Outstanding teachers honored

Outstanding teachers honored

Six Alexandria City School teachers and one Alexandria private school teacher were honored on May 7 at the 22nd Annual Excellence in Education Awards Dinner sponsored by the Alexandria Education Partnership, a nonprofit organization that supports ACPS with community resources and career preparation.

The 2008 recipients of the awards include Kathy Cullinan of George Mason Elementary School, Charlotte Dwyer of Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy, Tina Jobkar of Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School, Jennifer Lay of Minnie Howard School, Tiffany Lee-Clarke of Matthew Maury Elementary School, Marie Peaches of James K. Polk Elementary School and Patricia Dougherty of St. Stephens and St. Agnes School.

The recognition event, held at the Hilton Mark Center, featured a mixer, silent auction and dinner.

Principals, colleagues, parents and students nominated the following award recipients for their abilities to inspire students to appreciate learning and attain maximum potential; create classrooms that promote diversity, individual talents and self-esteem; and serve as positive role models for colleagues, students, parents and the community:
Kathy Cullinan
George Mason Reading Specialist Kathy Cullinan, a teacher for 34 years, serves as a model for those striving to achieve excellence in education, says George Mason Principal Dawn Feltman, who commends Cullinan for her commitment to being a life-long learner. An educator at George Mason since 1997, Cullinan combines a passion for teaching reading with academic degrees in reading and special education, giving her a deep understanding of how to target her teaching so that struggling readers can achieve academic success. She employs a wide array of instructional strategies, including such methods as guided reading, hands-on activities, real-world connections and readers theater. Cullinan serves as a leader in literacy development among her colleagues and in the community, regularly collaborating with other teachers and volunteering for evening and weekend literacy presentations for parents. Her enthusiasm and affection for her students proves contagious, helping her create a unique and lasting bond with students and their parents. A parent of one of Cullinans students writes, For the first time since hes been in school, I dont have to beg him to go out the door. He actually enjoys learning. He is not an easy child to explain things to, but Ms. Cullinan thinks he is a treat to teach.

Charlotte Dwyer
Charlotte Dwyer, who began teaching in 1971 and arrived at Lyles-Crouch in 2004, instills a desire to learn and achieve in her students through a multi-sensory and language-rich class environment, says Lyles-Crouch Principal Patricia Zissios. Dwyer targets and nurtures her kindergartners individual learning styles through such components as concrete materials, space for movement and appealing visual aids in math activities, and book talks, interactive word study and writers workshop in reading. Ninety percent of her students consistently pass the PALs tests, and 94 percent of her former students demonstrate first-grade success. Dwyers involvement with the schools Outdoor Classrooms and Gardens project resulted in each kindergarten class having a responsibility to maintain a raised bed of flowers and vegetables and to care for a butterfly garden. She initiated a weekly buddy program in which her students work on reading, math and science endeavors with fourth graders. Dwyer frequently connects with parents with updates on their childrens progress. Say one parents of a former student, For the parent, Mrs. Dwyer becomes your childs personal coach. Shes on your side and builds strategies with you. Communication is consistently open, frequent and responsive. No incident is too small, as it might shed light on how that child thinks or feels.

Tina Jobkar
An educator since 1996, Tina Jobkar has taught first grade at Tucker since 2002. Dedicated, enthusiastic and highly qualified, Ms. Tina Jobkar possesses those qualities which make any teacher special in the eyes of students, colleagues, administrators and parents, says Tucker Principal Loretta C. Scott, who notes that she makes it all seem easy with a twinkle in her eye and a bright smile. As many of her students are considered at risk because of differing cultural, language or socio-economic backgrounds, Jobkar actively addresses multiple learning styles. A typical language arts lesson includes whole-group teacher modeling of the lessons main focus, a poem for those who are auditory learners, some movement for kinesthetic learners, small-group work for direct instruction based on individual reading levels and center time to give learners some choice. This years class researched, wrote the screenplay for and acted in a film about the life of Samuel W. Tucker, the schools namesake. One parent writes, As a parent, I expect a teacher who can teach the required curriculum. But I hope for a teacher who inspires the love of learning, creates challenges and builds confidence in her students. Ms. Jobkar is such a teacher and I would call her a wonderful gift.

