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News Release, Charles County Public Schools

Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) held its second Teacher of the Year recognition ceremony Feb. 20 to honor nominees chosen for the awards program. Honored were nominees for the 2020 Washington Post Teacher of the Year and Charles County Teacher of the Year award programs. This is the second year in which a teacher was nominated from each Charles County public school and center.

During the ceremony, Board of Education Chairman Virginia McGraw unveiled the recipient of the 2020 Charles County Teacher of the Year honors, James Ball of North Point High School. Ball is an art teacher and is in his 26th year of teaching. Ball is now eligible for the Maryland Teacher of the Year honors, which will be announced in October.

Ball was selected from among five finalists. The teacher to represent CCPS in the Washington Post Teacher of the Year program will be announced next month. The other finalists include the following teachers:

  • Casey Cleary, mathematics teacher, Benjamin Stoddert Middle School;
  • Dyanna Finamore, first-grade teacher, Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School;
  • Stacy Miller, third-grade teacher, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School; and
  • Maggie Fitzgerald, Spanish teacher, Piccowaxen Middle School.
Five Finalists Casey Cleary, left, Stacy Miller, Maggie Fitzgerald, Dyanna Finamore and James Ball.

From among the nominees, CCPS chose five finalists to be eligible for either the Washington Post or Charles County Teacher of the Year designation. The Washington Post finalist from CCPS represents the school system in the overall awards program in which one teacher from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area is named the Washington Post Teacher of the Year. The Charles County Teacher of the Year honoree represents CCPS in the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Maryland Teacher of the Year program in which one teacher receives the overall state honor.

About the finalists

  • James Ball, art teacher, North Point High School, 2020 Charles County Teacher of the Year. Ball is a longtime CCPS art teacher and is in his 26th year of teaching. He has taught art classes at North Point since the school opened in 2005. Ball is a dedicated basketball, cross county and lacrosse coach, holds high expectations for all students and is a committed mentor to young adults. North Point Principal Dan Kaple said Ball is not only an art teacher, but also a teacher of life. “He is a once-in-a-lifetime teacher whose goal is to reach students’ hearts while supporting their dreams,” Kaple wrote in a nomination letter.
  • Casey Cleary, mathematics teacher, Benjamin Stoddert Middle School. Cleary has been teaching with CCPS for the past seven years, all of which she has taught math at Stoddert. During her career, Cleary has taught Algebra 1, seventh grade compacted math, and sixth- and seventh-grade math. Her main goal is to build positive relationships with students so she can instill in them a love of learning. Cleary is the eighth-grade team leader and coordinates the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program. “She is a phenomenal educator, leader, and agent for positive change in our learning community,” Stoddert Principal Erica Williams wrote in a nomination letter.
  • Dyanna Finamore, first-grade teacher, Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School. Finamore has been teaching with CCPS since 2001. She started her career at Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy, moved to J.C. Parks Elementary for seven years, and returned to Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy in 2015. During her career, Finamore has taught students in first through third grades. She is well known among her peers as a teacher who prioritizes strong connections within the school community. Finamore chairs the community Thanksgiving Dinner, is part of the math and reading committee, leads the Beavers on the Run club, collaborates with monthly character traits and is a team leader. According to her nomination, “Finamore is a passionate, self-motivated educator who utilizes colleague support, leadership opportunities, and the desire to create independent learners from all backgrounds to help students succeed.”
  • Stacy Miller, third-grade teacher, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School. Miller has been teaching with CCPS for the past 12 years. She has spent her entire career with CCPS at Dr. Mudd. Her positive attitude and demeanor is present in all that she does. Students strive to meet her expectations because they know Miller will highlight their successes. She takes time to get to know her students and recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of each learner. Miller consistently encourages students to take chances socially and academically. She is a CCPS graduate and is regarded by her colleagues as a master teacher. “Ms. Stacy Miller is a talented, dedicated teacher who has excelled in every area of her career. She has served as a master teacher, mentor teacher, and grade level chairperson,” Dr. Mudd Vice Principal Nicole Hawkins wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Maggie Fitzgerald, Spanish teacher, Piccowaxen Middle School. Fitzgerald has been teaching with CCPS for the past six years, all of which she has taught at Piccowaxen. Her classes include Spanish I for eighth grade and Hispanic Cultures for seventh grade. She is the chairperson of the Sunshine Committee, eighth-grade team leader, and sponsors both the student government association (SGA) and Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA). Fitzgerald also writes curriculum for the CCPS World Language program. She is well known among Piccowaxen parents as a teacher who is consistent and committed to maintaining relationships with students. Piccowaxen Principal Wendell Martin said Fitzgerald is an integral part of the instructional team.

The nominees honored Feb. 20 include the following teachers.

