A Palm Beach County teacher who quit her FedEx job to have a better schedule for her 9-year-old son is getting accolades for her competence and compassion in her first year in the classroom.
Crystal Watson, a third-grade teacher at West Riviera Elementary School, was one of 23 teachers and five students recognized at the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce Annual Education Awards at Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa on Wednesday.
“It’s such an amazing feeling,” said Watson, whose principal accompanied her at the awards breakfast. “It’s been very rewarding.”
She worked for FedEx for 18 years before she decided to make a career change, she said.
The chamber recognized teachers from northern Palm Beach County public, private and charter schools and awarded five high school seniors with the John C. Giba Student Leadership Award. Giba was a Tequesta businessman who wanted to invest in the future of young people.
The Giba award recipients are Mira Morgan, Palm Beach Gardens High; Elle Chumlongluk, Suncoast High; Samantha Keating, William T. Dwyer High; Brianna Seaberg, Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts; and Jaquan Starling, Palm Beach Gardens High.
The student award winners had a cumulative 4.7 GPA. Their volunteer activities included cooking meals with Quantum House, distributing shoe boxes full of supplies for homeless people and compiling Christmas stockings for women rescued from human trafficking.
Another student leader filmed a public service announcement about texting and driving that’s been seen around the world, and another writes poetry for children.
Amity Schuyler, the Palm Beach County School District chief of staff, gave the keynote speech written by Barbara McQuinn, the school board member whose district covers northern Palm Beach County. McQuinn, a retired teacher and school administrator, was scheduled to speak but needed back surgery earlier than she expected.
McQuinn praised students for their success despite challenges at home — many qualify for free and reduced lunches — and lauded teachers for the time and love they give.
Schuyler went off-script to close with a story about her second-grade teacher who read “Charlotte’s Web” to the class and saved the ending for the last day of school. Schuyler was traumatized by Charlotte, the spider, dying.
The next day, the first day of summer vacation, her teacher came to her door with a new book for her. It was one from the Encyclopedia Brown series, in which no one died.
With a classroom teacher, “the memory lives on for generations,” Schuyler said.
Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce 2018 Teacher of the Year Award Winners
Patti Nelson, Beacon Cove Intermediate
Bernadette Moran, Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary
Nathaly Ibarra, Howell L. Watkins Middle
Allison Fredericks, Independence Middle
Cyndee Kelly, Jerry Thomas Elementary
Donna VanWeele, Jupiter Farms Elementary
Nora Ugalde, Jupiter High
Donna Purtell, Lighthouse Elementary
Jennifer Hutson, Limestone Creek Elementary
Karen Markwith, Northboro Elementary
Audrey Lang, Northmore Elementary
Melissa Llorens, Palm Beach Gardens High
Toshimi Abe, Riviera Beach Prepatory & Achievement Academy
Rebecca Bowman, Seminole Trails Elementary
Mary Rawson, Suncoast High
Steven Anderson, The Benjamin School
Natricia Finegan, The Conservatory School
Samantha Smith, The Greene School
Jennifer Metzger, The Pine School
Shannon Culp, Timber Trace Elementary
Nicole Childs, Watson B. Duncan Middle School
Crystal Watson, West Riviera Elementary
Ronda Gagnon, William T. Dwyer High School