Jennifer Lay
National Board Certified Teacher Jennifer Lay began teaching for ACPS in 2001 and currently serves as a ninth-grade biology and chemistry teacher and Science Department chairperson at Minnie Howard. What I commonly hear from students is that Ms. Lays enthusiasm for her content area is contagious, says Minnie Howard Principal Grace Taylor. While the content is rigorous, she builds relationships to real-world applications, therefore making it relevant to the students daily lives. On any given day, students may be conducting experiments in the wet laboratory, using an online simulation, creating presentations to teach their classmates a scientific concept, editing a Wiki on Blackboard or competing against each other in a game designed to review vocabulary. Lays students even extract their own DNA and share data with students all over the world through collaborative projects. In addition to becoming Board-certified in 2007, Lay recently completed graduated courses and attended various science workshops. Her students boast a 100 percent pass rate on the chemistry SOL and win awards at local science fairs. The development of skills, a sense of inquiry, a willingness to share knowledge and a high degree of confidence ensure a high level of success in her classes, on exams and in life, says Minnie Howard Associate Principal Mark Eisenhour.

Tiffany Lee-Clarke
A teacher since 1992, Tiffany Lee-Clarke joined Maury in 2006 as a kindergarten teacher, and this year teaches third grade. Lee-Clarke capably approaches subject matter and presents lessons that are lively and energetic, says Maury Principal Lucretia Jackson. Mrs. Lee-Clarkes pleasant voice and naturally inviting intonations encourage her class to take part in lessons. Lee-Clarke brings difficult concepts to life so that every student actively learns. She transforms her classroom into Rome, Egypt and Mali as a social studies teacher and makes reading come alive by captivating students with the stories she reads and giving them opportunities to share their favorites in class. As a busy mother of five, she still finds time to offer assistance and resources to support faculty and staff events and endeavors throughout the building, including serving as a mentor for first-year teachers. During her first year at Maury, 80 percent of her kindergartners significantly increased their scores on the PALS benchmark, and more than half of her class read on a first-grade level before leaving kindergarten. Affectionately known as Mrs. TLC, Lee-Clarke encourages her students, promotes teamwork and provides appropriate feedback. One parent writes, Educational expertise, commitment to structure and love for children are a winning combination for this happy and successful working mother and wife.

Marie Peaches
Polk Fifth-Grade Teacher Marie Peaches began
her career in 1998 and arrived at Polk in 2004. Polk Math Specialist Brenda T. Alexandria describes Peaches as a highly motivated, sincere and caring professional. During my co-teaching experiences with her, Mrs. Peaches demonstrates an in-depth knowledge of curriculum and the ability to use a wide variety of teaching strategies to meet the needs of her students. Peaches often uses hands-on activities to make her lessons motivating for her class and makes charts, songs or skits to use as learning tools to help her students remember and understand various concepts. Her class ranks first among all Northern Virginia fifth-grade classes enrolled in the First in Math Program. She recently took a Spanish course to help her better communicate with her Hispanic students, and she frequently collaborates with teachers of special education and English as a Second Language. The grade-level chairperson, she works diligently with the Science, Math and Technology Committee, assists with the school store and initiated and coordinates the Polk Step Team, which performs at numerous community and school events. She has been known to attend her students recitals and sports events, says one parent, outside of school, again on her own time to show that she cares well beyond the classroom walls.

Patricia Dougherty
Patricia Dougherty, a fifth-grade teacher at St. Stephens and St. Agnes School, joined the staff in 2000. Trish epitomizes all that great teachers strive to achieve whether it is working with students, building relationships with parents, modeling for and mentoring fellow teachers, engaging in professional development or making contributions to the larger school community, says Head of School Joan G. Ogilvy Holden. Dougherty serves as co-leader of the Lower School curriculum committee and sits on the all-school curricular committee as well. A natural leader, she has mentored several colleagues over the years. Dougherty engages her students through creative projects, such as delivering first-person narratives in full costume during a Revolutionary War Unit and participating in an exciting simulation of Westward Expansion. She is piloting a differentiated math program that supports and challenges students varied abilities. Through humor, patience and understanding, she has created an environment where all of her students feel cared for and affirmed. What a joy it is to have a child who comes home, does his homework without complaining and does very well in school, says a parent who credits Dougherty as being instrumental in guiding her child to this point.

Event sponsors included the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, Colonial Parking, Day and Night Printing, George Washington University, Ivy Hill Cemetery Company of Alexandria, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Speck Caudron Investment Group of Wachovia Securities, Tech Painting, Urban Institute, William D. Euille Foundation and Laurie J. Blackburn, CFP, McLaughlin Ryder Investments.