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'It Means A Lot': Westchester Teacher Wins National Award

Enrico Fermi School teacher Melissa Flores with students at the Bronx Zoo.
Enrico Fermi School teacher Melissa Flores with students at the Bronx Zoo. Photo Credit: TeachKind/PETA

A science teacher in Westchester County is being recognized for teaching her students to have compassion for all living things.

Melissa Flores, a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Enrico Fermi School in Yonkers, was one of three runners-up from across the US in this year’s Teacher Appreciation Contest from TeachKind.

The group is the humane education division of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Working with schools across the country, TeachKind helps teachers shape their curriculum in a way that’s more humane to animals, like coming up with alternatives to dissections and helping students start animal-rights clubs.

Flores was nominated for teaching students in her Living Environment Science class to consider the impact that humans have on animals and the environment, the group said.

Pop into one of her classes and you may see students giving a presentation on how fishing decimates the oceans, or how the fur industry can spread zoonotic viruses.

“Whether they’re discussing how marine mammals suffer at SeaWorld or questioning why sentient beings are killed for food, Melissa Flores is teaching her students to think critically about how their actions affect animals,” said Marta Holmberg, PETA Senior Director of Youth Programs.

“TeachKind is delighted to honor her for inspiring young people to explore our interconnectedness and become champions for all animals.”

Flores has been a member of PETA since the age of 15, when a teacher taught her about the cruelty and ineffectiveness of experiments on animals.

She said the award means everything to her.

“I feel like treating other animals with as much kindness as I would treat other humans is such a basic, fundamental thing,” Flores said.

“Why would you eat your cow if you’re not going to eat your dog, when cows are just as intelligent and caring and thoughtful as a dog is."

Flores’ award comes with a framed certificate and an animal-friendly gift basket.

The two other runners-up for this year’s award are from Phoenix, Arizona, and Santa Clarita, California.

The top honor was shared by two educators at a public charter school in San Antonio, Texas.

Learn more about TeachKind on its website.

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