By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
Two archdiocesan school teachers were among 15 honorees from Pennsylvania and New Jersey who received “Teacher as Hero” awards during ceremonies at Philadelphia’s National Liberty Museum March 23.
Honored were Jessica Marine of St. Francis de Sales School in Philadelphia and Gerri Garofalo of Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster.
The annual Teacher as Hero program, sponsored by State Farm Insurance, recognizes outstanding educators for excellence, commitment, leadership, conflict resolution and community service.
“Our honorees excel at preparing the next generation of Philadelphians and beyond for future challenges,” said Gwen Borowsky, CEO and vice president of the National Liberty Museum. “All teachers make a footprint on a student’s life, but our winners make deeper ones than others.”
In her citation Marine was described as “a passionate teacher of life lessons … she makes education relevant by using topics that speak to student experiences and conditions, such as the dangers of ‘sexting’ and cyberbullying. She maintains a safe classroom, a neutral zone where students can voice their dreams or fears without ridicule.”
Marine, who teaches sixth-grade English, described the award as “a complete honor. It pushes me to be even better for my kids – the students.”
Today’s students, she said, are very involved in technology and the Internet, and “they don’t realize how vulnerable it makes them.”
For her part, she is very familiar with the National Liberty Museum.
“I have taken students there and fell in love with it, it is so cool,” she said.
Garofalo is not only a teacher at Wood since 1973, she is a graduate herself.
Her citation describes her as “a compassionate sociology and psychology teacher who made a deliberate choice to become an educator and community leader, where the need is greatest, dedicating her work to spanersity education and combating cyberbullying.”
Her senior year sociology and psychology course is an elective, but nevertheless, she has five classes, which suggests the popularity of it.
“The students take it because they like it,” Garofalo said. While the class covers many topics, self-image is one of them, and “it is really important to talk about bullying at all levels,” she added.
Garofalo is also familiar with the National Liberty Museum, having taken a course for teachers there herself.
The National Liberty Museum, located at 321 Chestnut St., near Independence Hall, is dedicated to preserving freedom and democracy by fostering good character and understanding for all people through education.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.