Local teacher gets high praise

Al­though she has not won just yet, Kim Gav­in, from Cramp Ele­ment­ary, is one of nine fi­nal­ists for the School Dis­trict’s Teach­er of the Year Award.

Kim Gav­in, a teach­er at Wil­li­am Cramp Ele­ment­ary, was nom­in­ated for the pres­ti­gi­ous Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre Teach­er of the Year award. Here she is help­ing stu­dents con­struct a Love Park set for the school’s tal­ent show.

By Eric Herr

For The Star

Stor­ies about per­son­al achieve­ment, rais­ing the bar and hav­ing a pas­sion for ex­cel­lence are some­times tough to find amid head­lines rife with mar­it­al in­fi­del­ity, cata­clys­mic nat­ur­al dis­asters, in­ter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism and skyrock­et­ing fuel costs, not to men­tion murders, armed rob­ber­ies and oth­er as­sor­ted crimes.

But that’s OK with Kens­ing­ton’s Kim Gav­in, a teach­er at the Wil­li­am Cramp Ele­ment­ary School at Ontario and Mascher streets. She’s one of nine fi­nal­ists for this years pres­ti­gi­ous Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre Teach­er of the Year Award.

“Lets face it, drama sells and it al­ways will,” she mused. “But, re­gard­less of some of­ten tra­gic events that un­fold around us, I think it’s im­port­ant to stay fo­cused on the pos­it­ives in life and look at each new day as an op­por­tun­ity to make a dif­fer­ence in the lives of oth­ers.”

It’s that kind of op­tim­ism and pas­sion that drives Kim Gav­in, who is ad­mit­tedly en­er­gized and amazed daily by her pu­pils in kinder­garten through the sixth grade.

Fel­low fac­ulty mem­bers and many oth­ers have noted her en­thu­si­asm and over-the-top ef­forts in ad­van­cing edu­ca­tion­al ex­cel­lence and in­stilling a sense of con­fid­ence in her pu­pils.

Cramp Ele­ment­ary School Prin­cip­al Deanda Lo­gan, who nom­in­ated Gav­in for the award, now in its 27th year, said the hon­or is well-de­served.

“It was the con­sensus of her col­leagues that Kim is not only an out­stand­ing art teach­er but an ex­traordin­ary team mem­ber who daily goes above and bey­ond to chal­lenge, en­rich and sup­port the needs of her stu­dents, her col­leagues and the par­ents, and the school com­munity at large,” said Lo­gan.

Gav­in, an up­state New York­er in­trigued with Phil­adelphia’s rich his­tory and many cul­tur­al of­fer­ings, moved to Kens­ing­ton back in 1999 and has had an on­go­ing love af­fair with the city ever since.

She worked as a graph­ic de­sign­er be­fore the teach­ing bug bit and, for Gav­in, it was truly one of those light bulb mo­ments.

“I was listen­ing to a ra­dio sta­tion in New Or­leans over the In­ter­net and they were talk­ing about how im­port­ant it is to have teach­ers who are pas­sion­ate about what they do. So, I went back to school, got my teach­ing cer­ti­fic­ate at Moore Col­lege of Art and Design and star­ted teach­ing,” re­called Gav­in, cur­rently a can­did­ate for a mas­ter’s de­gree in art edu­ca­tion with an em­phas­is in spe­cial pop­u­la­tions at Moore.

Lynne Horoschak, gradu­ate pro­gram man­ager for the mas­ters in art edu­ca­tion at Moore, is proud of this unique pro­gram.

“It’s the only one of its kind in the coun­try that works with art in­struct­ors to en­able the learn­ing of chil­dren with dis­ab­il­it­ies through art,” said Horoschak, who even­tu­ally hopes to ex­pand the pro­gram to in­clude seni­or cit­izens.

Horoschak is work­ing closely with Kim, her former stu­dent, as well as oth­er mas­ter’s de­gree can­did­ates on a pro­ject tan­gen­tially tied in with a broad­er cur­riculum called Lit­er­acy Through Pho­to­graphy.

