UF International Center recognizes oustanding area teachers

Published: May 14 2013

Category:Announcements, InsideUF, Top Stories

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida International Center has recognized four area teachers for international endeavors in their classrooms.

The 2013 International K-12 Teacher of the Year Award winner is Donald DeVito from Sidney Lanier Center School. In second and third place are Maria Eugenia Zelaya from Eastside High School and Judith Weaver from High Springs Community School. Robert Ponzio from Oak Hall School receives an honorable mention.

The awards committee looked at the extent to which the applicant’s teaching activities promote internationalization and opportunities for students to become interested in international issues through activities.

The Sidney Lanier Music Program, where DeVito teaches music and special education, is global in scope and is linked with universities and music programs internationally through research, cooperative music projects and professional music education organizations. Examples include projects in Haiti, Pakistan, Guinea, England, Ireland and Brazil in which his students either receive adapted music education activities with universities in these countries or engage with other students and children in creating music and sharing curriculum using Skype and interaction through the International Society for Music Education. DeVito has spearheaded projects that have provided aid and education to international populations.

Zelaya teaches Spanish at Eastside, where she uses computer games and programs for activities to help students master the language, and she incorporates instruction in Latin American culture, as well. In addition to her teaching duties, she sponsors several clubs, including the Spanish club, Eastside Striders and Conferencia, which received first place in a state competition. Maria is also a member of the teaching staff of College for Kids. College for Kids is a summer program for middle school students organized by Community Education at Santa Fe College.

Weaver is the media specialist for middle grades. She recently spearheaded a unit of study centered on the book “A Long Walk to Water,” by Linda Sue Parks. More than 400 students in grades 4-8 read how children in Africa walk for sometimes six hours per day to obtain water. As a culminating activity, on World Water Day, students participated in a rotation of speakers who taught about topics such as water scarcity, groundwater pollution, village life in Sudan and Tanzania, invasive and native species, global warming, water filtration systems and other topics.

Ponzio is the chair of Fine Arts at Oak Hall School, director of the Cofrin Gallery and an internationally exhibiting artist. He and his principal worked together to solidify a partnership school agreement with an excellent secondary school in Changzhou, China. Ponzio was one of the driving forces behind the venture and that they are now in the sixth year of the partnership.

The awards were given on Wednesday, May 8 at the UF International Center during a reception honoring the awardees along with school representatives, family and friends. Finalists and their corresponding schools will receive a monetary award.


Mabel Cardec, mcardec@ufic.ufl.edu, 352-273-1515

Category:Announcements, InsideUF, Top Stories