, teachers and administrators.

“Our students are recognized on a regular basis,” he said. “We have student of the month celebrations. I send personally written cards to students because we want them to know that we are not just recognizing, but paying attention to, accomplishments. That holds true for our adult population, for our teachers.”

Wigo said when he started in the district six years ago, it became apparent how creative the teachers are.

“What impressed me most about the faculty in the Rose Tree Media School District was that it was a very, very consistent mindset on their part, whether you were talking to a kindergarten teacher or whether we were talking to a teacher of seniors,” he said.

Wigo said the teachers also work to keep students engrossed.

“There’s an awful lot of hands-on activities that take place in our classrooms,” he said. “The catchphrase over the last several years has been student engagement, and we have arrived at a point where engagement is simply not enough. It’s not just enough to have kids actively involved. But to have kids actively engaged means that they are thinking their way through problems, that they are creatively arriving at solutions.”

Wigo said Goldfarb shows that kind of engagement.

“He is probably the quintessential example of everything that I’ve said so far, in terms of building relationships, caring about his kids, caring about their learning, providing an environment in which kids can thrive, being very, very sensitive to learning styles, giving everyone a shot.”

Wigo says because of the district’s deep pool of qualified candidates, they nominate a teacher from each of its six schools every year.

The Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year will be announced in December and will be the state’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year.

Pennsylvania has participated in the Teacher of the Year program since 1965.

Pennsylvania’s Teacher of the Year program is co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania chapter of the National State Teacher of the Year, which was founded in 1995.

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