This grant-fun­ded ini­ti­at­ive en­cour­ages stu­dents to take pho­to­graphs about their dreams, their fam­il­ies or of whatever else they wish and then write a story about those pic­tures.

“These works are ab­so­lutely phe­nom­en­al and were cre­ated by kids who have struggled with lit­er­acy and writ­ing all their lives,” notes Gav­in en­thu­si­ast­ic­ally, adding that many of her stu­dents wrote page after page about the pho­to­graphs they took.

Ac­cord­ing to Gav­in, one stu­dent even wrote a book about en­emies be­com­ing friends.

The gen­er­al pub­lic can see the Lit­er­acy Through Pho­to­graphy ex­hib­i­tion, show­cas­ing both the pho­to­graphy and writ­ings from five schools in­clud­ing Cramp Ele­ment­ary, at Moore Col­lege of Art and Design, through Sept. 10.

As a Phil­adelphia School Dis­trict art teach­er with more than 30 years ten­ure to her cred­it be­fore com­ing to Moore, Horoschak has de­veloped a keen in­stinct for spot­ting tal­ent.

“Kim is ex­traordin­ary and what makes her stand out is her pas­sion for teach­ing and for her stu­dents,” Horoschak said, adding that she would love to see a sim­il­ar pas­sion in all edu­cat­ors.

She, like so many oth­ers has con­trib­uted to get­ting Kim Gav­in’s name on the short list for the highly ac­claimed and pres­ti­gi­ous Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre Teach­er of the Year Award.

Ac­cord­ing to Bar­bara Far­ley, a spokes­wo­man for the Phil­adelphia School Dis­trict, the long­stand­ing award, named after Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre (1910-1998) is in its 27th year.

“Doc­tor Hayre was tre­mend­ously ac­com­plished in so many areas and was al­ways a staunch ad­voc­ate of edu­ca­tion, es­pe­cially as it re­lated to urb­an teen­agers in Phil­adelphia,” notes Far­ley.

She goes on to cite many “firsts” for Doc­tor Hayre, in­clud­ing be­ing the first full-time Afric­an-Amer­ic­an high school teach­er in the Phil­adelphia pub­lic school sys­tem, the first Afric­an-Amer­ic­an seni­or high school prin­cip­al as well as the first wo­man to serve as pres­id­ent of the Phil­adelphia Board of Edu­ca­tion.

Hayre also re­ceived hon­ors and awards from dozens of loc­al and na­tion­al or­gan­iz­a­tions, in­clud­ing the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania and the NAACP.

The award win­ner, se­lec­ted from a field of nine fi­nal­ists, will re­ceive a $2,500 sti­pend from Lin­coln In­vest­ment Plan­ning Inc. and the oth­er eight teach­ers will re­ceive $250 each from the dis­trict.

The honoree will be named soon, school dis­trict of­fi­cials said.

Kim Gav­in is humbled by even the thought of nom­in­a­tion for this award and is quick to men­tion that no one can be suc­cess­ful without the sup­port of col­leagues, fam­ily, friends and the com­munity.

Her philo­sophy and secrets to suc­cess are simple: set high ex­pect­a­tions and raise the bar.

“At the be­gin­ning of the year, I set the ground rules so all my stu­dents know what they can ex­pect of me and what I ex­pect of them,” she said. “I al­ways em­phas­ize that the ul­ti­mate qual­ity of any fin­ished work comes first and ask my stu­dents if they think their pro­jects are de­serving of an A grade.”

Gav­in ad­ded that, through in­ter­act­ive eval­u­ation and a con­struct­ive feed­back pro­cess, a pu­pil is far more likely to take own­er­ship of the task at hand and has a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing and ap­pre­ci­ation of his or her pro­ject.

“Now more than ever, our kids need to have people who are en­gaged with them at all levels and can re­late in a very per­son­al and mean­ing­ful way,” she said. ••

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