On Tuesday evening, May 10, the annual meeting of the Jewish Federation of Collier County began rather differently than previous proceedings. Thanks to the inspiration of two women who were deeply disturbed by cruel incidents of prejudice and bullying which occurred in 2009 in one of the local public schools, the Federation planned a response in the form of an award to an educator who developed a meaningful, “replicable education initiative” to counter bigotry and bullying.
Ann Jacobson, Community Relations Chair of the Jewish Federation welcomed the gathering to the evening’s special event. She described the genesis of the “Stand Up For Justice Award” and introduced Beth Pavlow of Marco Island as the woman who addressed the Collier County School Board expressing her outrage about the incidents of prejudice and bullying in a Naples middle school. Beth was invited to become a member of the Federation’s Community Relations Committee and the idea of an award competition was born.
Bullying usually occurs away from the watchful eyes of teachers. How to reach out to school kids to get them to stop or step in to help another kid about to be victimized? Beth, a retired middle and high school English teacher, realized the way to reach students was through the teachers and other professionals who work with them every day. The committee had their idea, now the work to make it all happen began.
Beth acknowledged several talented people who helped her devise guidelines and compose an application for the award project. Participants included now retired, Jack Bovee, Coordinator for Character Education in the Dlstrict and his successor, Wendy Hodson, Amy Snyder, Director of the Holocaust Museum, the Education Foundation including Lisa Church and five judges, Jane Kiester, Ruth Dorfman, Melissa and Don Mills and Peter Piro.
HONORABLE MENTION – Sandra Brock, teacher of 6th and 8th grade, Family Consumer Sciences, Pine Ridge Middle School accompanied by Carolyn Wilson, Dean of Pine Ridge School.
Sandra’s lesson focused on the terrible reality of the Holocaust. She arranged to have the Traveling Holocaust Museum visit Pine Ridge Middle School and invited Holocaust survivors to share their stories with her students. The students selected survivors from the authors of the Holocaust Survivors Cookbook and recounted their stories to the class describing the particular virtue demonstrated by the survivor during his or her ordeal. Sandra’s program concluded with an Open House for administrators, parents and civic leaders offering foods prepared by her students from recipes in the Holocaust Survivors Cookbook.
THIRD PLACE AWARD – Gina Rose, Art teacher, North Naples Middle School escorted by Principal, Margaret Jackson and Assistant Principal, Ryan Nemeth.
In previous years Gina taught her classes to create clay murals based on a character trait. This year her students chose TOLERANCE and words from “The Diary of Anne Frank” which they had been reading in English class. They had been studying about the Holocaust in Social Studies and art, literature and history came together in their remarkable tribute to the awful reality of the Holocaust.
The mural, made of clay, depicts a boxcar in a field of grass with flowers and butterflies representing the children of the Holocaust. The names of the children are etched in clay tiles along the border. Anne Frank’s astounding words are integral to the mural. “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”
Gina’s students did all the work on the mural which is now permanently on display at North Naples Middle School. The mural is a forever reminder to the entire school community of the urgent imperatives for successful relationships: respect, tolerance, remembrance andacceptance.
SECOND PLACE AWARD – M. Allison Ferraro, School counselor, East Naples Middle School accompanied by Principal, Tammy Caraker.
Allison concentrated on strategies to prevent bullying in school with Power Point presentations that described how bullying occurs and the sometimes tragic consequences. Surveys for teachers, staff and students were created which generated discussions and sharing about bullying as it was perceived in their own school community.
She developed a training Power Point presentation for staff based on the survey data. “School Violence: when does it become personal”? The presentation was adapted into a student lesson and taught how intolerance and hatred lead to cruelty and bullying. The lesson begins with a question. “When did it become OK to be mean to one another”?
How bullying happens, how to combat its spread and stand up TO bullies and FOR kids who are singled out became part of discussions in every classroom. Certainly, a meaningful “replicable education initiative.”
FIRST PLACE AWARD – Lisa Garby, Language arts teacher, 8th grade, Manatee Middle School with her Principal, Peggy Aune.
Beth Pavlow confessed she was at a loss to summarize Lisa’s award winning presentation and with good reason! Lisa developed an entire week of events: “We Respect Differences Week” held November 15-19, 2010. Inspired by an article about bullying in Jr. Scholastic magazine, one of Lisa’s classes began a discussion about bullying specific to Manatee Middle School.
They composed a list of issues and possible solutions. All of Lisa’s students responded to a survey about bullying and chose 200 random students in school to include in the survey. Armed with the results administrators were invited to a round table discussion with students addressing their concerns and proposing ideas for resolution.
A committee of administrators and students was formed and Respect Differences Week was born. A contest was developed with the theme “We All Matter” and prizes awarded for the winning entries in rap, poetry, and art. A pledge, modified from bullying.org was reviewed by teachers and students with time to consider before signing.
A “Mix it up at Lunch” day, adapted from tolerance.org brought students together with kids they did not know. The students received a questionnaire to help them “break the ice.” Thursday was “Tolerance Thursday” and the student bullying committee chose 10 different random acts of kindness, taped them to rolls of “Smarties” and handed them out in Home Room. There was discussion about how to go about performing the acts of kindness and how important this event of “positive change” could be for the entire school family.
Friday was “Black out Bullying.” For $1 students could wear black shirts and jeans, a welcome break from uniforms but with a more serious purpose, to highlight that bullying is always wrong and also, to raise money for a school project, “Books of Hope,” to purchase textbooks for an orphanage in Uganda.
One event planned for “We Respect Differences Week” occurred during “National No-Name Calling Week in January, 2011 when long awaited “Bully Free” bracelets in Manatee School colors arrived and were sold throughout the school. Lisa was honored with the Stand Up For Justice Award first prize for planning a week long event focused on respect for others, tolerance of our differences and an alternate behavior to bullying. It is called KINDNESS.
Beth announced to the gathering that this was not the first honor received by Lisa Garby this month. She received a Golden Apple Award from the Education Foundation which recognizes outstanding teachers in the District. Thanks to a woman named Beth Povlow who stood up for justice before a school board an idea was born, a need recognized and addressed. There are lessons for all of us in the work of these bright, talented educators. Just ask yourself the question. “When did it become OK to be mean to one another”?