Nominees from CCPS Centers

  • Amy Adams, special education teacher, F.B. Gwynn Educational Center. Adams has been teaching with CCPS for the past nine years. She primarily works with students in grades kindergarten through second in the SOAR program. SOAR stands for structured teaching, opportunities for social inclusion, active learning and rigor and is a regionalized program for students with autism. Adams is the SOAR program team leader and advocates for children with special needs. She takes the time to research and plan for the individual needs of her students. Her students experience growth in instructional levels as well as with critical social skills. Daphne Burns, principal at the Gwynn Center, said Adams is a role model. “She embodies all that we as teachers strive to be in every aspect of our profession,” Burns wrote in a nomination letter.
  • Michele Bingham, social studies teacher, Robert D. Stethem Educational Center. Bingham teaches social studies in the Virtual Academy program at Stethem. She started her career with CCPS in 1997 as a social studies teacher at John Hanson Middle School. Bingham transferred to La Plata High School in 2007, where she taught World and American History. In 2016, Bingham joined the Virtual Academy team and oversees all social studies curriculum for the program. This includes content in the areas of local, state and national (LSN) government, U.S. History, World History, Human Geography and Sociology. Bingham strives to get to know her students so she can understand their needs and build their self-esteem as learners and young adults. She received both local and state accolades in 2012 when she was named both the Charles County and Maryland History Day Teacher of the Year. Stethem Principal Curry Werkheiser said Bingham’s commitment to student success is endless. “Mrs. Bingham works hard to instill a desire to learn and achieve in her students. Her most important objective is for students to feel safe and confident enough in her classroom to try new things and to surpass any expectations they may have for themselves,” Werkheiser wrote in a nomination statement.
James Ball is pictured with the banner that will hang in North Point High School. Board Member Michael Lukas is on the right.

