Excellent teachers in West Park

Local teachers win recognition for excellence

by Rachel Napolitano
(Reprinted from pages 2 & 8 of the Family Matters in West Park Winter 2017 edition)


After a 6 month process, ten teachers were chosen out of over 200 nominations for Excellence in Teaching awards 3 of which came to West Park teachers. An additional three West Park teachers were special honorees, as well. Awardees were honored at a special ceremony at the Drury Hotel in the fall. Each Excellence in Teaching awardee receives a $5000 award and are asked to commit to share their practice with their peers this school year by doing things like posting sample lessons online, allowing other teachers to observe them at work, and conducting workshops.

Local Excellence in Teaching awardees are:

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), the Cleveland Teachers Union, the Gund Foundation, and the Cleveland Foundation started this annual award in 2016 to reward the best teachers in the district.

The Excellence in Teaching Award’s announcement quotes the nomination of Stephanie Chiarello, a three year CMSD veteran, as someone who “uses her course content—American History and Economics—to engage students in larger questions about who we are and how we’ve gotten to this point in our history. … Her lesson on the 1892 Homestead Strike was one of the most remarkable lessons I’ve ever seen: every single student fully engaged in learning, thinking on their feet, taking different perspectives, and examining their prejudices … She provides the vision to ensure we are staying true to our mission of creating principled leaders who will foster a more sustainable and equitable city.’
Bonnie Whitmer’s recognition included the following quote about her work, which spans 28 years: “Children are all over the classroom working independently, in small groups, at tables and on the rug—wherever they are comfortable. … Her children are always singing. … Ms. Whitmer has a thorough knowledge of subject matter, pedagogy and classroom management. Her students take ownership and responsibility for their work and can always articulate what they are doing and why…She champions children with special needs.”

(Read more about all the Excellence in Teaching Awardees here at teachexcellenceaward.org.)

Special honorees were:

In addition to an Excellence in Teaching Award, Spencer Small, a freshman math teacher this year with 12 years of experience at CMSD, was recognized by Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) this fall, as well. Principal Chelsey Cook at JMIT announced, “He is one of five teachers to receive this national award from Bootstrap. Mr. Small is teaching the Bootstrap curriculum in Algebra 1. Students build a video game while practicing algebra concepts [with Bootstrap]. We are blessed to have Spencer Small on our team!”

Mr. Small posted to the JMIT Facebook page, “I’m just so excited that the creators of Bootstrap made a coding language that is incredibly algebraic. When I talk about something as fundamental as defining variables I get to relate the coding we do in class with the Algebra and vice versa. The overlap is tremendous and kids recognize it too!”

Interviewed by Infosys Foundation USA, which supports greater access and inclusion in Computer Science education, Mr. Small said, “I teach underrepresented, lower-income kids because I think it’s important for them to see somebody like them- to be strict enough, to show them that they love them but still have fun.”

His Excellence in Teaching nomination included the following quote: “His Computer Science course combines symposium-like discussions with challenging problem-solving scenarios. He teaches this difficult subject to all students—special education, English language learners—all students. … Teachers throughout the building observe his classroom because it models an ideal learning environment of respect, challenge and support.”

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