WITF and ROTARY DISTRICT 7390 ANNOUNCE 2021 TEACHER IMPACT AWARDS WINNERS

In time for Teacher Appreciation Week beginning Monday, May 3, WITF, in partnership with Rotary District 7390, announced the seven winners of the 2021 Teacher Impact Awards. The awards honor teachers for their exemplary dedication to their students and community.

Rotary District 7390 established the “Teacher Impact Awards” in 2005, with the idea to promote teaching and learning in its seven-county area. “With how immensely difficult this year has been for educators everywhere, we’re honored to celebrate a small portion of those that deserve recognition,” said Janice Black, chair of the project for Rotary District 7390.

Students, caregivers, colleagues and administrators submitted 287 nominations for consideration. A committee of current and former educators, Rotary members and WITF staff reviewed each nomination to select winners. One teacher was selected from each county within the Rotary’s district coverage. 

In 2019, WITF partnered with the Rotary to present the awards and produce a television program.

“Through these nominations, we’ve learned that passionate teachers do not let a pandemic stop them from being extraordinary. We are inspired by their innovation in the classroom and their determination to connect with their students. WITF was founded by a group of educators more than fifty years ago; we proudly recognize and applaud these stellar teachers that inspire lifelong learning for our region,” said Debbie Riek, WITF director of education.

The 2021 “Teacher Impact Awards” winners, listed alphabetically by county, are:

County: Adams

Teacher: Beth Peart

School District: Littlestown Area School District

Grade(s) & Subject: 3rd Grade

Excerpt from Nomination: Unfortunately, this year Mrs. Peart was quarantined for 2 weeks due to COVID. During this time, my son had to join a different 3rd grade class and would not receive reading instruction while she was out. Reading is an area my son struggles with and Mrs. Peart offered to zoom one-on-one with him while she was quarantined to make sure he still received reading instruction for these 2 weeks! These one-on-one zooms were priceless for my son’s learning and for building a better relationship with Mrs. Peart, even though he isn’t in school face-to-face. To me this was going above and beyond her job. It was something she did not have to do and many teachers would not have. But she did because she truly cares about students and wants to see them succeed! This gesture meant so much to us and our son’s education!

County: Cumberland

Teacher: Keith Long

School District: Cumberland Valley School District

Grade(s) & Subject: 11th and 12th IB History, IB Theory of Knowledge and Civil Rights

Excerpt from Nomination: Mr. Long’s seemingly tireless drive to bring history to life and promote social justice is nothing short of remarkable. He understands that real change can happen by students hearing from those who have most been impacted through injustice. Although these are often difficult conversations, Mr. Long energetically embraces the challenge and most authentically models the power of education. I am confident that our school community has been forever changed due to the efforts of Keith Long.

County: Dauphin

Teacher: Markisha Peace

School District: Harrisburg School District

Grade(s) & Subject: 4th Grade

Excerpt from Nomination: Markisha Peace is a young, African American woman who attended Harrisburg School District as a child. She is a part of the community and has created a strong sense of community, acceptance and love in her classroom (both brick and mortar and virtual.) Each day starts with positive affirmations, that are continuously sprinkled throughout her day. She empowers her students to love and express themselves for the skin that they are in, while respecting and empowering their classmates as well. Everything about Ms. Peace, from her positivity, instruction, emotional support, inviting classroom, love and long-lasting relationships embody class, love and hard work. She is truly an outstanding gem/light amidst the sometimes-challenging lives of our community.

County: Lancaster

Teachers: Lisa Wolf

School District: School District of Lancaster

Grade(s) & Subject: 9th – 12th Grade Visual Arts

Excerpt from Nomination: Lisa Wolf led the department in a valiant effort to organize and assemble 950 take‐home art kits so our students would be able to create their work at home.Our district, the School District of Lancaster, is a Title 1 school and 93% of our students live below the poverty line. Many of our students would not have access to these means and art materials without Lisa’s hard work and planning. Lisa is the definition of dedication to service, her commitment to education could not be stopped by kidney failure, dialysis, the operating table, a global pandemic or 32 years of hard work in public education. When I think about my own path as an educator, the David Bowie line often plays in my head, “We can be heroes, just for one day.” Or in Lisa Wolf’s case every day, for over 30 years.

County: Lebanon

Teacher: Samantha Fink

School District: Cornwall-Lebanon School District

Grade(s) & Subject: Virtual Kindergarten

Excerpt from Nomination: Enter Samantha Fink…rock star kindergarten teacher. From day 1, Piper has loved Ms. Fink, and for good reason. She has somehow managed to convey through the screen to all of her students that infectious excitement that we all value and admire in kindergarten teachers. She has been completely engaged in each session with the children and has made a true effort to get to know Piper on an individual level. We are appreciative beyond words for all of her hard work this year, and for ushering Piper into the world of learning with passion and excitement.

County: Perry

Teacher: Dirk Brown

School District: Susquenita School District

Grade(s) & Subject: 3rd Grade Learning Support

Excerpt from Nomination: The promise of [my granddaughter’s] academic success finally had a plan. This promise came in the form of an amazing man. A teacher who in just a few short months of face-to-face instruction and many days via Zoom, Mr. Dirk Brown has forever changed Piper’s outlook on learning and her self-worth. I have sat in the same room during Zoom meetings, listening and sometimes wiping away tears, listening to the encouragement and the excitement with which this teacher holds his students accountable for their own learning.

County: York

Teacher: Stephen Richards

School District: Spring Grove Area School District

Grade(s) & Subject: 9th – 12th Grade Video Journalism, Film Studies and Integrated Arts

Excerpt from Nomination: Mr. Stephen Richards embodies our district’s vision of Learning Without Limits. Around 2012, Mr. Richards assisted a handful of students as they competed in various film/video competitions. Their early successes were the genesis of what we now call Advanced Video Journalism (AVJ.) Our AVJ students and staff, who have grown significantly in skillset and resources, now livestream ALL extracurricular events. One superintendent recently wrote the following after seeing the livestream of one of our wrestling matches, “Congratulations on producing the most professional athletic live stream that I have experienced. Your commentary has set the bar very high for the rest of

us.”

The WITF and Rotary District 7390 will celebrate both the 2020 and 2021 “Teacher Impact Awards” winners at a virtual awards ceremony on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Attendees will be the first to see videos of each honored teacher, celebrating the joy and enthusiasm they bring to the classroom. All are welcome to join the livestream event online; details and registration are at witf.org/events.

The 30-minute “Teacher Impact Awards” program featuring the 2021 winners will premiere Thursday, June 24 at 8 p.m., and will rebroadcast Saturday, June 26 at 5 p.m. on WITF TV.

WITF will accept nominations for the 2022 “Teacher Impact Awards” in January 2022 at witf.org.

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WITF is a trusted provider of public media news and programming for approximately 2.3 million people in 19 counties of Central Pennsylvania, encouraging children and adults to Live Inspired®. A member station of PBS and NPR, WITF children’s programming includes public television on WITF TV, WITFK PBS KIDS 24/7 channel and the PBS KIDS app. Other services include an English and Spanish website for caregivers of early learners at ready.witf.org, an EITC program Explore in the Classroom and a variety of free family events that bring PBS KIDS Characters, STEAM activities and families together. WITF’s mission is to inspire lifelong learning by connecting people and communities of Pennsylvania through trusted journalism, thoughtful discussion and educational experiences. For more information, visit witf.org.