Stacy A. Hoeflich, a fourth grade teacher at John Adams Elementary School in Alexandria, was named Mount Vernon History Teacher of the Year's first annual recipient Tuesday night during an award ceremony in the Robert H. and Clarice Auditorium at Mount Vernon Estate. She was chosen over five other finalists from throughout the Washington Metropolitan area.
Hoeflich received a $5,000 award and a bronze bust of George Washington. Her school was given an all-expense paid field trip to Mount Vernon for all fourth grade students.
In presenting the award to Hoeflich, Mount Vernon Ladies Association Regent Gay Hart Gaines acknowledged that the award was established in concert with an endowment from the Robertson Foundation to honor a teacher "who brings passion to their teaching" on a daily basis. "And, Stacy has proven that the most successful way to teach history is to bring history to the students," Gaines said.
"This award celebrates educators such as Stacy who bring creativity as well as passion to their teaching and who deepen their students' understanding and appreciation of history," said James C. Rees, executive director, Mount Vernon Estate, who joined Gaines in making the award.
In her nine years as a teacher at John Adams, Hoeflich "has demonstrated energy, enthusiasm, and dedication on a daily basis," according to Mary J. Gibson, principal. She is also able to teach American History to classes composed of more than one half immigrant students, some with very low English language skills, according to her contest resume.
"The teaching I do is way more important than the politics of my job. I really like all of history. You have to make history a story to make it interesting. It's far more than dates and facts," Hoeflich said in accepting the award.
"For me to come here and be honored by Mount Vernon in a room filled with other teachers who have come here on their summer break to continue to learn is particularly special," she said. The Award was presented at the conclusion of one of Mount Vernon's Annual Teacher Institute weeks.
MONDAY NIGHT'S audience was composed of high school teachers from throughout the United States. Each year Mount Vernon sponsors four Teacher Institute weeks for educators to gain first hand knowledge of American History with special emphasis on the contributions of George Washington, according to Ann Bay, associate director of education, Mount Vernon Estate.
Teachers from Washington area schools who teach American History in grades 3 through 12 are afforded the opportunity to attend the Institute free for two days of each of those weeks. This Institute week was the third for the 2007 season.
"Initiating this award, we advertised its availability by mailing brochures to schools throughout the Washington Metropolitan Area. To be eligible a teacher had to have been teaching American History in the D.C. area for at least two years in grades three through 12," Bay explained.
"Each applicant had to submit a resume and letters of recommendation as well as write a two page essay on how and why they teach. The application process involves a lot of work. It was obvious that everyone who applied was very committed to teaching," she said.
There were 38 submissions, which were boiled down to six finalists. An award committee than spent more than two hours discussing who they felt was the most qualified, according to Bay. "The tipping point in Stacy's favor was the diversity of the student body she teaches and her ability to bring history to life for them in such unique ways," she said.
Explaining some of those "unique ways," Hoeflich said, "I try to utilize methods that can interest the students without just reading history because many of my students are not very literate in English." Her "passion" for learning was also evident when she was explaining the need for students to gain a total understanding of the subject, not just the ability to regurgitate facts and dates.
"As an example, according to the Standard of Learning tests the only thing a student has to know about the Constitution is the date and author. They don't have to know anything about the Constitution itself. What purpose does that serve," she asked rhetorically.
A native of Merchantville, N.J., Hoeflich came to the Washington area when she entered George Washington University. She has remained here since her graduation.
"One of my favorite things about this area is the diversity. That is particularly true at John Adams where the 80 to 100 fourth graders represent a wide array of nationalities," she said. Each year her individual classes range from 18 to 25 students.
The Mount Vernon Teacher of the Year award will be presented each year during one of the Teacher Institute weeks. As Rees explained in opening the award ceremony, "All the buildings and theaters you see here were built with corporate, foundation or individual donations. There are no federal dollars involved and that's the way the Ladies Association wants it.
"However, when we asked the Robertson Foundation which theater they wanted named for them they said they didn't want any theater to bear their name. Instead they wanted their donation to honor an outstanding history teacher each year. That is what we plan to do and this is the beginning."