Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Francisco R. Walker

2021 Teacher of the Year and Rookie Teacher of the Year

Vanessa M. Valle

Teacher of the Year
Hialeah Gardens Senior High School

Vanessa Valle says that 75% of her work as a teacher is to challenge students to believe in themselves; the other 25% is implementing active learning practices for content acquisition. Many students in her intensive reading classes at Hialeah Gardens Senior High comprise the lowest quartile and come into her classroom wishing they had another elective. With heart and perseverance, she creates an enjoyable and engaging atmosphere where students are transformed. Assignments are completed; timidity is replaced with confident expression and exceptional work is produced. Ms. Valle’s belief in her students’ capabilities allows for them to believe in themselves. A deeply committed advocate for young people, she is a mentor and sponsor for the Take Stock in Children program and a “Real Talk” mental health support group at the school. Ms. Valle spearheaded the inception of the very first National Academies Foundation Law Academy in the nation and has worked tirelessly to make her students’ dream of a campus courtroom a reality. Her leadership has also led to creation of school-wide programs to prepare students for college admissions requirements and internships.

Ashley C.R. Vangates

Rookie Teacher of the Year

George Washington Carver Elementary School

The painful loss of her father, solidified Ms. Ashley Vangates’ career path and love of teaching. She conducts wellness assessments of her students to discover non-academic impediments to learning, and works to build caring-sharing relationships with parents and guardians. This knowledge along with data, helps her design and develop various learning modalities that have enhanced her students’ confidence, and in turn resulted in their learning gains on the state’s English Language Arts assessment. Ms. Vangates’ students participate in the learning process as if they were solving a puzzle or performing educational theater. Decorated microphones that allow students to proudly deliver their answers with self-assurance and confidence as well as exercise balls instead of chairs, that research shows improve concentration and focus, are found in her classroom. With her deep passion for mentoring and a determination to spur a metamorphosis in young girls’ lives, Ms. Vangates initiated a partnership with The Links service organization to create the Butter F.L.Y. (First Love Yourself) Mentoring Program. Ms. Vangates inspires her students to believe in themselves, uncover their abilities and never, ever give up.