Three teachers have been named finalists for the 2017–2018 MCPS Teacher of the Year Award by the Marian Greenblatt Education Fund. They are:
Melissa Segal, fourth grade team leader at Luxmanor Elementary School in Rockville. She is an innovative instructor, willing to embrace new techniques and strategies to better meet the needs of her students. She maintains a classroom environment in which every student is valued and respected. She has implemented several mindfulness strategies into her daily routines, which help students clear their minds and focus their thoughts. In one of her assignments, fourth graders interview local business owners, then come up with their own business plans offering various services, which they present in a Shark Tank scenario. Under Segal’s instruction, students displayed impressive improvements in their MAP-M assessments between fall and spring. She serves as a mentor and role model for her colleagues. Active in PTA and school-sponsored events, Segal can be found waiting tables at Run the Diner Night, scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins fundraisers, or planting flowers around the school.
“She teaches her students to strive for excellence, to love reading, and to fully respect each other,” fellow fourth grade teacher Aaron Fairchild said of Segal. “She teaches all of us to give our best to our students, to wear a smile, and to never give up hope. And most importantly, she teaches us to remember that this profession, that we all have chosen, is a very important one.”
Cherin Hershkowitz, math content specialist at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown. Her teaching is described as superb, innovative and engaging. She explains concepts in a way that students can embrace the theories behind the algorithm. This earned her an opportunity to teach Continuing Professional Development classes to other Montgomery County educators. Her peers admire her ability to analyze grade-level data, and her students appreciate that she provides real-world experiences that bring the curriculum to life. Her efforts to build the capacity of her fellow mathematics teachers led to a 27 percent increase in the number of students earning a C or higher in Algebra. She designed schoolwide data monitoring tools to improve instructional decisions and placements. Beyond the classroom, she planned and facilitated Math Nights to help parents better understand Common Core. She is often present during Clemente community events, such as the school’s first 5K; the Rock the World concert, where Clemente raised money for a sister school in South Africa; and a program to provide holiday gifts to families in need.
“I look up to Ms. Hershkowitz,” one student reflected in a nomination letter. “She motivates me to excel beyond, and when I become a cardiac surgeon and win Doctor of the Year, I promise she will be right there, standing next to my mother crying with joy, because she will be the reason I am on that stage.”
Nancy Shay, English resource teacher at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville. A National Board Certified teacher, Shay’s energy is palpable and she brings a sharp eye to the needs and challenges of her students and the teachers she leads as the department’s resource teacher. Her students know she is accessible and ready to help them. As the English Department head, she has elevated the work of other teachers through data analysis, sharing best practices and peer visits. She fostered a teacher-driven movement to teach literacy across the curriculum, and is a regular trainer at International Baccalaureate workshops around the country. Under her leadership, notably her own decision to teach 9th grade English rather than focusing solely on International Baccalaureate students, the minority student achievement gap has narrowed measurably at her school. Shay also co-leads the after-school Homework Club, which provides academic coaching, tutoring, mentoring and support for students, and coordinates monthly RichTalks, schoolwide conversations about race and culture.
“Her passion for the craft of teaching, respect for the content, and encouragement of all students to engage in discourse as a means to high levels of literacy and critical thinking are an inspiration to us all,” said Richard Montgomery Principal Damon Monteleone. “There is no student she cannot teach. There is no adult she cannot inspire.”
The Greenblatt Education Fund is also honoring Yecenia Morales, a Spanish teacher at Wheaton High School, and Amra Nansimbi, a fourth grade teacher at Glenallan Elementary School, as the 2017 Rising Star Teachers of the Year. This award honors teachers with less than five years of experience whose creativity and enthusiasm encourages students to stretch themselves and achieve more.
Finalists for the Teacher of the Year Award, who must have five years or more of teaching experience in Montgomery County, are interviewed by a panel of educators, Board of Education members, MCPS staff and representatives from the Montgomery County Council of PTAs, as well as a member of the Greenblatt family.
The teachers, along with other MCPS employees and partners, will be honored for their extraordinary work as part of the annual Champions for Children Awards Celebration hosted by MCPS and the Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education (MCBRE). The MCPS Teacher of the Year will be named during the event, which will take place on Wednesday, April 26, at BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown.
The Marian Greenblatt Fund, named for a former Board of Education member, recognizes teachers that inspire their students to achieve, encourage younger teachers to be the best they can be, and help their school and community. The Fund awards each Teacher of the Year finalist a prize of $2,000, and the two Rising Star Teaching awardees $1,000 each.