Every year, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gives the Teacher of the Year award to a teacher who excels in their field. This year, on Wednesday, Sept. 9, MSD administration chose Melissa Falkowski, newspaper advisor and Creative Writing teacher, to receive this award.
Falkowski has been working at MSD for 17 years, with nine years spent advising the Aerie Yearbook program and the last 6 years spent advising the Eagle Eye newspaper program. Since she started with the newspaper, she has grown the program from 14 staffers to over 100 staffers across four periods. She also teaches two periods of Creative Writing.
The process for getting on the ballot was a lengthy one. Teachers and staff members can nominate a teacher, and once those nominations are received, they go to the faculty council. The council, which includes 11 members, then decided to put all three teachers on the ballot. The finalists included Falkowski, ESE specialist Orville Reynolds and English teacher Chelsea Briggs. To win, one must receive two-thirds of the ballot, which no teacher received, so it came down to a run-off between Falkowski and Reynolds, which Falkowski won.
“Mrs. Falkowski has truly served as a great educator and inspiration for me. She continuously motivates her students and puts them in the position to further grow as a staff member and improve their craft,” Eagle Eye Editor-in-Chief Ashley Ferrer said. “There are very few teachers who genuinely care about their students and want to see them succeed, but Falkowski is definitely one of them.”
Falkowski believes one quality that sets her apart from other candidates is the fact that she participates in many different school and county leadership groups.
“I am the designated Broward Teachers Union steward for the school, I’m on the Professional Development committee, I’m on the Positive Behavior committee, I’m on faculty councils and over the summer I helped to train and prepare the staff for online learning,” Falkowski said.
Furthermore, Principal Michelle Kefford also had positive thoughts on Falkowski receiving the award.
“Mrs. Falkowski is an amazing educator, who is committed not only to the success of her own students, but the success of her colleagues as well,” Kefford said. “[She] is a perfect example of an exceptional teacher and woman. I am beyond proud to have her not only represent MSD but to represent all educators in Broward County.”
Falkowski is now eligible for the Broward County Teacher of the Year award because she was chosen as MSD’s Teacher of the Year.
“I have to get 3 letters of recommendation and I have to put together a resume that has very specific information, and then I also have to answer 5 or 6 questions. Then I have to put all of that together in a packet and give it to the principal, who gives it to the county,” Falkowski said. “Then from the pool of all the teachers from all the schools, [the county selects] finalists, and then from the finalists they select a winner.”
The county interviews each finalist once they are selected. In previous years, they would observe them in their classrooms, but it is currently unknown how virtual learning will affect the observation process.
The Broward County Teacher of the Year award recipient will be chosen at the Broward Caliber Awards, which will take place in early 2021.