Teachers in America Podcast: Spotlight on Florida

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On the Teachers in America podcast, we are lucky to speak with teachers from across the country about the triumphs and challenges they face in the classroom. In each episode, we learn how they strive to develop a rapport with their students, introduce creativity into lessons, and build inclusive spaces, all while remembering to focus on their own work-life balance (well, trying to, anyway!).

Each teacher has a unique story to tell, and today we'd like to shine a light on the educators from Florida who inspire us.

Overcoming Trauma in Parkland, Florida, with Sarah Lerner

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Sarah Lerner and Noelle Morris at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Sarah Lerner is an advisor for the yearbook and an English and journalism teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

On February 14, 2018, 17 individuals at the school lost their lives to gun violence. In the aftermath of this tragedy, Sarah and her students wrote and published an award-winning yearbook in the space of a few months honoring the victims.

Sarah is passionate about mental health and advocating for gun reform. She was a finalist for Florida Scholastic Press Association Teacher of the Year and Columbia Scholastic Press Gold Key Award. She also oversaw the publication of the student anthology Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories.

Since the episode was recorded before COVID-19, we were able to travel to Sarah's school and witness firsthand how the creative decorations that covered the walls and shelves in her classroom matched her sense of humor and passionate personality.

Finding Acceptance as an Immigrant Student with Margarita Lezama

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Margarita has a story that many of her students can relate to: dealing with culture shock.

Margarita Lezama is a middle school ESL and ESOL teacher at Brownsville Middle School, part of Miami-Dade Public Schools in Miami, Florida. When she was a child, Margarita and her family fled the political situation in Nicaragua and immigrated to Mexico before seeking asylum in the United States in 1983. She now teaches a large immigrant population and connects with her students on topics like coping with culture shock, learning English, and facing discrimination. Margarita encourages her students to strive for higher education and set goals for themselves to pursue their passions. Recorded before COVID-19, we had the chance to join Margarita in her classroom, and hear her story firsthand.

Embrace Being Wrong, Applaud Being Right with Sharon Biava

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In Sharon's classroom, she makes it a point to "create an environment where everyone feels safe, not just physically, but to be wrong...that's how we learn."

Sharon Biava is a fourth-grade math teacher at Silver Lakes Elementary in Miramar, Florida, part of Broward County Public Schools.

A proud single mother of twins, Sharon has been an educator for 18 years after two successful careers in finance and healthcare marketing. She is a coach for the speech and debate team and the chess team, and is passionate about literacy, civics, and equity for all students. Recorded before COVID-19, we had the chance to observe her math class, and see exactly how she and her students applauded each correct answer.

Virtual Learning During COVID-19 with Sharon Biava

After COVID-19 resulted in school closures, Zoom classrooms, and virtual learning, we decided to check in with our recent guest, Florida teacher Sharon Biava, to see how she had adjusted since all of the changes took place. We were happy to hear her optimistic update on how she adapted to her new digital classroom with the help of her students during spring break. We discussed strategies for mastering virtual learning, creating digital classroom rules, and taking time for self-care during stressful times.

We are always looking for new teacher stories to share. If you would like to be a guest on the Teachers in America podcast, please email us at shaped@hmhco.com and you might be our next guest!

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