Deutsche Bank Finalist Rachel Duff teaches sixth, seventh and eighth grade developmental language and English language arts with emergent bilingual students at Alfred I. duPont Middle School. She aspires to be the most important advocate for her students. Ms. Duff’s students come from all over the world, and she makes her classroom a welcoming environment where they can achieve great things. She is an exceptional teacher in many ways—including in achieving results for her students. Her students improved an average of 40 percent between the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years on the WIDA English proficiency assessment. Ms. Duff also works to educate her students’ parents by offering free English classes on Saturdays.
Take a glimpse inside Ms. Duff's classroom
Praise from Principal Marilyn M. Barnwell
“Ms. Duff‘s dedication to her students is unwavering, and she is always looking for ways to improve our learning community to meet the needs of our students and parents. As an ESOL teacher, Ms. Duff is often called upon to teach classes where students speak multiple languages. In order to reach her learners and increase her cultural awareness of the students she serves, Ms. Duff began learning Arabic during her first year of teaching. Ms. Duff has stated that her mother was an ESOL student upon arriving in the U.S. at the age of 15, so she understands the importance of making students feel valued and a part of the overall school program. In addition to Arabic, Ms. Duff has also learned to greet students in Spanish, Albanian, Kinyarwandan, Bosnian, Burmese, and Karenic.” ~
If you are chosen as the 2019 Florida Blue Duval County Teacher of the Year, what would your message be?
“I believe one of the most important aspects to the teaching career is teaching as activism. My parents taught me at an early age to always stand up for what I believe is right and for those who couldn't stand for themselves. The one guiding force to each of my professional decisions as an adult has been that I want to serve people. I have experienced different sectors of working for people, but this specific one, the education of the children, has been the most special. Children are the gold of any society—they are the innocent and they are the brave. It is an honor to be able to stand in front of my middle school students every day and teach them to the best of my ability, to prepare them for their future. My hope for our future lies in them. I teach my students about the importance of activism, and I practice it in my personal life. Ultimately, I do feel that my greatest form of activism is showing up for my students, caring about them, guiding them to their own best learning and equip- ping them with the skills they need to be able to return to their own communities and be the leaders we all need. As cliche as this phrase may have become, I still meditate on it often: if I don't advocate for my students, my immigrant students, my refugee students, my undocumented students, my black and brown students, who will?”
Watch Ms. Duff on the Channel 4 Morning Show