Stephanie Valderrama

Stephanie Valderrama of South Beloit, is in her fifth year at Rockford Environmental Science Academy, where she teaches Sixth Grade Multi-Language Lab plus Spanish for 7th and 8th grades. She has 11 years of experience teaching middle school. Stephanie “uses research-based best practices to challenge the students to meet her high expectations, but does so in a way that connects to their interests and learning styles,” according to fellow teacher, Annika Doering. Or, as students who nominated her see it, “She makes everything she teaches understandable and fun”! Stephanie’s first year of teaching was life-changing. Fighting, yelling, bullying and threats were daily events. Many students had been expelled from other Miami-Dade schools, lived with parental separation, abuse and gang activity. And despite being the neediest school, her school received little funding, to the point that the only books provided were those in such poor shape that the public schools had discarded them. No computers, supplies or curriculum were provided. After a hurricane destroyed this school, the students were relocated to the elementary campus, where teachers had to share rooms and create classrooms out of any space available, including a broom closet! Many teachers quit mid-year. Stephanie stayed until the school was closed at the end of the year.  She shared that she “left with many lessons, and a commitment to education that has kept me in the field fighting for students every school year.”