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The Current

The Student News Site of South Dade High School

The Current

The Student News Site of South Dade High School

The Current

Reading Teacher Janell Merritt Wins Teacher of the Year

Teacher+of+the+Year+Janell+Merritt+teaches+punctuation+to+her+reading+classes.+
Febronio Plasencio
Teacher of the Year Janell Merritt teaches punctuation to her reading classes.

Teachers always get asked at least once in their career, why did you want to become a teacher? Reading teacher Janell Merritt became a teacher because she was inspired by other great teachers. Only after high school did she find that there was information she was missing out on. “There’s some things that teachers don’t tell us so it’s like ‘man now that I know that information I can tell others.’ so I was inspired by great teachers” Merritt said.

This dedication to her students and desire to be one of those great teachers like the ones who shaped her as a young person is one of the many reasons Merritt was selected as South Dade’s Teacher of the Year.

Since starting her teaching career in 2006, Janell Merritt has been at South Dade despite the fact that she thought her journey would lead her to elementary school. However, she was given the opportunity to teach high schoolers, and though she was hesitant at first, she ended up enjoying the change.

“The job that they offered me was in high school, and I was like ‘I don’t want to do high school. I don’t want to deal with older kids, I want to deal with younger kids. That’s where my expertise is.’ It was a hidden blessing because I ended up having four kids, so I get to be a mom and go home and be the playful elementary school teacher, but during the daytime, it’s like a break.” Merritt said.

In the years she’s been at South Dade, she has been able to learn from her students as much as they have learned from her.

“When I first started, there was a student who used to tell me ‘I wish you’d have the baby!’ because I was pregnant at the time. And then I came back, she had a change of heart. She’s said ‘Miss, I really care, I want to learn. You inspired me that I could do it and I want to go to college because I never thought I’d go to college.’ that kind of set me on a path of doing what I do best.”

Throughout her years, Merritt discovered that what worked for her, but more importantly her students, was teamwork. It helps set up a foundation that her students are able to work with and build upon in and outside of the classroom.

“Collectively, we’re a team and I’m your coach. We build up that confidence within and it builds the capability for a student to work on their own.”

She also finds it important that her students know she comes from the same background as them. Growing up in Tampa, going from school to school to then later moving to Miami when she was young made her develop the skill to adapt quickly.

“I started so humbly, no one would have ever imagined. My mom always taught me character value, she always taught me whatever you do you do it a hundred percent. If you show up, you show up to work or you might as well not show up. You come on time, you be dependable.  I never knew her vision or how she saw things, but I have kids now so I understand everything she did. I made her proud. Did she ever think I was going to be an awesome teacher? No, she probably thought I was going to be this business executive going all over the country. So from humble beginnings we made it, I made it, I made her proud, and I haven’t stopped just at teaching. I always challenge myself, and I always tell my kids my last job is going to be an FBI agent or a homicide detective because my mind is always curious, I always want to learn.”

True to that statement, she enrolled in nursing courses to help her daughter who is studying to be an LPN. Now, Merritt is teaching a nursing class in addition to her reading classes.

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Yasmin Alvarez, Staff Photographer
Febronio Plasencio, Senior Photographer
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