EXTON — Citadel Credit Union has selected three grand prize winners in its annual Heart of Learning Awards program — one from Chester County, one from Montgomery County and one from the Philadelphia School District. The awards recognize local teachers who show dedication in and outside of the classroom.
Citadel Credit Union presented its 2021-2022 Heart of Learning Awards to three area teachers during a ceremony Monday night, May 2. (MEDIANEWS GROUP FILE PHOTO)
The 2021-2022 Heart of Learning Awards were presented Monday night at a ceremony held at the Mann Center for Performing Art in Philadelphia. An estimated 400 people attended the awards ceremony, the first in-person gathering for the awards program since the pandemic, and since the program was expanded to the Greater Philadelphia region.
The 2021-2022 Heart of Learning grand prize winners are:
Deb Rooney, a third-grade teacher at Bradford Heights Elementary School in the Downingtown Area School District in Chester County
George Hankins, a teacher at Colonial Middle School in the Colonial School District in Montgomery County
Louis Lozzi, a teacher at Paul Robeson High School, in the Philadelphia School District in Philadelphia.
One grand prize was presented in each award category — elementary, middle and high school.
“Across Greater Philadelphia, our counties, towns, and districts have varied challenges and students with diverse needs. What all areas have in common is there are dedicated teachers building strength in education,” Mike Schnably, senior vice president, Citadel Credit Union, said in a statement. “Celebrating teachers, the unsung heroes who mold our children continues to be one of Citadel’s proudest moments as an organization each year.”
The three were among 31 teachers named as finalists for this year’s awards — selected from “thousands” of nominated teachers from Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, according to a press release.
They knew they were finalists, but their selection as grand prize winners was a surprise.
Rooney, Hankins and Lozzi will each receive a prize of $10,000 — $5,000 for them and $5,000 for their schools. The other 28 teachers who were finalists were presented with $1,000 to spend in their classrooms, gift cards and prizes.
Rooney has been teaching for more than 33 years. In addition to teaching third grade at Bradford Heights Elementary School, Rooney leads several after-school educational programs including broadcast club and intramurals. In nominating Rooney, parents said she is creative with her curriculum and goes above and beyond with various lessons to incorporate life skills.
“Whether it’s encouraging the students to contribute gifts for people in need during the holidays, helping a new student adjust and make friends, or tutoring a student struggling with virtual learning, Miss Rooney is the kind of patient and caring teacher every student deserves,” the press release stated.
Hankins has been teaching U.S. History and Social Studies for more than 20 years and was inspired by his mother who was a teacher. Hankins received more than 60 nominations for this year’s award. According to the release, more than 30 students commented on how he brings “nothing but positive energy” to the classroom by having students reenact historical events, wearing a tie associated with the lesson theme of the day, or dying his hair green for school pride.
Lozzi is credited with developing a model college and career readiness program that assists students in forging a personalized pathway to success following graduation, according to the release. Lozzi’s work as leader of the Paul Robeson High School math and science department and member of the school leadership team has been credited for helping the school achieve a 95% annual graduation rate, significantly higher than the Philadelphia average of 70%. Lozzi’s work with establishing university partnerships was most recently featured in “Penn Today” News.
Originally started 21 years ago in partnership with the Chester County Intermediate Unit, the program has been expanded to include the full Greater Philadelphia region. The awards recognize teachers who show dedication in and outside of the classroom and spotlight teachers “who go above and beyond to foster connection with students.”
The awards ceremony included speeches from Pennsylvania Department of Education Executive Secretary Debora Carrera, intermediate unit executive directors, Citadel executives, parents, students, and teachers. Three local student groups performed as well, including MadBeatz Drumline of West Philadelphia, CAPA Octet of Philadelphia, and the Downingtown East Vocal Ensemble.
Among the 31 finalists were three teachers from Bucks, one teacher from Berks, 13 teachers from Chester, four teachers from Delaware, three teachers from Lancaster, three teachers from Montgomery and four teachers from Philadelphia counties.
To see the full list of finalists, visit https://www.citadelbanking.com/giving-back/citadel-heart-of-learning