Deb Rooney, a third-grade teacher at Bradford Heights Elementary School in the Downingtown Area School District, was one of three local educators honored with the grand prize of the Citadel Heart of Learning Awards.
Rooney, George Hankins of the Colonial School District in Montgomery County, and Louis Lozzi of the Philadelphia School District each won a total of $10,000 ($5,000 for themselves and $5,000 for their school).
The three winners were announced last Monday at The Mann Center for Performing Arts during the Citadel Heart of Learning Awards ceremony, which honored a total of 31 teachers from the region. The 28 other teachers won more than $1,000, glass-blown heart awards, and prizes.
The grand prizes were awarded to a teacher at each level (elementary, middle, and high school).
“Across Greater Philadelphia, our counties, towns, and districts have varied challenges and students with diverse needs,” said Mike Schnably, Senior Vice President, Citadel Credit Union. “What all areas have in common is there are dedicated teachers building strength in education. Celebrating teachers, the unsung heroes who mold our children, continues to be one of Citadel’s proudest moments as an organization each year.”
Rooney, who has been teaching for 33-plus years, leads several after-school programs, is creative with her curriculum, and incorporates life skills into her lessons. Whether it’s encouraging the students to contribute gifts for people in need during the holidays, helping a new student adjust and make friends, or tutoring a student struggling with virtual learning, Rooney is the kind of patient and caring teacher every student deserves.
Hankins, a teacher at Colonial Middle School, has been teaching U.S. History and Social Studies for more than 20 years. His students, their parents, and his peers say he’s an amazing teacher who goes above and beyond to make learning meaningful. Students rave about how he brings “nothing but positive energy” to the classroom by having students reenact historical events, wearing a tie associated with the theme of a lesson, or dying his hair green for school pride.
“Mr. Hankins makes sure everyone in the class understands the lesson before moving on, and he doesn’t judge,” said one student. “He taught us that we should think about what we learn, not what we ‘do’ in school. Because of him, I always say ‘This is what I learned in school today.’ He writes a journal at the end of every day, so he can reflect on it after each year.”
Lozzi, a teacher at Paul Robeson High School, developed a college and career readiness program that assists students in forging a personalized pathway to success following graduation. His work as the leader of the Math and Science Department has helped the school achieve a 95 percent graduation rate, which is significantly higher than the Philadelphia School District’s average of 70 percent. With personal endorsements from Mayor Jim Kenney and the City Council of Philadelphia, Lozzi is not only committed to advancing student achievement, but his program initiatives and community partnership have become models for providing equitable opportunities for students of color in Philadelphia.
The Citadel Heart of Learning Awards program started 21 years ago in partnership with the Chester County Intermediate Unit to recognize local teachers who show dedication in and outside of the classroom with a unique sense of heart and dedication. The program recently expanded to include all of Greater Philadelphia.
More than 400 people attended the celebration at The Mann Center, including Pennsylvania Department of Education Executive Secretary Debora Carrera.
Learn more about Citadel Credit Union.