Alexandria City Public Schools has named its teacher and principal of the year.
Laura Simons, physics teacher at T.C. Williams High School, was named the 2018 teacher of the year, ACPS announced in a news release. Jesse Mazur, principal at George Washington Middle School, was named principal of the year. Both were finalists for the Washington Post’s 2018 outstanding teacher and principal of the year.
Laura Simons, who was nominated for the award by her students, has been with ACPS since 2010. She is a lead member of T.C.’s science department. During her time at the school, she has founded “Nerdy T-shirt Thursday,” during which she and her colleagues wear physics or science-themed t-shirts to promote lesson content. She also acts as a liaison for the Advancement via Individual Determination program, which helps traditionally underrepresented students become eligible for four-year colleges.
“Ms. Simons is truly an exceptional teacher with a talent for making extremely challenging content accessible to her students in fun and engaging ways. Having students initiate the process of nominating Ms. Simons, a process typically undertaken by colleagues and parents, is a testament to how valued she is by those who she has impacted the most,” ACPS Interim Superintendent Lois F. Berlin said in the release.
ACPS’ 2018 principal of the year, Jesse Mazur, has been principal at George Washington Middle School since 2014. He has focused, during that time, on using an approach that’s both collaborative and data-driven. In the release, ACPS praised Mazur’s ability to build community, promote professional learning communities and close the achievement gap.
During Mazur’s time at the middle school, he has implemented programs like Where Everyone Belongs, a transitional program in which eighth grade students mentor incoming sixth grade students; Kicking off an Excellent Year, a middle school transition program for students receiving special education services; and the Guided Learning Acquisition Design program, a framework that supports English learning students and restorative practices for student conflict resolution. Mazur also oversaw the middle school’s counseling program become the first RAMP certified school in the division.
“Mr. Mazur is a hands-on instructional leader who creates an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust where teachers are supported, involved and appreciated. He is a distinguished educator who is wiling to go above and beyond and has a true passion for student success,” Berlin said.
Simons and Mazur were recognized in surprise celebrations at their respective schools on Thursday morning, which staff, students and family members attended.