Northwest Philadelphia teachers to receive ‘Hero’ awards

This year’s “Teacher as Hero” awards, presented by the National Liberty Museum, will be given out to 20 outstanding educators during a Wednesday night ceremony at the Old City museum.

“We look for exemplary teachers that have faced an exceptional challenge in a school, whether that be anti-bullying, peer-to-peer efforts, creating straight-gay alliances,” said Kevin Orangers, vice president of programs at the museum. “Teachers who have tried to solve problems, who have mentored and went above-and-beyond to create a curriculum or program.”

Award-winners include teachers from Northwest Philadelphia schools William Rowen Elementary, Germantown High School and the Youth Study Center.


In 2003, after the museum began to offer teacher-training workshops (in accordance with Act 48, which requires Pennsylvania educators to complete further training every five years), they were inspired to start the award program.

Orangers said the selection committee receives anywhere from 65 to 100 applicants each year. Some are self-nominated while others are nominated by colleagues, students and parents.

Northwest teachers being honored

Joyce Randell of the Youth Study Center, an at-risk school for incarcerated students, has used Legos, X’nex and algebra tiles to bring math and financial learning to life in her classroom. Randell has also published two journal articles, mentored her peers and implemented 10 grants for language arts, math and science.

Beth Becker of William Rowen Elementary has been a special-education and reading teacher for more than three decades. Her love of technology became evident when she wasn’t able to get a smart board for her class; she just invented one of her own.

“I learned that you can use a Wii remote and connect it to a projector and laptop,” said Becker. “The kids love it. We can go anywhere on the internet. It really catches their attention.”

Becker said that she has high expectations of her students and doesn’t “water down” any of the material.

“They’ve been told or think that they’re stupid,” she said. “I tell them that they’re amazing and that they can achieve.”

Germantown High School’s Catherine Michini said she teaches math with a “constructivist” approach, which means she doesn’t just stand at the board and teach formulas. Rather, she said she wants students to “learn through discovery.”

“In teaching, you have good years and bad years,” said Michini. “You have to be very, very flexible, and creative, no matter what subject.”

Tonight’s event

At the ceremony, teachers will be presented with their certificates in front of friends, family and colleagues. They will also have their story featured in the “Teacher as Hero” exhibit, receive a free tour for their students, a museum membership for their family and admission to the teacher-training workshop.

“All teachers make a footprint on a student’s life,” museum CEO Gwen Borowsky said, “but our winners make a deeper one than others. We are grateful to them for going the extra mile beyond the classroom.”

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