Mary Hawkins-Jones Named “Most Hopeful Teacher” (Video)
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) teacher Mary Hawkins-Jones has been named the Most Hopeful Teacher in America. The inaugural award was announced on August 21 during an event at Gallup World Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The award is given by Gallup and Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, to recognize a teacher who does outstanding work instilling hope in her students.
Mary Hawkins-Jones teaches fifth-grade at Westover Elementary School in Silver Spring. She has 23 years teaching experience, with the last seven at Westover. She makes it a point to get to know each of her students well and individualizes instruction based on the student’s needs and goals. She tells her students not to be afraid to make mistakes, because they are an important part of the learning process. She also encourages them to dream big and work hard.
One of her early MCPS students was a shy first-grade girl who always tried to hide in class. Mary Hawkins-Jones encouraged the young girl to participate and have big dreams. That student, Cristina Ulrich, eventually became a teacher and is the current MCPS Teacher of the Year. Ulrich credits Hawkins-Jones for helping her believe in herself.
“You can have a big impact on students by giving them a little hope,” Mary Hawkins-Jones said.
Using data from its student surveys, Gallup identified 192 “High Hope” schools. Gallup and Atria Books asked the principals of these schools to nominate an effective classroom teacher who best nurtured hope and whose students achieved at a high level. Each nominee submitted a personal statement and a letter from their principal. Interviews were conducted with four finalists.
Mary Hawkins-Jones was named as the winner of the Most Hopeful Teacher Award during the Aug. 21 event, which also featured remarks by Dr. Starr and Shane J. Lopez, a senior scientist at Gallup and one of the nation’s foremost experts on hope.
MCPS has included hope as a significant part of its new Strategic Planning Framework, which will guide the work of the district in the years to come. The Framework is built around the three competencies that students need for success in the 21st century—Academic Excellence, Creative Problem Solving, and Social Emotional Learning (SEL). One way MCPS will monitor SEL is through the results of the Gallup Student Survey, which is given annually and measures hope, engagement, and well-being.
“Mary Hawkins-Jones shows us that hope matters and makes a difference in the lives of our children,” Dr. Starr said. “It is an important part of education in the 21st century and I am proud that MCPS has made a strong commitment to developing well-rounded, hopeful students.”
County Executive Isiah Leggett agrees.
“I commend Ms. Hawkins-Jones for her 23 years of devotion to education and providing young people with the hope, encouragement and wellbeing necessary for them to develop into successful adults,” said Leggett. “Her remarkable achievements give us all hope for a better and brighter future.”