Tampa, Florida — On her last full day as Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year, Mary Beth Radigan will visit MOSI at 10 a.m. Monday to receive what she thinks will be a small token of recognition. But the special education teacher from Plant High School is in for a surprise. Several surprises, in fact. First, Ms. Radigan will receive a Lifetime MOSI Membership, only the second one ever awarded, letting her bring her family back to the Museum of Science & Industry for free, forever. She may think that’s the end of the honors, but it’s just the beginning.
At Plant High School, Ms. Radigan’s special needs students create organic gardens that other students study in their science classes. The gardens are one example of her unique approach to teaching, which also includes her students running a coffee shop and cheerleading at football games. As a symbol of our community’s appreciation for her innovative work, in a surprise ceremony, MOSI CEO Molly Demeulenaere will officially dedicate the courtyard of MOSI’s BioWorks Butterfly Garden in her honor. Like her students’ gardens, this greenery-filled courtyard is a living laboratory for learning about nature and one of MOSI’s most peaceful spaces.
One more surprise still awaits. When Ms. Radigan was named Teacher of the Year, one of her students who spoke at the event, Dylan Mirasola, said he loves learning about science in her class. A field trip to MOSI has the power to take students’ love of science to the next level, but many of Ms. Radigan’s students have Autism Spectrum Disorder and may find it challenging to visit busy environments.
Because of this, after the courtyard dedication, Dylan himself will reveal to Ms. Radigan that she is invited to bring her special needs students to MOSI for a special sensory-friendly field trip later this year. MOSI will host activities chosen especially for students on the Autism spectrum and will welcome Ms. Radigan’s class before the museum is open to the public, so her students can enjoy MOSI without the risk of becoming overstimulated.
“When we honor a teacher like Mary Beth Radigan, we’re really saying thank you to all of the amazing educators across the Tampa Bay area,” MOSI President & CEO Molly Demeulenaere said.
“At MOSI, we’re a resource for educators, and we take that role seriously. We’re the only institution in Tampa Bay to offer free admission every day to all Florida K–12 educators—public, private, charter, and homeschool—and we’ve hosted more than 6,500 teachers for specialized training in just the past three years.”