The four finalists for the Montgomery County Teacher of the Year will be among 24 individuals honored at the Champions for Children Awards Gala on Wednesday, May 7, at 6:30 p.m. at the Bethesda Marriott, 5151 Pooks Hill Road in Bethesda.
The highlight of the evening will be the announcement of the teacher who has been selected to represent Montgomery County in the state Teacher of the Year program.
The names of the four finalists and a brief biography of each follows:
Joe Ballmann has been a seventh grade English teacher at Robert Frost Middle School for the past seven years and has worked with MCPS for 11 years. He taught at Westland Middle school prior to coming to Robert Frost. At Frost, he designed and wrote the curriculum for a special course called “Contemporary Communications,” which he teaches every year. In addition to mentoring new teachers, he has trained all new seventh grade English teachers in the county during summer orientation. He has opened a school store whose profits provided free supplies to students in need and sponsors the school newspaper.
“My philosophy of teaching is that children learn best when they want to learn,” he says. “My idea of an outstanding teacher is one who makes all kids want to learn.”
Barbara Jeweler, who has taught at MCPS for 14 years, has spent the last three of them at James Hubert Blake High School, where she is director of the school’s national-award-winning TV Production program, internship coordinator and instructor for media arts in Grades 10-12. She also has taught at Wheaton High School, Peary High School and Neelsville Middle School. Jeweler also serves as consultant to Blake teachers in developing video projects, has worked on developing media arts curriculum and serves as a member of Blake’s Signature Committee.
“An outstanding teacher is one who realizes that teaching is an act of faith,” she says . . . “one who encourages and inspires his or her students to share this faith and use it to reach their potential.”
Christopher Kenworthey has 14 years of teaching experience at MCPS, three at White Oak Middle School and eight at Winston Churchill High School, where he currently teaches psychology and government to 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students with a diverse range of abilities. This includes teaching classes in Churchill’s unique English, Social Studies Opportunities program for students who need additional support to organize their work. A master magician (literally), Kenworthey is known for his ability to work magic with his students.
“It is imperative that education be intrinsically rewarding so that each and every pupil can achieve his/her absolute best in a continuously reinforcing manner,” he says. “Each class is an audience to me. The secret in teaching is to make your pupils want to come to class.”
Virginia Knopf came to New Hampshire Estates Elementary School this school year to work with first and second grade students in the Reading Recovery program, but her tenure with MCPS goes back to 1977. She has taught kindergarten, first and second grades at MCPS elementary schools including Lakewood, Brown Station, Gaithersburg, Fields Road and Jackson Road. As a staff development leader and trainer, she has filled numerous roles, including Reading Recovery mentor teacher and team leader, new teacher mentor, inservice and conference presenter and curriculum developer.
“I believe that all students can achieve regardless of socioeconomic, racial, cultural or linguistic background,” she says. “One must be focused first on promoting student achievement and then design the professional and program development activities to fulfill that goal.”
The Champions for Children Awards Gala is sponsored by the Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education (MCBRE), the Montgomery County Board of Education, and the Montgomery County Council of PTAs. The event will recognize a total of 24 outstanding educators, staff members, businesses, and volunteers in Montgomery County Public Schools.