Springfield resident Paul Naanou is determined to be in front of a classroom. The rising senior at the College of William and Mary and 2013 graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology has been a math and science instructor for Fairfax Collegiate over the last two summers.
On June 9, Naanou was one of seven scholarship recipients at the Fairfax County Retired Educators June luncheon. He was also the only male winner.
“Society is perpetuating the stereotype only women can be nurturing,” he said. “I think men are just as capable and can motivate people -- psychologically and emotionally -- on their educational journey just as well. The conversation around that is starting to change.”
Naanou, who received the Apple Federal Credit Union award given in honor of Herbert G. Carpenter for the second time, said he’s dreamed of becoming a teacher since he was eight years old. He hopes to return to Fairfax County and teach after he graduates.
FCRE Scholarship Director Phyllis Rittman said the scholarship committee has asked school counselors to encourage male, female, and a diverse range of ethnicities to apply.
“If you have them in the class you need them in front of the class too,” she said.
Rittman said this year’s 20 applicants were judged based on a rubric of grade point average, rigor of coursework and a personal essay describing their aspirations to become a teacher. They represented around the all-time highest GPA since the FCRE has been administering scholarships.
“The scholarship committee really had to scrutinze,” Rittman said.
Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza visited with each scholarship winner and their parents before the proceedings commenced at the Arlington-Fairfax Elks Lodge.
However in her remarks, Garza spoke more globally, referencing the battle earlier this year for the Board of Supervisors to fully fund her budget that advertised no further cuts to school programs or services.
“It was an interesting and exciting year,” Garza said. “The community got behind us, that was a real difference-maker.”
Garza also brought up the “meals tax” that Supervisors recently agreed to add for voter referendum this fall. The tax could generate almost $100 million more revenue annually for the County, she said.
“Our needs don’t go away with this major investment,” she said. “Please pay attention to the conversation, this really important conversation.”
Each scholarship given out Thursday is for $2,000.
“For paying for college, any amount can help,” said Lake Braddock Secondary School senior Robyn Miner. “This will help me pursue my dream of becoming a teacher.”
Chantilly High School senior Hannah Warnick also expressed her thanks, that she’s dreamed of becoming a teacher since she was a little girl.
Leah Choe, another Lake Braddock senior, thanked the retired teachers directly.
“We students may not say it, but we all really admire you,” Choe said. “You inspire us to do great things.”
For more information about the Fairfax County Retired Educators visit www.fcre.org.