Elementary School Nominees

  • Shannon Baldwin, first-grade teacher, C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School. Baldwin has been teaching with CCPS for the past 12 years. She started her career as a prekindergarten teacher and later transitioned to first grade. Baldwin is the grade level team leader and mentors new teachers. She encourages her students to work hard, respect themselves and their peers. Baldwin sets high expectation for her students who are eager to achieve success in her class. Baldwin is kind, patient and caring in her demeanor with both students and parents. Her commitment to helping all children succeed is evident in all that she does to support her students. Baldwin collaborates with content specialists and grade-level peers to develop math and social studies curriculum to implement in prekindergarten and first-grade classes. She is also well known by parents as a teacher who provides learning updates and communicates regularly about student progress. “My child comes home each school day so eager to share the new information she learned that day (science facts, word facts, etc.). My child’s eagerness to learn is cultivated and watered by Ms. Baldwin. She is an excellent teacher,” Barnhart parent Charmaine Goffe wrote in a nomination letter.
  • Nancy Murphy, prekindergarten teacher, Berry Elementary School. Murphy is a longtime prekindergarten teacher with CCPS. She has spent the past 22 years teaching prekindergarten at Berry. Earlier in her career with CCPS, Murphy also taught at Arthur Middleton Elementary School for one year and served as a substitute teacher. A military spouse, Murphy moved to Maryland in 1997 and started her career with CCPS. Prior to her move to Maryland, Murphy taught preschool in Illinois, New York, Mississippi and Alabama. She comes from a family of educators and loves teaching prekindergarten. Murphy said her greatest contribution to teaching is to ensure a child’s first school experience is positive. “I lay the foundation for their school years. When a parent tells me that their child is ‘reading’ the books that I have sent home, tears well up in my eyes and I feel like I have won the lottery and I have because I have made a difference in that child’s life,” Murphy said. Berry Principal Lou D’Ambrosio said Murphy leads by example. “Miss Nancy as Mrs. Nancy Murphy is more affectionately known as, has lead students, staff, administrators, parents and community members. She presents herself more of a worker bee, going about her day-to-day without fanfare or hoopla.  Miss Nancy takes the time to build authentic relationships with all stakeholders and this is where her outstanding leadership and passion for education begins,” D’Ambrosio wrote in a nomination letter.
  • Andrea Landis, special education teacher, Billingsley Elementary School. Landis has been teaching with CCPS for the past 11 years. She started her career at Indian Head Elementary School as an inclusion teacher and helped to launch the school’s Life Skills program. The Life Skills program, now known as ACHIEVE, supports students with cognitive disabilities. Landis worked at Indian Head until the ACHIEVE program was moved to Berry Elementary School. Landis then moved to Billingsley when the program was relocated from Berry to Billingsley. Landis is the special education team leader and is both an inclusion and ACHIEVE program teacher mentor. She oversees the Buddies Club at several schools and is the Unified basketball coach. Landis has a strong background in autism studies and strives to meet the needs of all students. Billingsley Principal Sabrina Robinson-Taylor said Landis is a strong advocate for students. “She values the students that she teaches and their challenges. Ms. Landis has been creating a community of inclusion and acceptance at Billingsley. She advocates for her students and supports the school population with newsletters, resources and clubs. She sees the value in all students and wants to see them reach their full potential, whatever that may look like,” Robinson-Taylor wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Michael Spisak, elementary science teacher, Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary School. Spisak was hired by CCPS in 2016 to teach fourth grade at Dr. Brown. Spisak taught both inclusion and general education classes before transitioning into the science position. He is the lead launch teacher at Dr. Brown for the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) program and helped to co-teach fifth-grade math. Additionally, Spisak has coached Unified basketball, helped to direct school musicals and served as a MESA coordinator. His commitment to ensure all students are engaged at school is evident in all that he does. Dr. Brown fifth grader Olivia Bellamy said Mr. Spisak is a great teacher because he makes learning about science fun. “He shows enthusiasm when he teaches us, which makes our class excited about learning. For example, he lets us share our ideas which makes us feel important and shows that he believes in us,” Bellamy wrote in a letter of support for Spisak’s nomination.
  • Mandy Robertson, second-grade teacher, Dr. James Craik Elementary School. Robertson has taught for CCPS for the past 11 years. Robertson taught kindergarten at Craik for six years prior to transitioning to second grade. She is the second-grade team leader and serves as a peer coach for new teachers. Robertson also coordinates schoolwide professional development opportunities and is a member of the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO). She helps to oversee afterschool and evening events, such as the school’s fall festival, volunteer luncheon and school musicals, and is a member of the school’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) team. Robertson is known at Craik as an exemplary leader and teacher who strives to build relationships with all students. According to one of her former students, “Mrs. Robertson always had a way of individually meeting all the students’ needs and done with a positive attitude; I am thankful for Mrs. Robertson.”
