Mentoring students
Suzanne Sperl, Art and Video production teacher at the U.S. Army Garrison Livorno Unit School in Italy congratulates with one of her students for a job well done on the "Book of Hope" project. Sperl was named the Department of Defense Dependents Schools Mediterranean district "Teacher of the Year".

PISA, Italy -- Suzanne Sperl, Art and Video production teacher at the U.S Army Garrison Livorno Unit School was named as Department of Defense Dependents Schools Mediterranean district Teacher of the Year during an award ceremony May 21 at the school.

"This recognition was a complete surprise for me because I just had an interview yesterday; I did not even have the time to realize what was going on," said Sperl. "This was really unexpected and I'm still waiting for the news to set in."

During her interview with the Mediterranean District board, Sperl was asked about her focus as a teacher.

"It's extremely important to build an environment of mutual respect and appreciation first with the kids," she said. "Once the children realize that I am a person, just like them and I can make mistakes, they let their guard down and this is the beginning of a productive relationship."

Sperl is part of a program helping Livorno students participate in the "Book of Hope," a project geared toward supporting the less fortunate children in Uganda.

"It is important to incorporate some service learning experiences in the teaching program," said Sperl. "This will help them feel supportive makes their efforts worthy."

Sperl has been a teacher for 11 years. Before her Italian experience, she taught art in Phoenix for seven years. Sperl said she comes from a family of teachers, and in her youth she wasn't sure she wanted to follow her relative's path.

"It took me a long time to take the decision to become a teacher, but now I can say that this is the best decision I ever made," said Sperl. "I learn so much from each of the children that comes into my class, it is unbelievable."

Sperl added that being part of DoDDS and having the opportunity to travel the world for her is a true blessing.

"There is nothing more rewarding for and art teacher than having the possibility to travel and see art masterpieces" Sperl said. "Italy is the center of art, I could not ask for a better destination."

According to a Department of Defense Education Activity's press release, the DoDEA Teacher of the Year Program recognizes and promotes excellence in education. Sperl and other district winners will compete for the regional title.

Page last updated Fri May 22nd, 2009 at 08:31