News that Winston Park’s K-8 Center has just won a quarterly award from Florida Future Educators only begins the story.
Ever since Diana Hernandez took over its chapter of potential Florida teachers three years ago, the enthusiastic youngsters have been judged the “Outstanding Chapter in the State of Florida,” a distinction limited to one quarterly award each year by Florida Future Educators of America, sponsors of the effort to attract youngsters to the teaching profession.
“This year, we participated in ‘Club Rush’ to recruit 65 members,” said Hernandez who guides participating fourth to eighth grade students recommended by teachers for their outstanding grades, conduct, leadership skills and responsibility.
The Winston Park group is one of hundreds competing statewide under FFEA that encourages student interest in education early in their school experience.
Essentially, the members “shadow” teachers, helping them prepare lessons and activities before or after school to gain a better understanding of what a teacher’s day looks like, Hernandez explained.
During after-school hours, they assist counselors with homework by reading to students and joining in holiday or bookbased activities. Along the way, the students help both civic and community organizations, too.
During March, the group stuffed more than 2,000 toy eggs for Winston Park’s annual “Easter Egg Hunt” and “Bonnet Parade” on Apr. 4, when they’ll also award prizes for golden eggs, best decorated baskets and bonnets.
Other events the group has sponsored include “Reading Under the Stars,” a night when Winston Park children listen to an author, play games, do crafts or read a favored author, like Dr. Seuss.
They’ve also hosted “Drop and Shop” and “Drop and Dine” events to allow parents holiday shopping or enjoy a Valentine’s Day dinner, showing movies and feeding small fry pizza, playing games or engaging in crafts, and reading stories. A Book Exchange promotes summer reading each year.
The FFEA members also help other organizations with events, filling Thanksgiving baskets for the needy and providing crafts and games for Winston Park Clubhouse events, dressed up as elves for a “Breakfast with Santa” in December.
“The Wildcats of Winston Park K-8 continue to sparkle with over 60 members that take time to help teachers before and after school, assist with lesson preparation and help after-school students,” summarized Abbey Stewart, FFEA Program Specialist in Tallahassee who announced the latest school awards.
Activities of the State Department of Education are aimed to fill the need for “a growing demand for qualified teachers in Florida, especially in critical need areas such as Exceptional Student Education, mathematics and the sciences.”
Adds Hernandez: “The youngsters enthusiasm for learning and volunteering is contagious. Children ask me every day if they can still join. Our students are incredible!”