  • Katelyn Dexter, third-grade teacher, William A. Diggs Elementary School. Dexter has been teaching with CCPS for the past five years. She has a true passion for teaching and engaging her students every day in the classroom. Dexter prioritizes getting to know each of her students. She helps them to reach their full potential and focuses on student engagement. Dexter uses music and dance in her lesson plans to engage students in the learning process, and to help students take an active role in class lessons. According to Diggs staff, Dexter exemplifies the qualities of a strong leader and her passion and love for education are present in all that she does to support students. “Her leadership as a teacher, her dedication to teaching, and her passion and love for education only scrape the surface of what she does every day,” Lisa Wehausen, Diggs’ instructional specialist, wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Meredith Jones, kindergarten teacher, Gale-Bailey Elementary School. Jones is a passionate teacher and advocate for early childhood education. She believes that a child’s first experiences with school are crucial to academic success. She strives to engage with parents in the learning process so all students can thrive in her classroom. Jones schedules monthly meetings with parents to provide them with resources to use at home to support instruction. Students thrive in her classroom because Jones makes learning fun and exciting. She works with the kindergarten team to manage a reflection system that allows teachers to work together to improve instruction with a goal of student success. Jones supports the school Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) team and is the lead launch teacher for PLTW. She provides countywide trainings for new teachers and is committed to the success of all students. “Meredith has a gift working with students with special needs. She understands how to analyze a task and make accommodations so students are successful,” Kelly Kavlick, Gale-Bailey’s reading resource teacher, wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Laura Kelly, art teacher, Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary School. Kelly has been teaching art with CCPS for 24 years. Her commitment to grow student artists is evident in all that she does to promote creativity. She inspires students to try new things and promotes a positive growth mindset. Kelly works hard to recognize the art work of students and uses her own planning time to work with those in need of individual support. She encourages students to reflect on their work and provides positive feedback. Kelly mentors students who struggle with academics or behavior concerns. She builds relationships will all students and is known among her colleagues as a kind leader. The hallways at Higdon are full of student art because Kelly understands the benefit for students to see their creativity on display. “Ms. Kelly goes above and beyond in everything that she does to help students grow as artists. She has taken students who have an interest in art and has developed relationships to help motivate them,” Higdon Principal Kathleen Morgan wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Rhonda Slater, fifth-grade teacher, Indian Head Elementary School. Slater has been teaching at Indian Head since 2011 and has taught both fourth- and fifth-grade classes. Teaching is a second career for Slater, who said she felt a calling to become an educator that she could not ignore. She is well known among her colleagues as a role-model teacher. Slater develops positive relationships with all students and strives to ensure each child in her class is successful. Her lesson plans are fun and engaging. Slater challenges her students to stay motivated and encourages them to grow and mature. The parent of one of Slater’s former students said she was a wonderful role model for her child. “Mrs. Slater simply works to inspire and impact her students. She is firm, but fair, and she strives to have her students leave her class as decent human beings who are able to change the world by being good people,” a parent wrote on behalf of Slater’s nomination.
  • Carollyn Correll, fifth-grade teacher, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School. Correll has been teaching with CCPS since 2009. She worked with students in both fourth and fifth grades at Indian Head for eight years before moving to Jenifer in 2018. Correll works with gifted education students in math, reading and writing and mentors new fifth-grade teachers. For the past two school years, Correll served as the fifth-grade math team coach and helps students of all abilities to achieve academic success. One of her teaching goals is to make and maintain positive relationships with all students. She is committed to helping all students succeed and uses her free time to work with struggling learners. Last year, Correll’s fifth-grade class achieved the highest math score on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam. She enjoys co-teaching and supports all levels of learners in and out of the classroom. “I truly love engaging students to expand their thinking in math. I build positive relationships with all of my students on a daily basis and look forward to helping them reach their goals,” Correll said.
