‘Prize Patrol’ surprises December and January Associate Teachers of the Month

In the sunny courtyard of Blackshear Elementary, Tanya Fontaine Clark stood speechless for a few moments before elaborating on her passion for her job—and the school she calls home.

“My mother was a teacher. I guess I’m a chip off the old block,” Clark said. “I wanted to give back. I wanted to enrich the lives of the children at Blackshear.”

The third-generation educator had just received the award for January’s Achieve 180 Dedicated Associate Teacher of the Month. It was just one of the stops of the day for the Human Resources Prize Patrol as they also surprised the December and January Associate Teachers of the Month and Achieve 180 Dedicated Associate Teachers of the Month.

Associate teachers have long been valued members of every campus, but they are appreciated more than ever as the pandemic continues to disrupt the school year.

“She wears a number of hats and never complains,” Assistant Principal Yaneka Walker said. “Wherever she’s needed, she goes. Bus duty, teaching, escorting scholars to field trips, making community connections for scholars and parents, technology issues, coordinating textbooks. She does it all.”

Doing it all was a common theme among the recipients. Pilar Lopez, the December Achieve 180 Dedicated Associate Teacher of the Month, was thanked by her colleagues for her work across every aspect of Rucker Elementary School. Lopez has spent the year balancing her work in the classroom during the day with college classes at night, while she works towards her teaching degree.

“It’s so great to have mentors who have taken me under their wing. I’m really grateful to be here and to have this opportunity while I’m in school,” Lopez said. “The values at Rucker, I’m just all about.”

She started this school year with Rucker and quickly took full ownership of a bilingual class, using all the available tools to connect virtually with her students.

“Ms. Lopez continues to go above and beyond the expectations of an associate teacher,” Teacher Specialist Brittany Corprew said. “We are grateful to have her and absolutely would not have made it through this rollercoaster year without her!”

Patricia Kane at Carnegie Vanguard High School was named Associate Teacher of the Month for December. According to Dean of Students Melissa Matsu, she has “truly stepped up” during the past year.

“She is willing to fill in, not only for one teacher but for every teacher that [needs it],” Matsu said. “She has truly stepped up and been an integral part of the Carnegie Vanguard campus during this difficult time that changes each and every day.”

Though she has worked with other campuses, she has been at Carnegie Vanguard every single day since the return to in-person learning in October. “It’s just a total surprise,” Kane said. “I was telling a friend of mine the other day. She said ‘Oh, you’re going into the classroom?’ And I told her that I look forward to going to Carnegie every day as an Associate Teacher.”