5 female finalists compete to win title of Broward Teacher of the Year

(WSVN) - Five women have been selected as finalists in the competition of Broward County Public Schools Teacher of the Year.

They were chosen out of 226 candidates who were voted as the top educators in their respective schools.

The first finalist up for the title is Dr. Miranti Murphy who teaches at Boulevard Heights Elementary School in Hollywood.

She followed her passion instead of her originally planned path of working in medicine. Dr. Murphy has 36 years of teaching experience and has spent the last six as a literacy coach.

“The first thing you do is not fit the child to meet the curriculum, you should get the curriculum to meet the child,” said Dr. Murphy.

She said her experience as a new student from Indonesia in a Broward County school shapes how she approaches the job.

Another finalist is Sarah Zorn-Milmed, who teaches science at West Broward High School in Pembroke Pines.

She came to Florida from Ohio after being recruited at a “Teach at the Beach” Job Fair.

“I definitely miss the seasons and the blooming of all of the flowers in the spring,” said Zorn-Milmed.

But with 18 years of experience in the classroom, Zorn-Milmed said nothing is better than watching her students bloom.

“I decided to become a teacher because I had many great teachers who inspired me growing up,” said Zorn-Milmed.

The third Teacher of the Year finalist is Dr. Iris Payan, who also teaches science.

She has spent her entire 19-year career at Hollywood Hill High School in Hollywood.

This is Dr. Payan’s second time becoming a finalist in the competition.

“It sounds silly but I do feel like I don’t know that I’m doing anything above and beyond,” said Dr. Payan. “I just do what I think is needed for the students to learn.”

The last two finalists are literacy coaches and work at Fort Lauderdale schools.

Cari Rodriguez teaches at Harbordale Elementary School and said she always knew she would work as an educator.

“I always wanted to be a teacher since I was a toddler,” said Rodriguez. “I’m the first teacher in my family.”

She has taught in Broward County classrooms for 22 years but said her last seven at Harbordale Elementary have been her favorite.

“I was a classroom teacher for over 15 years, and I know how hard the position is, how difficult and challenging [it is], and every year there’s a little more on our plate, and so my job is just to make the teacher’s load just a little bit lighter,” said Rodriguez.

The last finalist is Amrita Kethireddy, who has been teaching for more than 15 years.

She has spent the last six years as a literacy coach, three of which have been spent at North Side Elementary School.

“It gives me great joy when children learn something new or understand something and you see a light in their eye,” said Kethireddy.

She said her biggest success story is one she can’t claim solely as her own.

“We had 75% learning gains in reading, and we had over 60% learning gains in math in North Side. We are extremely, extremely proud of our students,” said Kethireddy.

All five women have dedicated their lives to inspiring young people through public education and were voted as the best teachers in a district of nearly 270,000 students.

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