  • Shannon Walden, third-grade teacher, Malcolm Elementary School. Walden has been teaching with CCPS for the past 17 years, all of which she has spent teaching at Malcolm. Throughout her career, Walden has taught students at Malcolm in kindergarten through Grade 3. She prioritizes her students’ desire to learn and achieve. She ensures each lesson connects with all students and maintains positive relationships with current and former students. Walden strives to support her students both academically and socially. She is the fifth-grade team leader and considered a role-model teacher among her colleagues. Walden’s students know she has their back and will support them in all learning endeavors. She strives to foster cooperative relationships with parents and the Malcolm school community. Walden’s commitment to student success is evident in all that she does to support students. “I advocate for my students and colleagues to build a community of learners. My ability to build and maintain meaningful relationships with my students helps me to understand their individual needs while celebrating triumphs both in and out of the classroom,” Walden said.
  • Nina Beard, fourth-grade teacher, T.C. Martin Elementary School. Beard has been teaching with CCPS for 16 years. She joined the teaching team at Martin in 2014 and previously taught at Arthur Middleton Elementary School. Beard is known as a kind and caring teacher. She strives to instill in students a desire to learn and achieve. Beard maintains supportive relationships with her students, who strive to meet her expectations. She provides positive praise and creates fun and engaging lessons for students. Her students are praised for their positives and celebrated for academic and personal successes. Beard is the fourth-grade team leader and supports team work and team planning. She values hard work and prides herself on making learning fun for students. “One word I use to describe myself is caring. I know that this quality makes me the teacher I am today. I care about every student,” Beard said.
  • Megan Thomas, art teacher, Mary H. Matula Elementary School. Thomas has been teaching art at Matula for the past 12 years. Thomas said she knew from an early age that she wanted to be a teacher. She has a passion for education and the arts. She instills in students a love for the arts and fosters a warm and inviting classroom environment. Thomas showcases student artwork in the community and hosts a fifth-grade art club. She also uses social media to promote student artists. Thomas strives to build positive relationships with students. She believes when children feel comfortable and encouraged, it opens doors to creativity and for students to try new things. Thomas serves as mentor with the Teacher Academy of Maryland (TAM) program, is the special area team leader and coordinates the Matula behavior program. She helps to coordinate the Charles County fair, CCPS art show and supports the Matula PBIS program. Her goal as a teacher is to help students be creative and develop a love for art. “My goal as an art educator is to instill a love for the arts that my students will carry with them for the rest of their lives,” Thomas said.
  • Asta Brown, second-grade teacher, Arthur Middleton Elementary School. Brown has been teaching at Middleton for the past six years. She manages a second-grade inclusion classroom and strives to help every student succeed. She plans lessons that help students become strong readers, writers and mathematicians. Brown has helped to write elementary social studies education. She shares teaching strategies with her peers about how to integrate her passion of social studies into reading and math instruction. Brown ensures her students are meeting goals, having fun learning and building on to their skill set. Outside of the classroom, Brown is a MESA and Lego Robotics coach and oversees the school’s U.S. Pony Club. She is the second-grade team leader and has helped guide new teachers in learning curriculum and classroom management strategies. Brown goes above and beyond to ensure both students and her colleagues are successful, and provides resources to parents to ensure instruction continues at home. “Each year our school hosts two academic nights for parents. My presentations include using reading strategies at home to support reading fluency and comprehension, supporting students in math by using models to help solve word problems, teaching students to tell time, count money and incorporating math learning opportunities into everyday life for families,” Brown said.
  • Corrie Wutka, fourth-grade teacher, Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School. Wutka has been teaching with CCPS for 16 years. She focuses on student success by celebrating their achievements with acknowledgement and praise. She shows her students that she is genuinely proud of them, which helps to build their self-esteem. She is often found cheering on students at weekend events, fostering their talents and encouraging hard work. Wutka shows compassion for student success and focuses on what is best for all learners. Her classroom is inviting and lessons are engaging. Wutka makes students feel supported and valued as she listens and provides advice on a level that young students can relate. She approaches every day with an open mind and an open heart. Mitchell Principal Nicholas Adam said Wutka prides herself on making connections with students. “A key factor is making connections with your students. When a student believes that you truly care about him/her, he/she will work harder to meet those expectations. Corrie begins making these connections with each student the moment that they enter the room,” Adam wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Heather Shumate, science teacher, Mary B. Neal Elementary School. Shumate is a science teacher at Neal and works with students in Grades 3-5. She taught third grade at Neal for two years before taking the science position at Neal two years ago. Before joining CCPS, Shumate taught with Montgomery County Public Schools. As a special areas teacher, Shumate works with groups of about 25 students for 90-minute instructional periods. She is creative and engaging; when staff visit her classroom students are actively learning. Her students arrive eager to learn and are excited for science. Shumate holds high expectations for students