The evening the Hillsborough Education Foundation announced her name as the overall winner of the School District of Hillsborough County’s Excellence in Education Teacher of the Year award is still a bit surreal for Miranda Harwood.
Speaking with Harwood, it’s easy to see how, from nearly 300 nominees, the fourth grade math and science teacher from Brooker Elementary was the clear choice.
“She is literally always there for you. No matter the time, what it is—be it fractions or having a bad day—she will stop everything to make you feel like the most important kid,” said Dylan Moore, a student lucky enough to be in her class this year.
In fact, Harwood was the first to call to check in on Moore after a cheerleading accident briefly hospitalized her on Super Bowl Sunday nonetheless. It’s just what Harwood does. She goes above and beyond to care for and encourage her students.
We talked well after the school day had ended because Harwood routinely gives up her lunch and stays after school tutoring kids. Her Monday after-school Math Clubs are dedicated to high-performing students wishing to push themselves a bit further, but she dedicates her Lunch Bunch and Wednesday/Thursday tutoring sessions to help struggling students with their math skills.
It’s rewarding for her to see the change in her students, many of which “come in with some preconceived notion of ‘I hate math’ and switch to loving it and loving school in general.”
When asked about what it felt like to be recognized for her efforts, the 14-year veteran gushed about the home she’s found at Brooker Elementary, whose staff nominated her for the award: “I think the thing that makes it the most special is the people who are with you every day. We work with so many great teachers. There are six teachers who have been at Brooker their entire career. They love it. They are my role models. For it to be my first year there and they already see that in me was amazing.”
In fact, she makes the daily commute from Lakeland because it’s where she knows she needs to be.
Harwood said, “If I could move my nieces and nephews to that area, I would. At Brooker, it really is a positive place to work and a positive place for kids.”
When asked what’s next, Harwood couldn’t see herself doing anything else. After briefly flirting with a pre-med major, Harwood followed what her heart had known from the time she was 5 or 6 years old.
She earned her bachelor’s in elementary education and her master’s in reading education from the University of South Florida. She wants everyone to know the true reward found in teaching.
“I wish people would come into the classroom for just one day, for just one hour,” she said.
Her classroom is definitely a place where you will find magic happen every day. Brooker Elementary is located at 812 Dewold Rd. in Brandon and can be reached at 744-8184.