Elizabeth Grimes of Loxahatchee Groves Elementary School has won the 2020 William T. Dwyer Award in the Early Learning category. Her achievement was announced in a virtual ceremony held on Tuesday, May 5.
The William T. Dwyer Awards for Excellence in Education is an annual program of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County Foundation recognizing outstanding educators from public and private schools in Palm Beach County.
Grimes was chosen for the award due to her work in a voluntary education inclusion program grouping disabled children with mainstream students.
“Ten of the children have disabilities and ten of the children do not,” Loxahatchee Groves Elementary School Principal Richard Myerson explained. “When you go into that classroom, you wouldn’t know whether the children have a disability or not. [Grimes] has such high expectations for her students, she moves them all. They all make great progress. The goal of VPK is to get children ready for kindergarten, and all her children are ready for kindergarten.”
Last summer, Grimes received a grant to build an outdoor STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) classroom for her children.
“You go out there and children are planting plants, they’ve got scales and balances, 4-year-olds are building ramps and sending cars down trying to make the car go farther,” Myerson said. “They’re learning all these different concepts in play. She loves her kids, and her kids love her.”
Myerson said that Grimes’ pre-kindergarten program does very well in meeting the state-required standards for children entering kindergarten.
“There’s lots of social development going on amongst everyone,” Grimes said. “Of course, we work on letters and numbers — all that fun stuff.”
She said her grant, from the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County, was for an outdoor program to enhance the work they were doing inside.
“When we explored the idea of making ramps and inclines, we brought it outside to make it on a bigger scale, and they raced cars down it,” Grimes said. “They made a pipe maze that they got to create on their own by hanging PVC pipe on a fence, and they would drop ping-pong balls through it. Their goal was to try and get the ball into a bucket at the end. Sometimes it would go in, and sometimes it didn’t.”
The class also created a vegetable and fruit garden with the assistance of Moringa Farms in Loxahatchee Groves.
“We planted some sunflower and other plants to attract butterflies, as we were getting into our life cycle unit before we left,” Grimes said. “I actually just noticed we have some stunning sunflowers popping up when I was passing by my classroom — and lots of caterpillars.”
Grimes said she was particularly stunned to receive the award since this was the first year in the 36 years of the Dwyer Awards that there has been a category for VPK teachers.
“I was honored just to be recognized in my school to be part of this for the first year,” she said. “I am very passionate about early childhood education. Research shows that the earlier students get those interventions, the more successful they are in life.”
Grimes, 37, started her career as an early childhood teacher when she was 20. She has been at Loxahatchee Groves Elementary School for the past three years. She lives in Loxahatchee Groves with her husband and three children.