November 8, 2018

2018 Richard Dewey Award Winners

Charter School Capital Dewey AwardsWe are so honored to have received such amazing, heartfelt, and inspirational submissions for our 2018 Richard Dewey Awards. Over 100 stories of teachers making a difference were shared with us. 

The caliber of submissions made selecting our three winners a very challenging task for our panel of judges. Because the stories were just so incredibly good this year, we decided to pick FOUR winners instead of just three to receive the $1000 grants that will be given to a charter school of their choosing! 

Here are the FOUR winning stories in their entirety (and in no particular order):


Cristian Alicea
6th grade
Caridad Broche
Pinecrest Cove Preparatory Academy

Touching Lives One Student at a Time

Have you ever felt the warmth of a smile, or the genuine love from a hug? Imagine having that for THREE years in a row- now imagine being in third grade and you just finished the school year, summer passes by quickly and next thing you know you are in fourth grade- you are growing and are worried about tests, quizzes and other students. Little did you know this was going to be the year that has the best teacher you will ever have. This was me in fourth grade, I had Mrs. Broche and she changed my life for the better. She has been the best teacher I have ever had and has also changed my way of thinking through life’s moments.

One of the many things Mrs. Broche has done to help me is to support me while I was going through the passing of a loved one. I spent the first 9 years of my life with my grandma- she taught me the importance of everything and was my best friend. I woke up one day to realize that in the room next door she had suddenly passed away. I did not know what to do- or how to react, but I knew that I had to tell one person, Mrs. Broche. When I told her she hugged me and talked to me and listened to me, she gave me a warm smile and told me that my grandma would always be with me and that now I was her grandson. I never thought that a teacher would be able to help me through one of the most difficult moments in my life, but I was so thankful for her help and how she knew the right words to say to help me go through them.

Mrs. Broche also showed me how to prioritize, my Mom is thankful for that, she taught me that is important to have fun, but you first need to work hard. During class we would have to work hard writing essays and completing group projects- but the games followed. Every year with her she showed me the importance of not complaining about bookwork, because then we would be able to do projects with our friends- and she sometimes even let us talk in class. In the end, she has shown me many things that help us every day and will continue to help us in the future.

Lastly, A teacher that truly cares is hard to find but Mrs. Broche has taught me to never give up on my dreams, she continues to teach me still today in 6th grade and goes above and beyond to make sure that I am learning. She makes sure that I am successful and cheers me on even during the toughest school days. The best part is that Mrs. Broche has always been there for me, since I first met her- and she continues to be there. She has cheered me up and made me happy in times of sadness. She has also changed the way I see the most important things in my life and has proven to me that I need to work hard to achieve my dreams. I have been very lucky to have felt the warmth of a smile, and the genuine love from a hug- and you know what, if you meet Mrs. Broche, you might be able to feel that way too!


Katelyn Dorry
9th Grade
Donna Hanson-Kaasa
Northern Lights Community School


Catherine Flaherty
Art Teacher
Mr. Pittenger
Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School

Voice and Heart Grand Canyon Deep

He was stocky with a receding crew cut, thick glasses and a voice deeper than the Grand Canyon. He could teach our class equations-PROFICIENTLY-from a reclined office chair and feet up on his desk. His name is Mr. Pittenger and he was my 6th grade math teacher. Mr. Pittenger had a way of controlling our class without standing up or raising his voice. You see, he was a former military man, and used that experience, his deep voice, and a little sarcasm to keep the class in order. Troublemakers stayed in line, the slackers got moving, and the well-behaved were commended in Mr. Pittenger’s class. He wasn’t the conventional teacher and probably didn’t take classes on differentiated learning or redirecting behavior, but students were in line and material was instructed. Most importantly, we learned algebra.

Back in the 6th grade, I was quiet, reserved, studious and excelled in school. I was thin, pale and anemic. I had a small circle of friends, but didn’t have much fun. I was also an easy target for Jennifer V., a big bully in our 6th grade class. As I was walking home one day at dismissal, Jennifer V. hit me with her bike in the middle of 142nd Avenue. I laid there in the road, stopping traffic, crying and bleeding, with a sprained ankle…until Mr. Pittenger and Mr. Redman arrived. Mr. Redman was another favorite teacher of mine. Imagine a red bearded lumberjack and you’ve envisioned Mr. Redman. Effortlessly, they scooped me up and carried me inside the school. I returned to school a few days later, fearful of the repercussions of Jennifer V. and my mother, who now had a vendetta to fulfill against the bully. To my surprise, Mr. Pittenger and Mr. Redman presented me with a veggie tray and a message: ‘You were so heavy being carried in after your “accident” that we thought you could use this to lose a little weight.’ Again, not a conventional, “teacher move” but it made me, and more importantly, my mother, LAUGH. The rest of the year went off without a hitch. I recovered, started to stand up to Jennifer V. and earned all 4 PRIDE awards at the end of my middle school years. I began babysitting for Mr. Pittenger’s two sons all through high school. Mr. Pittenger and his wife, Jan, treated me like family.

