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Why America's Best School Doesn't Exist

Blend Images Photography/Veer

“Love children first, and teaching second.”

Dorine Zimmerman is annoyed. The light at Wickham Road and Pineda Causeway is too short. During morning rush hour, she may have to wait four times before making the light. The Freedom 7 principal likes to get to school very early, long before the teachers arrive. “Because once they're here, people stop by and”—Zimmerman raps her knuckles on the conference table—“they ask, ‘Can I just have a minute?’”

That question is what makes a good school a great school. It starts with great teachers, she says. “I have very high standards for my teachers,” Zimmerman says, then breaks into a wry smile. “I'm not very popular.”

There's one quality a Freedom 7 teacher must absolutely have: “They have to love children.” A couple of weeks ago, Zimmerman was stunned during an interview when the gentleman said that he liked teaching because he didn't want to work nights and weekends.

“If they love children, you can teach them a lot of other things,” explains Zimmerman. “But you cannot teach them to love children. You have to love children first, and teaching second.”