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Washington Post Awards Honor Churchill Social Studies Teacher


For 26 years, Chris Forney has been teaching social studies, the last 17 at Winston Churchill High School.

Colleagues call him a quiet leader, relentlessly optimistic and approachable. He is friendly and funny with students.

He teaches classes that inspire curiosity about the past, while drawing connections to the present. He wants his students to be engaged citizens and critical thinkers who are curious about ideas and the world. Forney says the most valuable part of his job is building relationships. Each semester, he asks students to list their hobbies, favorite movies, books, plays and facts that make them unique. “If students perceive their teacher to be genuinely interested in their success, they are far more likely to engage and take the academic risks that enable them to grow,” he wrote in his nomination packet.

For the past four years, Forney has sponsored the Churchill History Club, where students collaborate to produce documentaries, slide presentations or dramatic reenactments of historical events to compete in National History Day.

Outside the classroom, he started and coaches an allied softball team at Churchill. Through sports, he saw an opportunity to cultivate relationships beyond the classroom. Forney called his six years of coaching the most “soul-satisfying experience” of his career.

A National Board Certified teacher for 19 years, Forney routinely seeks out summer fellowships, graduate classes and other opportunities to expand his knowledge. He has traveled extensively, which gives him an additional opportunity to bring stories into his classroom, an in-depth understanding of regional events and an appreciation of cultures that only comes through firsthand experiences. He has been awarded three Fulbright-Hays summer seminars, experiential learning opportunities for teachers—one to Vietnam and Thailand, and two others to Brazil and China. He’s received two grants from the National Endowment of the Humanities where he spent a summer studying South African history and another in Spokane, Wash. studying Lewis and Clark. This past fall, he received the Philip Merrill Teacher Mentor Award from the University of Maryland, nominated by a former student he significantly impacted.

Forney holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Juniata College in Pennsylvania and a master’s in education from the University of Maryland, College Park. He spent a year teaching English as a foreign language in China, and two years working with inner-city youth in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The Washington Post announced the winners and finalists of the 2024 Principal and Teacher of the Year Awards on April 23. Each year, The Post presents the awards to encourage excellence in school leadership and contribute to the improvement of education in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. See the full list here.