Superintendent Jeff Eakins addressed the audience, “The HCPS Teacher of the Year for 2018 is…” After a brief pause, he opened the envelope and said ”Maria Torres-Crosby!” I had zero expectation of being selected to represent our district, so I was not nervous or anxious. I was grateful and humbled to be one of the six finalists, but to be selected the winner was unbelieveable. I looked at my husband with shock and awe. “No freaking way!” I said. When I didn’t move he yelled, “Yes, I told you!”
As I walked up onto the stage all I could think was “Why me?” What could I have possibly done to deserve such an honor and recognition? I had no speech prepared, so I spoke from the heart. I thanked God, my family, fellow educators, and expressed my gratitude towards all the beautiful souls who impacted me and whom I have impacted. As the days and weeks passed there was an outpouring of love and support from my friends, family, students, parents, and fellow educators and yet I still felt unworthy and undeserving. Of the more than 15,000 educators in this district why me? What was so special about Maria from Brooklyn, N.Y.?
This summer the state roundtable and gala changed that feeling. This is when the state teacher of the year is selected. It consisted of three days of talks and workshops and getting to know the other districts winners, as well as the gala at the Hard Rock Café at Universal Studios. Meeting with last years’ state TOY Jessica Solano, our own district and state TOY Diane McKee, and the other 73 District Teachers of the Year I began to feel validation in the reasons why I was selected. My passion for teaching, my caring nature, my candor and my willingness to grow and learn.
I have no children so my students become my children. I call them “my kids” not “my students” and I treat them accordingly. I was reminded of the words a former student, who escorted me on stage said, “Maria is an amazing educator, but most importantly an amazing human being.” These words struck a chord with me, I teach because I want to inspire students the way teachers inspired me.
During various times in my own public school education I had teachers who supported me, guided me, encouraged me, and made me feel like I had a purpose in life. They were there for me during some very dark and difficult times in my adolescence. They did so much more than teach the content. They taught me tolerance, acceptance, and love. These are the teachers I wish to emulate.
So now what? So now I will use this title to foster the ideals and values that are with me every day in the classroom. I will represent HCPS educators with pride and integrity. I will take that passion, caring, candor, and willingness to learn and share it with my students, parents, fellow faculty members, and educators. I will advocate for students and educators. I will continue to grow and learn as an educator. I teach, I guide, I support, I encourage, I validate, and I treat every student the way I would want my own children treated, the way I was treated. I am not just a teacher, but an inspirer of hope and a giver of love.
Maria Torres-Crosby lives for the relationships she builds with her students at Memorial Middle School where she has taught for 20 years. She holds an M.S. from Long Island University. Her professional accomplishments include National Board Certification, Inclusionary Individual of the Year, and College Board Teacher of Distinction. As the National Junior Honor Society sponsor, she leads students in the Breast Cancer Walk-A-Thon, canned food drives, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Pasta for Pennies, and other community services. In her personal life, Maria volunteers as a church educator, and she cherishes quiet time with her husband, her cat, and books.