At a time when educators are under fire for failing to challenge students and to prepare them to compete in the global marketplace, Southold Elementary School science teacher Jean Dempsey continues to inspire them, encouraging them to learn by doing and by asking questions.
For her many achievements in 15 years of teaching in Southold, The Suffolk Times has named Ms. Dempsey its Educator of the Year.
“The students of Southold Elementary School are lucky to have the opportunity to be in Ms. Dempsey’s science class,” principal Ellen O’Neill commented. Her lessons are “engaging on many levels and require critical thinking,” Ms. O’Neill said. Ms. Dempsey treats her students with respect, and they, in turn respect her, the principal said.
“I wish my science classes had been this engaging when I was in elementary school,” Ms. O’Neill said. “I am proud to work with such an amazing educator.”
Similarly, Superintendent David Gamberg called Ms. Dempsey “engaging and so passionate about her work as an educator.” She creates excitement among her students, who want to learn because of her approach to education, he said.
Teaching assistant Pam Parma said Ms. Dempsey “represents all of the outstanding qualities that go into impacting children’s lives in their becoming life-long learners.”
“Her hands-on approach to science … has the students excited to come to class,” Ms. Parma said. Whether it’s mummifying a chicken to learn how the Egyptians did it or blasting off to Mars on a simulated mission to learn about planets and space, Ms. Dempsey “constantly strives to reach and teach every student under her care,” she said.
She credits Ms. Dempsey with never missing “a teachable moment” and said she puts aside planned lessons when such an opportunity to engage students presents itself.
“She forms strong relationships with her students and they know she cares about them,” Ms. Parma said. Ms. Dempsey especially reaches out to students with special needs or those she knows have troubled family lives, she said.
“She has a strong, ever-growing knowledge of her subject matter, combined with her enthusiasm, a caring attitude and a love for learning and a desire to make a difference in the lives of young people,” Ms. Parma said.
Lindsay Kasmarcik, now a fifth-grade teacher in Massachusetts, was in Ms. Dempsey’s sixth grade in the early 1990s.
Whenever people ask her what inspired her to become a teacher, or who her most memorable teacher was, she always credits Ms. Dempsey.
Ms. Dempsey “facilitated creative thinking and exploration in an educational environment that didn’t necessarily encourage it,” Ms. Kasmarcik said of the school at the time.