Debra DeMaria, chair of the mathematics department at Lake Braddock Secondary, won the Outstanding Math Teacher of the Year for the state of Virginia.
The Springfield resident is the winner of the 2008 William C. Lowry Outstanding Mathematics Teacher of the Year Award for the high school level by the Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics (VCTM).
"It’s a great honor," said DeMaria. "I really enjoy teaching. It’s been a great experience for the 32 years I’ve been teaching."
DeMaria has taught at Lake Braddock since 1976 and has taught all levels of math — from eighth grade through Calculus BC. She has served as department chair for the past 10 years and is praised by colleagues and students alike for her creativity in the classroom and for her efforts to support fellow math teachers.
In her calculus classes, DeMaria uses Fig Newtons and Liebniz wafers to help students learn the fundamental theorem of calculus; to engage students in learning Newton’s law of cooling, she brings out police tape and crime lab gowns to add mystery to the learning process. To help students review, DeMaria challenges them to create worksheets of problems whose answers must match the amount of an ingredient necessary for a recipe. Recipe worksheets are distributed to all members of the class along with samples of the dish made from the recipe.
Former Lake Braddock principal Linda Burke, now assistant superintendent for Cluster VII, praised DeMaria for seeking out "innovative ways to present concepts and share that wealth of information with colleagues and students." Burke cites DeMaria’s adaptation of an elementary school product, Versatiles, to her high school math classes; DeMaria then shared her innovative ideas with teachers at local and national conferences. Colleagues also praise DeMaria for taking the time to mentor new teachers, sharing her knowledge, and offering to help students after school.
"Debbie DeMaria is a natural teacher," says Lake Braddock assistant principal Cynthia Prieto. "Instead of teaching out of one book, she picks and chooses the best material out of many sources. Instead of emphasizing one way to solve a problem, she teaches four methods." Prieto says that DeMaria assigns seniors a final project; students write songs, design computer programs, develop games, or make a meal — projects that help them demonstrate what they have learned in 12 years of math studies — and are required to design, propose, write up, and present the project to their classmates. She offers tutoring to other math classes during the school day and challenges her higher-level students to tutor younger students and help them prepare for their Standards of Learning (SOL) and final exams. The tutoring reinforces math skills and confidence, instills the concept of community service, and helps ensure student success on the math SOL exams.
DeMaria has presented at numerous National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conventions; at other national, regional, and state conferences; and at Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in-service workshops and teacher orientations. She received the LBSS Human Relations Award in 2005 and 2006. DeMaria is a graduate of Herbert H. Lehman College in Bronx, N.Y., where she earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and her master’s degree in mathematics education.