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Forest City Adventist School Teacher Receives National Award

posted on June 08, 2012, under Education by

by Kaleigh Benge

Joan Waite was presented a 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award May 20 during graduation exercises for Forest City Adventist School at Forest City Spanish Church in Altamonte Springs. Andy McDonald, who volunteers for the Alumni Awards Foundation, presented the award on behalf of the organization. Pictured from left: Valeria Cruz, grades 2-3 teacher; Melanie Paschal, grades 3-4 teacher; Joan Waite, grades 7-8 teacher, Alipia González, Forest City Adventist School Principal; Mayra Rodríguez, Florida Conference Associate Superintendent of Education; Andy McDonald, Florida Hospital Church pastor; Sam Paschal, Forest Lake Academy chaplain; and Sandra Doran, Florida Conference Associate Superintendent of Education. (Photo: Peter Prado)

Joan Waite, seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Forest City Adventist School, Altamonte Springs, Fla., is among 10 teachers selected from across North America this spring by the Alumni Awards Foundation (AAF) to receive a 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award. This year’s award includes a medallion and a $2,000 gift sponsored by Union College, Lincoln, Nebr.

Waite brings classroom lessons to life at Forest City Adventist School with an immersion approach to teaching. For example, during their study of the Civil War, students draw lots to side with the North or South. After conducting research, they make flags for their side, create canteens and cooking equipment, and set up an outdoor camp. Battles from the Civil War are then reenacted.

Helping students realize their full potential, Waite guides them in the discovery of their gifts while encouraging them to be leaders around the school. Each week, students visit the kindergarten and first-grade classrooms where they participate in “reading buddy sessions.”

Joan, left, makes studying the Civil War and coordinating reenactments part of her curriculum. Pictured from left are some of the seventh-grade students inside the Andersonville Prison Camp: Biankha Hughes, Sabrina Gomez, Katty Chavarria, Alisha George, Allan Rodríguez, and Seth Gimenez. (Photo: Yvonne Fines)

After studying the scriptures in Bible class, Waite’s students lead a week of prayer for younger children. Students and parents have requested Bible studies as a direct result of Waite’s impact. Following an invitation for students to attend evangelistic meetings at Forest City Spanish Church, two were baptized.

When students graduate from Forest City Adventist School, many become tutors in math and reading for fellow ninth graders. Waite also serves as a mentor to new teachers in Florida Conference and often leads monthly teacher in-service training.

Nominated by principals, superintendents, colleagues, and former students, the 10 teachers selected from across the nation to receive a 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award are celebrated by peers, the local church, and community for their impact on Seventh-day Adventist education. AAF recognized Waite on May 20 during Forest City Adventist School’s eighth-grade graduation ceremonies.

Joan was one of 10 teachers across North America selected by the Alumni Awards Foundation to receive a 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award. (Photo: Freddy Fernandez)

AAF is a nonprofit organization working to support and improve Adventist K-12 education throughout North America. It has awarded grants totaling more than $2 million to Adventist schools and educators. Since being established in 1995, the organization has recognized 106 exceptional teachers with an Excellence in Teaching Award.

This past year, AAF refocused its mission and created the Renaissance Network, an initiative that improves the level of excellence in Adventist schools by providing leadership expertise, vision, resources, and training. AAF aims to awaken the Adventist community to the full potential in Adventist education. More information is available at

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