and challenges them to think like a scientist. She collaborates with colleagues and serves as a new teacher mentor. Shumate provides professional development and shares classroom management strategies with others. Teachers from other schools often request to visit Shumate’s classroom to observe her instructional methods and classroom management style. Neal Principal Deborah Brown said Shumate is an excellent teacher. “She has the ability to create such excitement and interest in whatever she is teaching. Her instruction is engaging and keeps her students actively involved in their learning. Her students develop curiosity and look for ways to find the answers,” Brown wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Stephanie Hill, third-grade teacher, J.C. Parks Elementary School. Hill has been teaching with CCPS for the past 28 years. She started her career at Craik as a special education teacher and moved to Parks in 2000. Hill has taught students in Grades 2-5. Her classroom environment is warm and inviting. Hill is nurturing and students strive to meet her expectations because she is genuine and supportive. Her lessons are fun and students are engaged, from the start of the school day until the end. Each year, Hill strives to teach her students how to be remarkable and confident readers, writers, and mathematicians. She also instills in them a love of learning and encourages them to do their best both in and out of school. Hill attends swimming events, soccer and basketball games on the weekends to see her students. She applauds their efforts and lifts them up by fostering their self-esteem. Hill’s colleagues refer to her classroom as a community where everyone works together to build the self-esteem of others. Her students are valued and respected. Parks Principal Greg Miller said Hill does what is necessary to support her students. “Ms. Hill spends her lunchtime, afterschool time, and even her planning time to work with students who might need that extra support. They care about their work because she shows she cares about their work,” Miller wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Bianca Watson, fifth-grade teacher, J.P. Ryon Elementary School. Watson has been a teacher at Ryon since 2016. Prior to joining the Ryon teaching team as a certificated teacher, Watson was a substitute at Ryon for four years. She creates a consistent and rigorous learning environment for students. She strives to support each student cognitively, socially and emotionally. Her interactions with her students are warm, caring, and respectful of the diverse needs within her classroom. Watson developed a student mentoring program for Ryon students in which they meet regularly with peer mentors from Thomas Stone High School. While Watson was in high school, she was a peer mentor and felt the value for young children. Watson is an integral part of the PBIS community, MESA, Ryon Runners Club and supports the fifth-grade math team. She recently launched a recycle club, art club and helps to co-lead the Green club. Watson volunteers her free time to support all students. Ryon Principal Melinda Johnson said Watson is a valuable asset to the entire school community. “Ms. Watson lives in our school zone and is frequently heard expressing the importance of all of us being ready and available to support our students in any way possible. Ms. Watson is deserving of this great honor for her past, present, and future efforts for all of our J.P. Ryon Cardinals,” Johnson wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Marlene Harvest, fifth-grade teacher, Eva Turner Elementary School. Harvest has been teaching with CCPS for the past eight years. She is kind and compassionate with students. Harvest works diligently to meet the needs of all learners and instill in them a desire to achieve. She engages her students and holds them to high expectations. Her kind demeanor shows her students that she cares about their achievements, and they in turn do their best in class. Harvest models lesson plans and uses instructional strategies to meet the needs of all levels of learners. Her students see that Harvest is passionate about teaching and look to her as not only a teacher, but as a mentor. She motivates her students through a variety of strategies, and her students enjoy and value her class. She is the fifth-grade team leader and helps to oversee Synergy, the school system’s student information system and gradebook. Turner Principal Gary Lesko said Harvest is a role model teacher. “She builds her students up; students leave her presence feeling better about themselves. Ms. Harvest understands that her job goes beyond instruction. She embraces that teachers educate the whole child,” Lesko wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Heather McClain, second-grade teacher, William B. Wade Elementary School. McClain has been teaching with CCPS for the past seven years. She is committed to the success of her students. She provides students with fun and engaging lessons that incorporate movement and peer interactions. She has weekly lunch bunch sessions with her students so she can spend non-instructional time to learn more about them. McClain implements small groups for both reading and math. The groups are flexible and change based on student interest and ability. McClain has found that through working in small groups, students work well when they feel their peers are equal in their understanding of the material. McClain is the second-grade team leader, lead launch teacher with PLTW, wellness committee member, PTO teacher liaison, talent show chair and writer’s café chair. McClain also serves as a mentor for both student interns and new teachers. Wade Principal Bill Miller said McClain is committed to ensuring her students are challenged and engaged. “She believes building a strong bond with students and their families is key to academic success,” Miller wrote in a nomination statement.