At the end of high school, I was pondering the next course in life to take, law enforcement or teaching. I turned to Mr. Pittenger, also a former military police officer. He could see my angst in wanted to get started right away and steered me towards law enforcement. Note that by the end of high school, I was no longer the quiet, reserved young girl but rather an outspoken and fun-loving teenager. Everything fell into place and I became a Clearwater police officer at the age of 19. For the next 14 years I worked in patrol, training, was an undercover detective for several years and eventually taught in 14 elementary schools as “Officer Friendly.” Mr. and Mrs. Pittenger came to my wedding. Occasionally, Mr. Pittenger and I would meet for breakfast and I would share interesting cases from work with him. We caught each other up on the paths of our children. His sons followed in his footsteps and joined the military. Mine were still babies. He continued to ask me to call him Jim as I was now an adult and had four kids of my own, but I couldn’t. He would always be Mr. Pittenger to me. As life does, mine had its peaks and valleys. I have been an Art teacher at Plato Academy for the past 5 years. I’ve fulfilled both my dreams I once had as a high school graduate…and many more unsuspected ones. That is a story I now share with students. You can be anything you want…and more. I haven’t spoken to Mr. Pittenger for several years, but our last breakfast included an invite to his cabin in Tennessee. The kids and I could vacation there and visit him at his new job at Dollywood. I could share that I am now, also, a proud parent of a soldier. My oldest son is 18 and is now a Marine. I think I’ll go call the man with the heart and voice deeper than the Grand Canyon and tell him, “Thank you, Mr. Pittenger, for being my teacher.”


Amara Lee Brenner
Teacher
Allan Benton & Ruth Dutton
Sycamore Valley Academy

There are times when your life stops and pivots. If you are lucky, life grants you the time to pause. If you are wise, you make a careful, informed decision. It is in the times that life doesn’t grant you the time, that the heroes reveal themselves. This was the beginning of Sycamore Valley Academy.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Once upon a public school, there was a little girl, prevented from going out to her recess because she didn’t finish the task at hand. Her kindergarten assignment was to color, cut and paste. She was busy with something else. She did not finish the task. Thus, she stayed in. Her mother comes to pick her up at school and asks about her day.

“What were you doing while the rest of the class was coloring?” asks her mother.

“I was reading.”

When it was revealed that this little girl was Gifted, and well beyond coloring and pasting, her teacher gave her a puzzle in the corner, while the rest of the class did worksheets. The mother tried to work with her teachers, but her daughter was always over there, in the corner, separate, special… bored and lonely.

The pivotal moment for this mom, this daughter, was a Halloween night eight years ago. On that late night, that mother crossed her fingers, filled out the right paperwork, answered the door to Trick-or-Treaters and started her own charter school.

The application was accepted. Ruth Dutton had begun Sycamore Valley Academy.

Of course, all good stories have a twist. This story is no different.

Let’s start again.

Once upon a wish, my little sweet boy was born in 2008. He was a chubby little wonder, like all little babies. Unlike the other child, gifted in so many ways, my child was not. His gifts were hiding behind a neurological disorder. I knew regular kindergarten was not for him, nor was Special Education. My little boy and her little girl were both square pegs in a round world.

I looked around my town, my county and I put him on all kinds of waiting lists. One of which was Sycamore Valley Academy.

In kindergarten, he slept under the table. In first grade, no one from his class came to his birthday party. In second grade, I had the dreaded meeting with his teacher. I knew what she was going to say. As I walked into the meeting, the administration was already set up and waiting, too. I swallowed, and smiled, waiting for them to tell me all the ways my boy did not measure up. And here is the miracle.

Mr. Benton discussed his writing growth, not his writing grade. Mr. Benton told me about the friend he had, and told me stories of them both chasing and laughing together. Mr. Benton was encouraging that relationship, and using it to foster more social skills and emotional growth. The teacher tried to interject and tell me how he compared to the other kids, to his peers, to the normal ones, the regular ones. Mr. Benton told me a different story, of a little boy who was blossoming, in his own way, in his own time and growing, growing, growing. All I heard was, “I see your son’s gifts are hiding. We are going to find them and showcase them.”

When my boy started fourth grade, I started my first year as a Sycamore Valley teacher. I walked my children up from the parking lot and Mr. Benton called both them both by name, as he does with every other child in the school.

Mr. Benton has the skills to run a school, to run a business, to keep the kids safe and learning, to write a lunch schedule, to pass the fire inspection. What sets Mr. Benton apart is that he has another set of skills: He sees the child, not the test score; he sees the sadness hiding behind the angry outburst; he loves the little one still growing inside the big kids. Mr. Benton sees potential, not problems.

The story of two children intersects at Sycamore Valley. Each one found a place to be free, to be loved, to be valued, to be strong, to be educated. Neither square peg had to change themselves to fit in. Mr. Benton makes sure of that.

Ms. Ruth Dutton made the school but Mr. Benton made its heartbeat.


Charter School Capital CEO and Co-Founder Stuart Ellis and Richard Dewey have remained close throughout the years, a testament to the powerful impact Mr. Dewey had on Stuart’s life.

Take a look at little eight-year-old Stuart Ellis with Mr. Dewey!

Richard Dewey Awards

The two had a ball at game five of the recent 2018 World Series. Here’s a “little-bit-older” Stuart Ellis with his most inspiring educator, Mr. Richard Dewey.

Richard Dewey Awards

We are so thrilled to honor outstanding educators with our Annual Richard Dewey Awards and are already looking forward to reading next year’s submissions. Thank you to everyone who participated in this celebration of teachers making a difference.


Thank you again, to our esteemed panel of judges:

Richard Dewey – THE Dewey that the awards are named after! Richard Dewey was the 3rd-grade teacher to Charter School Capital President and CEO, Stuart Ellis, inspiring the whole program. 

Darlene Chambers – A national leader in education reform, Dr. Darlene Chambers is the Senior Vice President for Programs & Services at the National Charter Schools Institute, and a review alum from 2017.

John Cairns – Often referred to as a grandfather of Charter law, John Cairns was the nation’s first Charter School attorney. Today, he remains passionately involved in charter school policy and is a review alum from last year. 

Janet Johnson – Chief Marketing Officer at Charter School Capital and internal teacher/ inspiration officer herself (though she’s too humble to admit it), Janet is a review alum from last year. 

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