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JA’s Commitment to Celebrating Educators with Dr. Emily Levine, JA’s 2022 Teacher of the Year


Headshot of Dr. Emily Levine, a thin, white woman with short, dark curly hair

Image caption: Dr. Emily Levine, JA's 2022 Teacher of the Year

Junior Achievement of Western PA’s (JA) commitment to education goes beyond the students of our region. Although our programming directly impacts students K-12, we believe supporting educators is just as important to our mission. From easy-to-implement programming that meets state standards to contests and events, we aim to incorporate this support into all aspects of our organization.  

“JA realizes creating a culture of support for our teachers is vital to student success,” Patrice Matamoros, President of JA said. “At the end of the day, educators are the backbone of our society, and they need our support to enable them to do their jobs as seamlessly and with as much enthusiasm as possible.” 

JA’s My Favorite Teacher contest is one of our main educator support initiatives. Each fall, we accept nominations for educators throughout the region and reward the top submissions with prizes, including a first-place prize of two roundtrip Delta Airlines tickets for JA’s Teacher of the Year. 

We sat down with Dr. Emily Levine, third grade teacher at Gateway School District and JA’s 2022 Teacher of the Year, and asked her about the award, the prize and the benefits that JA provides to educators across the region.  

How did you feel being named JA’s inaugural Teacher of the Year? 

It was very humbling to win the award and definitely not something I ever expected to happen. Teaching is a truly intrinsically motivated profession based on our love for the job and our commitment to bettering the future generation. To be a teacher, you have to really love what you're doing and put your best foot forward. It’s nice to know that people actually are watching and appreciate what we do for the students and community. So, it was really a phenomenal feeling to be appreciated and recognized for doing something I am truly passionate about.  

Image caption: Dr. Levine's view of Seattle before embarking on the cruise

Where did you go on your trip? 

It’s always been a bucket list item of mine to take an Alaskan cruise, so we flew to Seattle, and from there we did just that! I always told my husband if I ever found myself there, I would just continue on to Alaska, so winning JA’s Teacher of the Year and the roundtrip tickets really empowered me to achieve that goal.  

The cruise itself was truly amazing, though. Not only was it scenic and beautiful, but we got to do fun activities like dog sledding and whale watching. My toddler son went on the trip with me, and he really enjoyed himself. Since we returned home, one of his favorite things to do is use his toys and pretend he’s going on another trip! Winning the contest wasn’t just a life-changing moment for me, but it was also really cool seeing the trip from his perspective and making some special memories with him. 

Image caption: Glacier National Park

Do any memories stand out to you? 

Overall, I love exploring new places and new cultures, so having the opportunity to travel to two new states was really fantastic. Living on the East Coast, getting out west can be challenging, so having my travel taken care of was wonderful. My goal in life is to visit all 50 states and all continents, so this has helped me get closer to that goal! 

What message do you think this award sends to teachers? 

I think it sends a message that teachers are appreciated, and we should keep doing what we’re doing. I personally had no clue I was nominated for this award, so you never know who is watching and appreciates your hard work. Plus, these children need us now more than ever, and it’s important to put good educators in front of them so they can learn, grow and prosper to be productive adults. 

Image caption: Dog sledding in Alaska

Why do you think educators should get involved with JA? 

I think JA offers many wonderful programs for students and teachers alike. For elementary and middle school students, their classroom programming and JA BizTown program are engaging and exciting. I also love how they find ways to celebrate and motivate high school students with different events. Overall, JA offers a lot of wonderful resources that educators should take advantage of, especially because they're offered at little to no cost and open students' eyes to what possibilities are out there for them. 

Do you have any advice for future winners? 

First, I would tell anyone who wins this year to be so proud of yourself and your accomplishments. Second, I would encourage them to talk to people on their trip, because it’s so cool to meet people and form connections in new areas. From my own experience, I actually knew someone on my cruise and met someone wearing Steelers gear who’s a teacher from a neighboring school district! Pittsburgh people are everywhere, and it’s a really cool thing to be traveling and meet people from your hometown. 

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