After undergoing rigorous evaluations and observations, GDOE has named their Teacher of the Year for School Year 2021.
Since 1971, a handful of teachers have been nominated every year for their accomplishments, contributions, and commitment to their profession.
This year, out of 6 finalists, GDOE awarded Dr. Benjamin “Benjie” Santiago the title of Teacher of the Year.
Dr. Benjie, as he’s known to colleagues, has been a teacher with GDOE for 26 years.
For 15 of those years, he taught cultural dance and journalism at Agueda I. Johnston Middle School.
When PNC asked what he felt upon receiving the award, Santiago said he honestly felt relieved.
“This journey wasn’t a one year journey, it was a two-year one. I’m not sure if you know the back story but we were all in this pool of potential candidates for Teacher of the Year since the year before. So the journey started, then the pandemic hit so the whole process came to a halt, and really, they had to convince us to come back because we were mandated with everything pandemic,” Santiago said.
He added: “I guess I’m thankful that I was able to be bestowed this big honor.”
Santiago believes that even with the hardships teachers faced, especially during the pandemic, the rewards are just as great.
“No matter where you are in life as a school teacher, it will always be rewarding. It’s a very cyclical process, it just continues on and I think that’s one of the biggest rewards when students tap you on the shoulder and say , I remember when you did this and you did that,” Santiago said.
He added: “We as teachers are taught to positively reinforce students whether it’s a pat on the back, whether it be physical or mental, and just give them that nice pat on the back and let them know they’re doing a great job and I think every teacher, especially during this time knows that. Every teacher deserves to be teacher of the year.”
Along with his career in education, Santiago encourages and inspires others to live healthy lives as an instructor at a local fitness center.
As Teacher of the Year, he says wants to listen and learn from all of the teachers, his colleagues, and administrators.
He also wants to mentor, lead and remind teachers that their passion to teach should be what drives them to continue on throughout their careers.