An English teacher who has her hand in many school activities beyond the classroom was named the Philadelphia School District's teacher of the year last night.
Gina S. Hart, 29, who has taught at the Bodine High School for International Affairs since 2002, was feted at the Franklin Institute.
Hart said in an interview yesterday that she was "blown away" to know she was one of 11 finalists. (The name of the winner was kept a surprise until last night's banquet.)
"I'm only teaching six years, and there are so many people who have had more experience and done a lot more. It's a great honor."
Hart, her nominators said, brings "a lively spirit to the learning environment," shows "overwhelming devotion to her students," and seeks extra training to improve her craft.
It's hard to find an activity that Hart is not involved in at her Northern Liberties school. She has run the poetry club, the Latino writers' forum, and the mentally gifted program. She sponsors the Asian club, the theater program and the yearbook, and she coaches the academic club.
Hart also was one of 61 district high school teachers recognized for excellence by the Lindback Foundation this month.
The teacher-of-the-year award is named after Ruth Wright Hayre, a district educator who died in 1998. The honor recognizes excellence in planning and growth, high expectations for students, classroom environment, self-reflection, professional growth, and commitment to equity and cultural sensitivity.
It is sponsored by Lincoln Investment Planning Inc. and carries a $2,500 stipend. The award was one of several presented at a ceremony held in partnership with Comcast and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
As a student at Cherry Hill High School West, Hart was involved in many activities, and she said she wanted to give her students the same opportunity.
On Martin Luther King's Birthday, she drove students to her alma mater, Swarthmore College, for a tour.
"I don't have a family, so I can spend a lot of time at school," she said.
She found her love for teaching as a college student.
"I started out as a political-science major and quickly found out I wanted to teach and not argue," she said.
Bodine principal Ann Gardiner called Hart "a gem" who "says yes to everything the kids need."
Senior Quynhdiem Lam marveled at Hart's willingness to work hard.
"Despite her busy schedule, Ms. Hart comes to work every day with a lot of enthusiasm," Lam said. "Sometimes I think that Ms. Hart is not even human, but a robot."
Hart and the other 10 finalists each received a complimentary round-trip ticket to any Southwest Airlines destination in the United States.
The other finalists were Bernadette Choice, South Philadelphia High School; Marc M. Geller, Elkin Elementary School; Sherri Kanfer, Welsh Elementary School; Lila King, Comly Elementary School; Joseph David Marchetti, Philadelphia High School for Girls; Nina Miller, Blankenburg Elementary School; Renée A. Singletary, Conwell Middle School; Christina M. Sosangelis, Fitler Elementary School; Christina L. Taylor, M.H. Stanton Elementary School; and Kristina Walrath, Shaw Middle School.
Other awards presented last night included:
Marcus A. Foster Award for outstanding district administrator:
Yvonne J. Jones, principal of Motivation High School in the city's Eastwick section. The award comes with a $2,500 stipend from the Freedom Credit Union.
Leon J. Obermayer Award for outstanding alumnus:
Edward Hoffman, principal of Conwell Middle School in Kensington and an alumnus of Central High School. He will receive a $2,500 stipend from the law firm of Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell & Hippel.
Richard H. de Lone Memorial Scholarship of $4,800 for an outstanding senior at a high school academy:
Julius Davis, Communications Academy at Roxborough High School. De Lone scholarships of $1,000 went to to Johangelie Thomas, Kensington International Business High School, Business Academy; Samantha Wright, West Philadelphia High School, Automotive and Mechanical Engineering Academy; and Lychhay Kim, Edward W. Bok Technical High School, Academy of Process Technology.
Ruth Wright Hayre "Grow Your Own" Scholarships:
New this year, these encourage students to major in teaching and then work in the district. The winners - a college freshman and four high school seniors, have agreed to teach in the district for at least three years, They are Niela Orr, alumna of the Urban Education Academy, Parkway West High School; Corey Hicks and Mercedezes Williams, Urban Education Academy, Parkway West High School; and Sierra Miles and Kelli Perry, Urban Education Academy, Overbrook High School.