CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — May 10, 2019 — WorldStrides, the nation’s largest accredited educational travel provider, today announced that it has recognized five exceptional teachers with $1,000 cash prizes — and one lucky winner with an all-expense-paid trip for two anywhere in the world — in celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week.
Students and parents nominated more than 750 teachers who stood out among peers in their efforts to transform students’ learning experiences. The four finalists and one winner were selected because they represent the many teachers across the country who change lives everyday by going above and beyond their job descriptions. These are their stories:
Teacher of the Year: Holly Grefe, Lafayette, LA – Grefe, the 2019 WorldStrides Teacher of the Year, has been teaching choir for 24 years, during which time she has transformed countless lives through her unique approach to music education. Students and parents tell us that Grefe’s classroom helps her teenage students develop confidence, take ownership over their talents, and graduate prepared to take on the world — whether or not their own path includes formal music practice. Her parent nominator reports: “Under Holly’s continual encouragement and unyielding expectations that each child accepts nothing less than the best of themselves, we see a group of children embrace their whole selves and recognize their unique gifts. Children transition from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can and I will,’ and that is entirely the product of Holly Grefe’s unique ability to extract the last drop from each of her over 200 students.”
Finalist: Lynn Bourinaris, Sparta Township, NJ – Bourinaris has taken her culinary arts classes to the next level by planning regular trips to Europe, where her students experience the world’s cuisines and develop lifelong passions for food and culture. The student who nominated Bourinaris told us that she “treats each one of us like we are one of her own children. She sees each one of our potential and stops at nothing until we reach for nothing but the best.” Her daring approach to experiential learning and her steadfast commitment to her students’ well being have helped students at her New Jersey technical school realize and embrace their potential.
Finalist: Gina Englund, Mobile, AL – Englund was a classroom teacher when she started to see the ways the traditional classroom was failing her students with dyslexia–so she broke away and created a new kind of school, built especially to serve the dyslexic community, and to empower them with the same opportunities and confidence as their peers in traditional schools. She organized a trip last month for her middle and high schoolers to Washington, DC, where they experienced the political system up close and learned about how Albert Einstein channeled his own dyslexia into groundbreaking discoveries. Englund was nominated by one of her 9th grade students whose life was changed by Englund’s fierce commitment to creating an inclusive learning environment.
Finalist: Chelsea Roidt, Lancaster, OH – Roidt is a Latin teacher whose passion prompted 13 different students to nominate her for this award. Her students report that her impact on their lives stretches well beyond the classroom, saying “She is always there for her students and teaches us more than Latin. Life lessons are a huge part of her class and she makes me feel more prepared for the future than any other teacher.” Roidt has built a classroom that helps student rediscover their passion for learning and deal with stresses, within or beyond their academic lives.
Finalist: Jason Whited, Centerville, OH – Whited took his passion for teaching, having grown up in a family of educators, and channelled it into a 13-year-long career teaching social studies. Students say his commitment to their personal empowerment — within or outside the classroom — has pushed them to put his civics lesson into action within the community. Students say he builds his classroom around the mantra, “Embrace your Opportunity,” always looking for ways to invest in and support students in and out of the classroom. He is dedicated to bringing together students and members of his local veteran community for shared learning experiences, and every year coordinates programs that help the whole school connect with and support veterans.
This is the fourth annual Teacher Appreciation Week contest sponsored by WorldStrides to honor America’s most dedicated educators. To learn more about the finalists and winner of this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week contest, visit WorldStrides.com/teacherappreciation
WorldStrides, headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., is the largest educational student travel company in the United States. The company was founded in 1967 to provide middle school travel programs to Washington, D.C., and has grown to provide educational programs for more than 400,000 students annually from more than 5,000 K-12 schools and universities to over 100 countries around the world. The organization’s full suite of programs are tuned to learners at stages from elementary through post-graduate levels, and feature specializations like performing arts, sports and travel study abroad. For more information on WorldStrides, visit www.worldstrides.com.
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