Several Area Educators Named Finalists For William T. Dwyer Awards

Dwyer Award Finalists — (Front row) Olivia James, Jennifer Tobin, Rita Wicks, Cathy Eckstein, Randi Schietz, Caroline Westervelt, Shannon Solis and Arnekua Jackson; (middle row) Karen Kummerlen, Fern Long, Kristin Delatorre, Amy Carroll, Claudia Bueno, Alison Moe, Charles Fisher, Amy Goldberg, Courtney Ensor-Acevedo, Magaly Hodgkiss and Jacqueline Barreras; and (back row) Ashraf Abdelsayed, Will Rhymes, Monica Russell, Susana Diaz Hernandez, Rebecca Patterson, Steve Gordon and Thomas Hrebin. Not pictured: Cindy Fakhoury and Adiane Leon. Photo by Tracey Benson Photography

The Economic Council of Palm Beach County Foundation recently announced the 28 finalists for the 39th annual William T. Dwyer Awards for Excellence in Education, presented by the Hanley Foundation.

Educators from schools in the western communities who were named finalists include: Cathy Eckstein of Wellington Elementary School in Grow Up Great/Early Learning Education, Jacqueline Barreras of New Horizons Elementary School in Elementary Education, Steven Gordon of Western Pines Middle School and Fern Long of Emerald Cove Middle School in Middle School Education, Jennifer Tobin of Elbridge Gale Elementary School in Special Programs, Caroline Westervelt of Western Pines Middle School in STEM Education, and Randi Schietz of Binks Forest Elementary School in Student Advancement & Career Education.

The announcement was made via Facebook on March 31. The finalists were honored at a beautiful waterside reception at Rybovich Marina on Tuesday, April 11 hosted by Huizenga Holdings.

The Dwyer Awards, an annual program developed in 1984 and supported by the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, honors outstanding educators from public and private schools in Palm Beach County. The program seeks to increase awareness of the exemplary teaching in the community and promote high standards of excellence in education. The awards recognize educators and provide financial awards.

The Economic Council of Palm Beach County comprises business leaders committed to educational excellence as a key tenet for creating a prosperous environment for businesses. Nearly 450 nominations of educators from public, private and charter schools were considered for the 2023 Dwyer Awards. The nominees complete a comprehensive application process carefully evaluated by Palm Beach County business leaders. Judging takes place over a multi-round process to identify the top four applicants in each of the seven categories.

“We are thrilled to continue the rich tradition of the Dwyer Awards, celebrating remarkable teachers in Palm Beach County,” said Michele Jacobs, president and CEO of Economic Council of Palm Beach County. “The Economic Council of Palm Beach County Foundation has had the privilege of honoring outstanding teachers in our community for the past 39 years.”

The seven categories for the 2023 Dwyer Awards include: Grow Up Great/Early Learning Education, Elementary Education, Middle School Education, High School Education, STEM Education, Special Programs and Student Advancement & Career Education. The 2023 finalists are:

Grow Up Great/Early Learning Education — Cathy Eckstein, Wellington Elementary School; Courtney Ensor-Acevedo, Manatee Elementary School; Cindy Fakhoury, Lake Worth Elementary School; and Magaly Hodgkiss, South Olive Elementary School.

Elementary Education — Jacqueline Barreras, New Horizons Elementary School; Amy Carroll, Marsh Pointe Elementary School; Susana Diaz Hernandez, Greenacres Elementary School; and Will Rhymes, Northmore Elementary School.

Middle School Education — Steven Gordon, Western Pines Middle School; Fern Long, Emerald Cove Middle School; Rebecca Patterson, the Conservatory School; and Shannon Solis, Village Academy.

High School Education — Arnekua Jackson, Boynton Beach High School; Adiane Leon, Lake Worth High School; Alison Moe, Santaluces High School; and Monica Russell, Suncoast High School.

Special Programs — Ashraf Abdelsayed, Discovery Key Elementary School; Claudia Bueno, Palm Beach Public Elementary School; Jennifer Tobin, Elbridge Gale Elementary School; and Rita Wicks, Lantana Elementary School.

STEM Education — Kristin Delatorre, the Conservatory School; Charles Fisher, Calusa Elementary School; Amy Goldberg, Del Prado Elementary School; and Caroline Westervelt, Western Pines Middle School.

Student Advancement & Career Education — Thomas Hrebin, Pioneer Park Elementary School; Olivia James, Discovery Key Elementary School; Karen Kummerien, Palm Beach Gardens High School; and Randi Schietz, Binks Forest Elementary School.

The award recipients will be announced and honored along with all finalists, nominees and past recipients at the Dwyer Awards ceremony on Monday, May 1 at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. Felicia Rodriguez, news anchor at WPBF 25, will serve as emcee. Tickets are $40 each. Guests will enjoy a cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m. and the awards ceremony at 7 p.m. To buy tickets, visit