Middle School Nominees

  • Tanya Ansell, language arts teacher/reading interventionist, Theodore G. Davis Middle School. Ansell is a longtime CCPS teacher, with more than 29 years of experience in the classroom. Ansell has been teaching at Davis for the past eight years. She first taught sixth- and seventh-grade language arts classes at Davis. For the last three years, Ansell has served in the role of reading interventionist. She is known among her peers as an exemplary educator who demonstrates excellent leadership. She strives to meet the individual needs of all students and supports small group instruction to improve student achievement. She is knowledgeable with curriculum and the observation process, and challenges students to do their best. Ansell maintains positive relationships with all in the Davis community and encourages positive behavior among students. She leads several efforts at Davis including PBIS, serves as the builder’s club sponsor and is a licensed restorative practices trainer for CCPS. As the PBIS coordinator, Ansell is instrumental in organizing special events to help teachers encourage positive behavior among students. Davis Principal Kim McClarin said Ansell is a strong role model leader. “Over her 29 years in teaching Mrs. Ansell has also been a sixth-grade team leader, summer reading academy coordinator and SGA sponsor to name a few. She maintains positive relationships with students, parents and staff. Mrs. Ansell is an essential part of our school community,” McClarin wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Adam Kennedy, language arts teacher, John Hanson Middle School. Kennedy has been teaching with CCPS since 2010. He taught sixth-grade language arts at Hanson for nine years and now teaches seventh grade. Kennedy has served as the language arts department chair since 2012 and is the seventh-grade team leader. It is well known among Hanson students that if you end up in Kennedy’s class, you will leave it loving language arts. His passion for teaching is evident in how he interacts with students; Kennedy is committed to building positive relationships. Kennedy holds classroom discussions that pull all students in to participate and promotes growth. His classroom features a library with both non-fiction and fictional books that students enjoy using. Kennedy ensures his lessons are engaging and relevant to students so they connect with class materials. His colleagues seek his advice on classroom management and relationship-building strategies. Kennedy’s students are engaged and leave his class feeling excited to learn and return the next day. Hanson Principal Benjamin Kohlhorst said Kennedy is a one-of-a-kind teacher. “Great instruction starts with great teachers, and Adam Kennedy is one of those special educators who make it look effortless. He understands the importance of connecting content across disciplines and within the world. Ask any student who has been in his classroom and you will discover the gifts of Adam Kennedy,” Kohlhorst wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Jessica Tompkins, social studies teacher, Matthew Henson Middle School. Tompkins has been teaching with CCPS for 13 years. Tompkins has also taught at Benjamin Stoddert and Milton M. Somers middle schools. She has been at Henson since 2014 and is known among students as a phenomenal teacher. She teaches eighth-grade social studies and is the AVID elective class teacher. Tompkins is known among her colleagues at Henson and a dedicated teacher. She pushes her students for success and guides her classroom through collaborative and inquiry-based teaching strategies. Her students are engaged and take an active role in their learning. Tompkins challenges students to apply their learning and make connections to the real world. Tompkins has helped to write curriculum and works with MSDE to create state assessment limits. She is an item writer for the eighth grade Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP). Tompkins is the National Junior Honor Society sponsor and eighth-grade team leader. She helps to coordinate the eighth-grade promotion ceremony annually. “Jessica Tompkins shows a dedication and passion for education that all teachers should strive to achieve,” Heather White, Henson learning resource teacher, wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Anisah Ansari, language arts teacher, Mattawoman Middle School. Ansari has been teaching with CCPS for the past 19 years and is a passionate educator. She demonstrates the content knowledge and dedication that propels students to success. Mattawoman Principal Sonia Blue refers to Ansari as a master language arts teacher. She strives to work with students until they master concepts and looks for ways to increase their understanding. Ansari also recently launched journalism classes at Mattawoman. She created lesson plans and activities for students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Ansari is a team player who supports all school initiatives and activities. She is known as a great listener and relationship builder among students. Ansari takes pride in building positive relationships with all stakeholders. She credits her mother, a special education teacher, and her sixth-grade reading teacher for shaping her desire to study education. “Miss Gallagher, if you’re reading this, I can’t thank you enough. She was my sixth-grade reading teacher. She used to praise me for my writing. One day I wrote a poem in class, a simple poem.  I think it took me a total of five minutes to write.  I was absent from school the next day and when I returned I found out that she had made copies of the poem and had all my classmates illustrate them.  She gave me the illustrations when she finished grading them and I kept them. I think this may have been the single encounter with a teacher that let me to a trajectory toward education,” Ansari said.
  • Georgette Hill, special education teacher, General Smallwood Middle School. Hill has been teaching with CCPS for the past 10 years. During her time with CCPS, Hill has co-taught in math, social studies, language arts and science classes. She has also taught self-contained special education classes. As a special education teacher, Hill also monitors student accommodations and ensures they are in place. Teaching is a second career for Hill, who originally graduated with an anatomy degree. Personal experiences Hill had with a family member led her to pursue a career in education. She is the special education department chair. As the special education department chair, Hill streamlined the IEP distribution and review process at the start of the school year. She earned a certificate in educational law and is working toward another in behavioral analysis. Hill also has nine credits toward her doctorate and plans to work toward becoming a behavior specialist. She meets with students on a consistent basis to review grades, class materials and assignments. Hill builds relationships with her students, and they seek her support when they are struggling. She is known among her colleagues for her ability to connect with students and show them they are capable of success. Smallwood Principal Brenda Tillotson said Hill’s greatest strength is her ability to connect with all students. “Her authentic relationships with students and staff are some of her greatest attributes,” Tillotson wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Kristen Liston, vocal music teacher, Milton M. Somers Middle School. Liston has been teaching with CCPS for 17 years. She spent five years teaching at Lackey before joining Somers staff in 2008. She has been a choir director with CCPS for her entire career. Under Liston’s direction, the Somers choir program has thrived with a record number of students in the program. The choir also receives awards at performance assessments in the tri-state area. Students in her program are from diverse backgrounds and form an amazing team of musicians. She strives to provide a friendly, caring community of singers for any child who walks into her room. Liston coordinates community trips, service projects for students such as food and blood drives, and concerts to ensure her students serve the community. Liston is the related arts department chair, drama club sponsor, morning announcement team leader, and member of the yearbook committee and Relay for Life team. Liston also supports new teachers and mentors Somers’ students. More than 90 percent of Liston’s students choose to remain in choir for their entire three years of middle school. Her students demonstrate success at events such as All-County Choir, District Assessment, CCPS post testing, and other individual and group choir competitions. Somers Principal Sandra Taylor said Liston is a favorite teacher of many students. “Mrs. Liston daily instills a desire to learn, improve and achieve. Her students regularly share her class is their favorite for it demands they pay attention and participate to improve their musical abilities while being a safe place,” Taylor wrote in a nomination statement.

