An elementary special education teacher from the Seaford School District is Delaware’s 2019 State Teacher of the Year.
Dana Bowe was announced as Delaware’s winner – and the state’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year – by Governor John Carney at last night’s annual banquet honoring the 20 district and charter teachers of the year at Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center in Dover.
Bowe, who teaches kindergarten through second grade for the Sussex County Orthopedic Program at West Seaford Elementary School, hopes to use her new title to bring attention to her message about all children’s abilities.
One in six children in the United States has a developmental disability, ranging from speech or language impairments to intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy or autism.
“But all of these children have capabilities. Their value and worth are beyond measure. Each student has a different story, different journey, and different abilities,” Bowe said.
After the Sussex Orthopedic Program moved to West Seaford Elementary School, Bowe helped start a “Spread the Word-Respect” campaign at her school, part of a national effort to discourage the use of the derogatory word “retard” and to promote acceptance, compassion, understanding, and inclusion of people with disabilities. This was important for the culture of the school, where some students had not before seen children walking in orthopedic braces, communicating with speech generated devices, or using assistive technologies, she said.
“Sometimes it is difficult to see the initial impact of an initiative. Other times, although it is not blatantly obvious, there is a quiet victory: Students holding hands walking down the hallway; a child in a wheelchair tutoring other children in class; or a regular education student asking a child to be his partner even though they can communicate only through gestures, signs, or the use of a ‘talker,’ ” Bowe said.
Bowe, who has been teaching for 17 years including five in her current position, shared stories in her application about students who made significant progress in her class.
“Children with special needs are capable of love, friendship, and academic achievement. We must encourage true inclusion with acceptance and kindness. We must see our children without labels and limitations,” she said. “We must discover the greatness that is already inside them and share their greatness with others. We must teach all students.”
Joni Smith, whose son is now in his third year in Bowe’s class, said Bowe cares about all her students and finds ways to engage each of them as well as their families in their learning.
“Mrs. Bowe always includes us in his progress and his struggles and is always right on board to help in any way,” Smith said. “She always makes us feel like family and friends — we are a team to work together to help our child progress.”
Bowe earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from East Carolina University and a master’s degree in special education from Wilmington University. She also was named the Down Syndrome Association of Delaware 2017 Teacher of the Year.
Bowe inherits from outgoing Teacher of the Year Jinni Forcucci the responsibility of representing all teachers in Delaware. She will address community groups, business leaders, legislators, and educational organizations to inform the public about the status of Delaware schools. She also will become Delaware’s candidate in the National Teacher of the Year Program, a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers sponsored by the Voya Foundation.
By action of the General Assembly, she will receive a $5,000 grant to use for the educational benefit of her students, as well two personal grants totaling an additional $5,000. The remaining 19 school district/charter candidates each will receive a personal grant of $2,000. All 20 teachers also receive a gift from Advantech Incorporated.
Bowe also will receive: a $1,000 grant for educational/classroom use from American Institutes for Research; grants from the Delaware Association of School Administrators, Delaware State Education Association and the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce; a State of Delaware Teacher of the Year commemorative plate from the Division of Motor Vehicles; a full doctorate program from University of Delaware and Wilmington University; a gold watch from the Delaware State Teachers of the Year Association; a 10-karat gold ring from Jostens; and lunch in Washington D.C. with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper.
Runners-up for the Delaware Teacher of the year are:
Appoquinimink: Sara Anderson, Cedar Lane Elementary, grade 5 inclusion
Brandywine: Bonnie Yurkanin, Claymont Elementary, library media
Caesar Rodney: Ashlee Upp, Allen Frear Elementary, grade 3
Cape Henlopen: Robert Harrod, Cape Henlopen High, grade 9 biology
Capital: Joseph Fuller, Dover High, Intensive Learning Center math/science
Christina: Jennifer Montanez, Etta J. Wilson Elementary, grade 5
Colonial: Mark McKenzie, William Penn High, Grades 11-12 chemistry
Delmar: Michelle Howard, Delmar High, Grades 9-12 physical science/chemistry
Indian River: Courtney White, North Georgetown Elementary, grade 5
Lake Forest: Sara Bushey, Lake Forest North Elementary, grade 3
Laurel: Carly Carrier, Laurel Middle, grade 6 science
Milford: Veronica Evans, Milford Senior High, grades 10-12 U.S. government and politics/social studies
New Castle County Vo-Tech: Lindsay Hoeschel, Howard High School of Technology, grade 11 English language arts
POLYTECH: David Watson, POLYTECH High, engineering/calculus/physics
Red Clay Consolidated: Lia Zucchino, Evan G. Shortlidge Academy, grade 2
Smyrna: Virginia Hoye, Clayton Intermediate, grade 5 English language arts/social studies
Sussex Tech: Anthony Natoli, Sussex Technical High, grades 9 and 11 English language arts
Woodbridge: Heather Kerrick, Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center, grade 1 reading/social studies
Charter Network: Thomas Becker, MOT Charter High, grades 9-12 math