The influence of a teacher often lasts well into the future. Take, for example, a letter that Scott Burr’s father received. Burr, the chairman of the Alexandria Education Partnership, read the letter during his welcome remarks for the organization’s annual Excellence in Education Awards presentation ceremony. The student explained how her teacher continues to influence her life even now — 50 years later.
"I cant’ think of a more important job than the work that teachers do," said Burr.
Former School Board Chairman Ferdinand Day delivered a stirring keynote address touching on the lasting importance of teachers and the enduring legacy of what happens every day in Alexandria’s classrooms. Day, who served on the School Board from 1964 to 1972, has a deep knowledge of the city’s educational history. So his words carried significance as they were delivered in the Belle Haven Country Club ballroom last week.
"These career professionals give much more than required, work harder than expected and aim higher than thought possible," said Day. "Of them I am proud because they stand head and shoulders above the crowd."
Mayor Bill Euille, who helped present the awards, congratulated the teachers — although he said he was slightly bothered by the demographics suggested by the list of winners.
"Where are the men?" the mayor asked. "Guys, we’re going to have to work much harder."
As a music teacher at George Mason Elementary school, Baker wrote and will soon lead the "Dragon Tone" chorus in an adaptation of Mozart’s "The Magic Flute" — a project inspired by her National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship in Vienna, Austria, last summer. In her classroom, students learn by singing, dancing, reading notes and playing a variety of percussion instruments and recorders. For the past six years, she has produced "Good Morning, George Mason." In 2000, she started the school’s annual heritage night, and she was instrumental in reviving the Alexandria All-City Chorus for grades 3 to 6.
<b>Viviana Rodriguez Davila</b>
Davila is a Spanish teacher at Episcopal High School who brings a passion for her native language to the classroom, engaging and challenging students at all levels of proficiency. She developed and has frequently led the school’s annual 10-day trip to Mexico and five-week summer program in Spain, providing immersion experiences for her students. Davila also has willingly accepted and eagerly discharged a variety of the many duties associated with boarding school life as part of a dorm-duty team, as a coach of varsity field hockey and lacrosse. She models positive interaction and human relations for her students, serving as a translator and mediator for the campus cooking staff and involving her students in those communications.
As a first- and second-grade teacher at Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology, Evans talks with her students to find out about their lives and uses that information to make connections that enhance learning, inviting parents to be partners in their children’s education by involving them to share family traditions and stories. In her 31 years of teaching experience in Alexandria, Evans has developed an extensive network of loyal former students, grateful parents of former students and other community members whom she regularly calls upon to relate learning to life. She also helps her fellow teachers by serving as a team leader and guiding teacher interns and mentoring countless new teachers.
Her fellow teachers at Maury Elementary School describe Green, a third-grade teacher, as possessing "relentless inspiration." Her supervisors describe her as "a master of differentiated instruction," utilizing an array of teaching techniques to engage a variety of learning styles and developing individualized study packets for her students. Her classroom is alive with hands-on activities, storytelling, dramatic presentations and smiles. She demonstrates her passion for helping students outside the classroom by visiting students in their home and tutoring after school as part of the "Homework Club." She regularly shares her experience with other teachers in a variety of formats and spends her summers facilitating student book clubs.
Heyder brings a sense of excitement into her first-grade classroom at Alexandria Country Day School, using creative lesson plans and a variety of instructional techniques. Her communication skills help her form meaningful connections with children and parents, and her weekly newsletter is an example of how she works to foster a sense of openness and interaction in the classroom. She eagerly shares her ideas with fellow teachers, and she is continually expanding her knowledge of educational practices by attending conferences and working toward an advanced degree.
<b>Anne Mackiewicz Panek</b>
Colleagues describe Panek’s Kindergarten classroom at Tucker Elementary School as "buzzing with creative, purposeful activity." She captures her students’ attention and engages them in the curriculum in bold and creative ways. Whether her students are donning their "newspaper person" hats to deliver weekly self-written newsletters to other classrooms or stringing cereal "beads" for their hundredth-day-of-school necklaces, Panek’s enthusiasm and expertise are shared with parents through conferences and home visits.
<b>Sandra Quick Reeves</b>
As a fourth-grade teacher at Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology, Reeves employs an intriguing array of approaches to reach and engage every student. Among her techniques are buddy systems, weekly academic contracts, differentiation folders, group challenge activities, laptop computer activities and a "Feast of Knowledge" open house for parents and administrators. Outside the classroom, Reeves teaches an after-school remedial math class, is a consistent participant in evening events at school, has conducted several parent workshops and was for many years a grade-level team administrator. Always willing to share her expertise and ideas, she has successfully supervised seven student teachers.
<b>Elena Patterson Tyree</b>
Tyree led the transformation of the St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes Upper School science curriculum into one in which all ninth-grade students take physics. She has chaired several school committees, including one that created "Faculty Reflection and Renewal," the school’s professional development program. Tyree recently received a master’s degree in Science Education, and she invites her students to appreciate "beautiful" equations and "elegant" laws of physics.