Greenblatt Fund Picks Top Teachers

photo students in classroomThe Marian Greenblatt Education Fund on Friday chose five educators who will receive the 2017 Marian Greenblatt Excellence in Education Awards. Three master teachers were selected, each representing high school, middle school, and elementary school teachers. One master teacher awardee will go on to become Teacher of the Year for Montgomery County. Two rising star teachers, with fewer than five years’ experience, also were recognized for excellence.

Master Teacher Award recipients will receive a $2,000 award, and Rising Star awardees will receive $1,000.  In April, they will be honored at the Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education’s “Champions for Children Awards Celebration,” where one will be named Montgomery County Teacher of the Year and could ultimately become National Teacher of the Year.

Marian Greenblatt Master Teachers

Nancy Shay is a National Board Certified English Teacher and Resource Teacher at Richard Montgomery High School. As the English Department head, she has elevated the work of other teachers through data analysis, sharing best practices and peer visits. She fostered a teacher-driven movement to teach literacy across the curriculum. Under her leadership, notably her own decision to teach ninth-grade English rather than focusing solely on International Baccalaureate students, the minority student achievement gap has narrowed measurably at her school. Shay co-leads the after-school Homework Club for students in need of academic intervention, and facilitates monthly schoolwide conversations about race and culture.

Her principal, Damon Monteleone, said: “Her passion for the craft of teaching, respect for the content, and encouragement of all students to engage in discourse as a means to high levels of literacy and critical thinking are an inspiration to us all. There is no student she cannot teach. There is no adult she cannot inspire.”

Cherin Hershkowitz is a mathematics content specialist at Roberto Clemente Middle School. Her students and peers admire her ability to explain the concepts behind mathematical algorithms, and to provide real world experiences that bring the curriculum to life.  Her efforts to build the capacity of her fellow mathematics teachers led to a 27 percent increase in the number of students earning a C or higher in algebra. She designed schoolwide data monitoring tools to improve instructional decisions and placements. Beyond the classroom, she planned and facilitated math nights to help parents better understand Common Core.  She co-facilitated multidisciplinary efforts including “Passport Through China” and “Journey Though Africa,” as well as other community events.

One student said: “I look up to Ms. Hershkowitz. She motivates me to excel beyond, and when I become a cardiac surgeon and win Doctor of the Year, I promise she will be right there, standing next to my mother crying with joy, because she will be the reason I am on that stage.”

Melissa Segal is the fourth-grade team leader at Luxmanor Elementary School. She is an innovative instructor, willing to embrace new techniques and strategies. In one of her assignments, fourth-graders interview local business owners, then come up with their own business plans which they present in a “Shark Tank” scenario. Under her instruction, students displayed impressive improvements in their MAP-M assessments between fall and spring. She serves as a mentor and role model for her colleagues. Active in PTA and school-sponsored events, Segal can be found waiting tables at Run the Diner Nights, scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins fundraisers, or planting flowers around the school. She also has a reputation for intricate and hysterical Halloween costumes.

Aaron Fairchild, Segal’s fourth-grade colleague, commented: “She teaches her students to strive for excellence, to love reading, and to fully respect each other. She teaches all of us to give our best to our students, to wear a smile, and to never give up hope. And most importantly, she teaches us to remember that this profession that we all have chosen is a very important one.”

Marian Greenblatt Rising Star Teachers

Yecenia Morales is a Spanish teacher at Wheaton High School. A product of Montgomery Country Public Schools, Morales presents topics by using real-life situations, and engages students in project-based learning. For example, students in her Spanish for Spanish Speakers class wrote, illustrated, and published children’s books about environmental topics, which they are sharing with the community. Students in her Spanish 1 class created recipes with descriptive directions sufficient for other classmates to make their dishes. Morales supports other educators by sharing best practices with her team and countywide. She brings the energy from her classroom to the school’s Latin Dance Team, which she co-sponsors.

Morales’ fellow language teacher, Paola Scazzoli, said: “She is a natural-born teacher who, since day one, has shown: genuine enthusiasm about teaching, high commitment to her students and their learning, flexibility to work with all colleagues, excellent teacher preparation, and leadership in professional cohorts.”

Amra Nansimbi is a fourth-grade teacher at Glenallan Elementary School. Having begun her own schooling as a non-English speaking kindergartner at the same school, Nansimbi uses her story to inspire and connect with students. Her high expectations and researched-based strategies have enabled over 90 percent of her students to demonstrate well over a year’s worth of academic growth on MAP-M and MAP-R. Among her innovative exercises are a hands-on project to understand pollution in the Potomac River, a partnership with Lego Robotics to teach engineering concepts, and a partnership with to teach computer coding to children. Nansimbi is also praised for her leadership in organizing her school’s annual International Night.

Her principal, Peter Moran, said: “On the wall in Ms. Nansimbi’s class, there is a poster that states, ‘Change can come from a girl with a school book studying under a tree.’ Ms. Nansimbi is that girl and changes the world for the better each day as a teacher at Glenallan Elementary School. She has also empowered her students to understand that knowledge is the key ingredient to changing the world for the better.”

The Marian Greenblatt Education Fund is a nonprofit organization established in 1988 to honor the memory of Dr. Marian Greenblatt, a leader in education and education policy in Montgomery County. Since its inception, the fund has awarded more than $145,000 to outstanding teachers and students. In addition to its annual Master Teacher and Rising Star Teacher awards, the fund honors Aspiring Teachers studying education at the University of Maryland. At the high school level, the fund presents awards for student excellence in social studies and in foreign languages.

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