Key West High School veteran teacher Ruth Holland has been selected by the Florida Division on Career Development and Transition (FL DCDT) as the recipient of the Debra Husted Memorial Award for Outstanding Educator for the many hours she has spent providing exemplary transition services to her students.
The Debra Husted Memorial Dreams Can Come True Award is given to an educator who exemplifies tenacity and caring and has a strong belief in the ability of individuals with disabilities. It requires the recipient’s circle of involvement to be wide and influence many facets of the student’s lives. Holland meets these requirements in a multitude of ways, and has affected the lives of hundreds of students during her career in the Monroe County School District (MCSD).
“There aren’t enough awards available to recognize Ruth Holland for all of her incredible contributions to students,” said Superintendent Theresa Axford. “That being said, I am thrilled that she has received this recognition on the state level as a testament to her amazing work.
“I am honored to receive this recognition, especially because it is for work that I love,” said Holland. “The letters that others wrote on my behalf really touched my heart.”
Holland has devoted her career to promoting independence and self-advocacy for young adults with special needs. Her career with MCSD started in the late 1990s; she will retire after this school year.
Her accomplishments include founding the “Transition to Independence, Employment and Success” (TIES) in collaboration with MCSD, Vocational Rehabilitation, the United States Navy through Sigsbee Naval Base, and other community partners. The program helps students who need it to remain in public schools until the age of 22 and helps them develop specific job skills and soft-skills as well as life skills through internships and apprenticeships in the community.
Her students have the opportunity to learn to drive, use the public transportation system, and can be seen employed in local stores, restaurants and other jobs where they continue to grow. Her efforts help prepare students to be successful in a work environment and in life when they leave her program.
Holland has said, on many occasions, “The day before a student’s 22nd birthday should feel just like the day after their 22nd birthday – seamless transition into the community.”
Another of Holland’s accomplishments is the bridge between TIES and the College of the Florida Keys so students can take college classes. This includes meeting with the college advisor for appropriate class placement, setting up assistance programs, writing grants and working with the students and their families as they begin their college classes.
Holland’s commitment to her students does not end in the classroom. Her involvement with Special Olympics at the district and state level helps the students gain self-confidence as athletes and helps them make connections with other students in their community. he has recruited volunteer coaches and community sponsors to facilitate the growth and expansion of Special Olympics from Key West to Key Largo.
Holland makes herself available to students and families as they navigate changes in school, changes at home and changes in life.
Her background includes expertise in job development and placement services for students with disabilities, collaborating with community agencies, adaptive technology, and transitional services.