Teacher Zarah O’Reilly-Bates has proven that she excels at her job, being named last week as St. Croix Teacher of the Year. Friday, her class at Ricardo Richards Elementary School planned a surprise party with the help of parents and staff to celebrate her honor.
O’Reilly-Bates was both happy and amazed as she entered the room to the cheers of her students, friends and family.
“These children keep me coming back. I have the passion,” she said.
During the celebration of her achievement O’Reilly-Bates took time to reflect on the path that brought her to this point. She teaches a multiage accelerated class made up of fourth, fifth and sixth grade students. A teacher since 2002, she has taught the multiage class for 13 years.
O’Reilly-Bates said she is proud of her history growing up in the de Chabert housing community while attending Juanita Gardine Elementary School, Elena Christian Junior High and Central High School.
“I received everything I needed to succeed from the public schools,” she said.
After graduation, she received a full scholarship to Atlanta Metropolitan State College to play softball. She excelled and became captain of her team. Today, she coaches The Strawberries, an all girls team in the Elmo Plaskett East Little League.
She originally wanted to pursue a law degree, but decided, “I can’t do that.” She returned home in 1996 to take a job in community outreach with then Sen. Carol Burke.
“I worked with her for her two years but found I didn’t like politics,” O’Reilly-Bates said.
Transferring to UVI, she was encouraged by professor Helena Stevens to go into education. Subsequently, she completed a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education at UVI, then a masters degree in instructional design and technology at the American Intercontinental University.
What does it take to become an outstanding teacher and role model? O’Reilly-Bates provides an answer through the many diverse paths she has taken to reach the achievement of Teacher of the Year for St. Croix 2020.