Biology alumna named finalist for 'Miami-Dade County Teacher of the Year'

Biology alumna named finalist for 'Miami-Dade County Teacher of the Year'

With a grandfather and father who both worked as teachers, Maria Donohue was destined to become an educator. At 10-years-old, she set up an easel chalkboard in her parents’ garage, assumed the role of teacher, and “taught” her younger sister the lessons she learned that day while at school. She loved helping her father grade papers and would often tag along with him to work for teacher work days, hanging out in his classroom.

Today, it is no surprise that the Barry University alumna has not only experienced a successful career in education but also continues to remain passionate about teaching.

 “Growing up with my father who was a teacher, I knew I wanted to help others,” said Donohue, who graduated from Barry in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. “If you are doing something you love, you will never dread going to work, because it won’t be work at all.”

In 2012, Donohue was named Hialeah Gardens Senior High School Teacher of the Year and North Region Miami-Dade County Teacher of the Year. After being awarded Teacher of the Year for her region, Donohue was named one of five finalists, out of 23,000 teachers in the district, for the 2014 Francisco R. Walker Miami-Dade County Teacher of the Year.

“I was surprised and so honored,” Donohue said. “As a teacher, you go into school every day with only one thing in mind — making sure you give an engaging and unforgettable performance, so that your students leave your classroom learning something new that will help them succeed. To be recognized for doing something you do every day and never think twice about is awesome.”

This fall, Donohue will begin her seventh year of teaching at Hialeah Gardens Senior High School. In addition to serving as the lead biology teacher, Donohue also teaches forensic science.

As a biology pre-medical major and chemistry minor at Barry, Donohue had the opportunity to blend her passion for teaching with her interest in science and medicine by working closely with students and faculty as both a research assistant and teacher’s assistant.

“I loved working with students, helping others, and creatively developing and implementing programs and activities year round, “ Donohue said. “By the time I graduated, I knew that I would be helping others but not as a doctor, but rather as a teacher.”

Donohue was also a student in Barry’s Honors Program – an experience she said increased her knowledge about diversity and social issues through the variety of humanity and sociology courses that the program offers. In addition, Donohue worked as a resident assistant for Barry’s Department of Housing and Residence Life, which prepared her for a career in education by allowing her to work with a diverse group of students and resident assistants while also perfecting the art of planning programs and activities, she said.

After graduating from Barry, Donohue was hired as a part-time faculty member by Barry’s College of Arts and Sciences to teach two zoology labs. The job provided her with valuable experience in teaching and classroom management that helped her to succeed during her first year as a high school biology and chemistry teacher, she said.

In addition to teaching at Hialeah Gardens Senior High School, Donohue is completing a master’s degree in educational leadership at the American College of Education. As an educator, she realizes the importance of having quality teachers in classrooms, and she is determined to positively impact teachers and students both in and out of the classroom, she said.

Donohue’s father, who was also a science high school teacher and is now principal of Miami Beach Senior High School, inspires her to do exactly that.

“I have seen how he has impacted so many lives—teachers and students—and I want to be able to do the same,” she said. “With what I have learned at Barry University and in the last six years as a teacher, I know there is so much more I can do to help improve the field of education.”

For more information about Barry’s pre-medical biology program, visit