High School Nominees

  • Robert Bowser, social studies teacher, Henry E. Lackey High School. Bowser has been teaching with CCPS for the past 15 years. He started his career in 2005 at Maurice J. McDonough High School and moved to Lackey in 2017. Throughout his career, Bowser has taught several social studies courses. He has worked with students in Advanced Placement (AP) European and World History, honors World History, U.S. History, Human Geography and Law, Applied Civics and Local, State and National Government classes. Under Bowser’s leadership, AP scores in World History have risen. He maintains strong relationships with students and parents. He is friendly, approachable, open minded, intelligent and hard working. Bowser is well known among his colleagues as a driven and passionate teacher who develops inspiring relationships with students. Bowser leads by example and his passion for history comes through in all of his daily lessons. Lackey Principal Kathy Perriello said Bowser is a role model teacher for students and his peers. “Mr. Bowser fully embraces the GREAT philosophy, which stands for Growth, Relationships, Excellence, Accountability and Teamwork. His lessons are thought provoking and engaging and involve multiple styles of learning. Bowser’s students trust him to make sure that they understand and can be successful,” Perriello wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Stephanie Barry, special education teacher, La Plata High School. Barry has been teaching with CCPS since 2005, all of which she has spent at La Plata. She teaches self-contained and inclusion social studies classes and oversees special education case management. Barry is the special education department chair and transition liaison. As the transition liaison, Barry works with special education students to ensure they have the community experiences necessary to achieve success outside of high school. She considers teaching students of all ability levels to work together towards a common goal to be one of her greatest achievements. Barry loves teaching social studies and develops lessons that teach content and engage her students. She strives to ensure her students understand the community and world in which they live. Barry has helped write curriculum at both the county and state levels. She understands how to make lessons fit all students and connect with all levels of learners. Barry teaches her students about current events and encourages them to develop an understanding for the world around them. Barry supports the entire La Plata community as the unified track head coach, cheerleading coach, member of the PBIS team and Relay for Life. Barry said it is important for her that students understand a sense of community. “I think that I have helped create an environment at La Plata where students are constantly learning and observing positive interactions that go from the hallways, to the main office, and back around to each classroom. I want nothing more than for my students to remember not only my lesson on the end of WWI and the three branches of government, but the respect and sense of community that was constantly built up around them,” Barry said.
  • Courtney Abell, English teacher, Maurice J. McDonough High School. Abell has been teaching with CCPS for 15 years. She is a veteran teacher at McDonough and serves as the English department chair. She is known among her colleagues as an innovator and expert in her content area. She is passionate and energetic in the classroom and pushes her students to do their best. Abell has strong relationships with students, parents and staff. She models the importance of engaging students to learn about their attributes so she can tailor her teaching approach to the needs of her students. Her open door policy and instructional practices are an extension of her heart and passion for learning. Students, parents and colleagues trust and respect her. Abell also supports the McDonough community as a member of the school improvement team, curriculum writer and teacher workshop presenter. She also helped to oversee the It’s Academic team for seven years and co-chaired the PBIS committee. Abell is visited by other teachers to observe her instructional style and works with her English department colleagues to put a better emphasis on teaching students how to write. Sonja Djossou, vice principal at McDonough, said Abell is a valuable asset to the McDonough community. “Courtney possesses a wealth of experience teaching secondary English with an energetic focus on providing valuable writing instruction to students and quality leadership to other educators. It is not out of the ordinary to see Courtney working with students during HERD time or giving support to another staff member in the building,” Djossou wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Terence Stone, technology teacher, St. Charles High School. Stone has been teaching with CCPS for six years. He was hired at St. Charles in 2014 and teaches business, computer science and web design courses. Stone previously taught with Prince George’s County Public Schools and the High Road Academy in Washington, D.C. Stone oversees the computer science program at St. Charles. Under his leadership, program enrollment has increased over the past five years. The computer science program has developed into one of the top programs in the state. Career and Technical Education (CTE) leaders from other school districts request to visit Stone’s classroom to see what his students can do under his guidance. One of his greatest achievements is the implementation of the Hackathon. The increase in interest of computer coding and programming led to Stone and his students organizing a 24-hour Hackathon event open to all area high school students. Students stay up all night and work on collaborative projects, coding, and participate in presentations and awards. Stone provides guidance in the planning, but the students are responsible for operating the event. “He has worked with youth groups for his entire adult life, and currently leads a program called Pathfinders for teens at his church. Several times, he has led school professional development sessions for staff and students alike. Finally, he leads a workshop on Code.org at the Advanced Placement Summer Institute,” St. Charles science teacher Helen Dwyer wrote in a statement of support.
  • Renee Hopper, social studies teacher, Thomas Stone High School. Hopper has been teaching with CCPS for 14 years, all of which she has spent at Stone. She teaches AP Economics, World History, Personal Financial Literacy and is certified in social studies and economics. Hopper is described as a teacher who goes above and beyond for the benefit of students, especially those in need of extra support. She works with the after-school tutoring program, teaching world history and financial literacy. Hopper oversees the Key Club and organizes annual projects to benefit the community. She creates a desire to learn by showing her students the practicality of each subject, allowing connections to show real world value. Hopper fosters student talent and strength by giving them opportunities to shine as often as possible. Her content knowledge is demonstrated by her current membership in the Teacher Collaborative Committee for the Federal Reserve. “She continually works with her colleagues to help create a family-like atmosphere that makes school staff successful. Ms. Hopper’s leadership is shown in her willingness to help improve the school culture and community relationships through the committees she leads,” Christine Paul, Stone vice principal, wrote in a nomination statement.
  • Brian Wells, computer teacher, Westlake High School. Wells has been teaching for the past 15 years. He was first hired by CCPS in 2007 and taught math and computer science at Henry E. Lackey High School for five years. Wells then relocated to Virginia, taught with King George County Public Schools and returned to CCPS in 2016. He teaches computer science and PLTW engineering courses at Westlake. During his career with CCPS, Wells has coached girls’ soccer, football, baseball, indoor and outdoor track, golf, VEX Robotics and MESA. He is known among his colleagues as a teacher who instills in students the desire to learn. He pushes students to achieve by being supportive, fostering an inviting learning environment and encouraging student participation. Wells demonstrates a thorough knowledge of subject matter and the ability to share it effectively with students. Students who take engineering with Wells often excel in physics. The retention numbers for Westlake students in the PLTW program has increased over the years due to Wells’ commitment to ensuring his students achieve success. He also oversees a student-mentoring program called 12 Good Men. Westlake Principal Diane Roberts said Wells is an inspiring teacher. “Brian Wells has a heart of gold and makes sure that all students feel welcome in his class, on his teams, or on any club he sponsors. He truly cares about the students and athletes that he works with at Westlake High School,” Roberts wrote in a recommendation letter.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...