Women Talk: 10+ Questions With Dorina Sackman, 2014 Florida Teacher Of The Year

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“I believe in a world where every child deserves a quality education.” This is not some empty pageant promise. It’s the foundation on which Dorina Sackman has stood firmly for the last 15 years, while educating and touching the lives of countless English language learners from around the globe. Her teaching style is an impressive trifecta of passion, boundless energy and an outstanding capacity to inspire her students to love learning. So it’s no wonder this Woman You Should Know was just named 2014 Florida Teacher of the Year.

Dorina received the career making honor on July 11 when Florida’s Governor Rick Scott announced her as his state’s Teacher of the Year, a prestigious award and program that has been run by the Florida Department of Education with the support of Macy’s for the last 25 years. An ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher at Westridge Middle School in Orlando, Dorina was chosen from among 189,000 teachers statewide (72 school districts) in recognition of her exceptional contributions in the classroom, teaching and inspiring students of all backgrounds and abilities.

Teacher of the Year Ceremony

By its nature, teaching comes with some intrinsic difficulties. On top of those, Dorina, a native English speaker, has to successfully tackle the added challenges that come with her ESOL specialty… educating children whose first language is NOT English. But the extent of student diversity she encounters is truly mind blowing. Amongst her 8th graders, she can have up to eleven languages being spoken in a single classroom. So Dorina faces the constant struggle of introducing students to concepts that are not only new, but in completely different languages.

How does she do it? Armed with her extensive world travels (she has been to 42 countries, to date), proficiency in 5 languages – English, Portuguese, French, Spanish and Italian (she’s now learning Haitian Creole, Cape Verdean Creole, and Arabic), and self-proclaimed “kooky” teaching style, Dorina treats her classrooms as a stage for children to celebrate their diverse backgrounds while learning English and the necessary skills to become lifelong learners.

FloridaBut as her students and colleagues head back to school in the next week or so, Florida’s new Teacher of the Year will be stepping out of her global classroom at Westridge Middle School on a coast to coast mission as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education. This yearlong teaching sabbatical will have Dorina crisscrossing the Sunshine State on an epic tour to spread the word about educational opportunities and challenges throughout Florida.

Yesterday, as she made her very first public speech as 2014 Florida Teacher of the Year, we had a chance to chat with Dorina about her new role and what teaching means to her. Here’s what she shared.

10 Questions with Dorina Sackman

What initially drew you to teaching?

DS: What initially drew me to teaching is what I tell senior interns who do their practicum in my classroom; that there are two types of teachers. First, there is the innate educator; born to educate since day one. It is a predestined position and they are called to do so. Second is the “always wanted to be a teacher” teacher. It is the person who has another career path but somehow, that path leads to a dead end. However, in the back of their heads, they always say, “I think I’d like to try and be a teacher and see what happens…”.

I was the innate teacher. At 6 years old, when I wasn’t wrapped in a white bed sheet with a toilet bowl seat over my head playing “Angels” with my brother and sister, I was writing all over my Dr. Seuss “Snow” book, making assignments for my sister and playing Miss Beetle or Miss Crabtree from our generation’s most beloved television educators. The latter became a part of me; teaching, leading, educating, training from childhood to womanhood.

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  • nora

    Congratulations to Ms. Sackman! I would loved to have had my children taught by you!!

    • 2014FloridaTeacheroftheYear

      Thank you, Nora! That is, probably, the BEST compliment a teacher can receive! Have a great day! Go WOMEN!! 🙂

  • gargouille

    Anyone working this hard to create cultural bridges that hold people up and working against ignorances that reduce people to pulp has my vote. The young people of this world are lucky to have her. Yay for the power of teaching when it’s done like this!

  • MAB

    I don’t have kids, but from the less than flattering stories I hear from some of my friends with kids about their teachers, this woman – Dorina – has just singlehandedly restored my faith in educators. Even though this is printed piece, I could actually feel her genuine passion for what she does. I second the other commenter below by saying that her students are so lucky to have her. Amazing woman… and her Teacher of the Year title is clearly well deserved. Bravo!



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