Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) announced its three finalists for the 2020-2021 MCPS Teacher of the Year Award by the Marian Greenblatt Education Fund. Anne Moore from Farmland Elementary School, Inge Chichester from Sligo Middle School, and Rodney Van Tassell from Winston Churchill High School.
The Greenblatt Education Fund is also honoring Joanna Martinez-Mack from Julius West Middle School as the 2020 Rising Star Teacher of the Year. The award honors teachers with less than five years of experience whose creativity and enthusiasm encourages students to stretch themselves and achieve more.
Finalists for the Teacher of the Year Award must have five years or more of teaching experience in Montgomery County. Each candidate is interviewed by a panel of educators, Board of education members, MCPS staff and representatives from the Montgomery County Council of PTAs, as well as a member of the Greenblatt family.
The teachers, along with other MCPS employees and partners, will be honored for their extraordinary work as part of the annual Champions for Children Awards Celebration. The MCPS Teacher of the Year will be named during the event, which will take place Monday, April 27, at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda.
Anne Moore, Farmland Elementary School Kindergarten Teacher
Moore has been a teacher in MCPS for 23 years. A National Board Certified teacher, she builds genuine, caring relationships that enable students to grow academically and socially. Her classroom is an enthusiastic and happy place. Her skills in teaching concepts simple and advanced is superior. She tirelessly communicates with parents, giving them timely feedback on their child’s performance at school and tips on how to help their progress at home. She has created a “writing workshop” to cultivate a love of writing and excellence in writing skills. The students host an authors’ reception at the end of the year to present their writing. Her commitment to academic success also led her to sponsor and implement a summer reading program for first and second graders. She is adept at using data to inform her classroom instruction. Her focus on collaboration, data and planning resulted in her 25 students meeting the grade-level standard for letter recognition and phonics. She has also been a mentor teacher for several student teachers, and has supported veteran teachers. Moore has served as the kindergarten team leader, a member of the School Improvement Plan and Field Day committees, and the PTA staff liaison.
—“Ms. Moore is the best introduction to school that a child can get!” wrote parent Rachel Lanman.
Inge Chichester, Sligo Middle School World Studies Content Specialist
Chichester expects greatness from her students and is a fierce advocate for them. She supports them as she holds them accountable. She listens to them, and has a special ability to make them see and believe in their own growth and capabilities. She talks with them about self-care and strategies to ensure success. She brings compassion to the job and actively seeks out students in need of academic support. She greets all students as they come through the main doors every morning with a bullhorn. She ends every student conversation with her motto: ‘I love you to life!’ Her classroom feels like a family. In planning meetings, she challenges teachers to be risk takers in the classroom, and pushes them to offer lessons that are more than “good enough.” She is constantly asking questions—“Is there a way to make this more real world for our kids?” “How can we make modifications and accommodations to this?” “What can we do to reteach this concept if students don’t understand the first time?” Chichester is a 19-year veteran of MCPS. Colleagues, students and parents call her a superstar. One teacher called her the “contagious positive,” something you will catch if you hang around her long enough. She spearheads the school’s career day, coordinators the 7th grade field trip to the Junior Achievement Finance Park and hosts two AmeriCorps volunteers.
—“She has always been a teacher that I admire, in the way that she builds relationships with students … Students feel that Inge is a safe place, a confidante, an ally and a person who will never give up on them. As she says on a daily basis to each of her students, ‘I love you to life,’” wrote sixth grade team leader Laura Corvelli.
Rodney Van Tassell, Winston Churchill High School Social Studies Resource Teacher
Rodney Van Tassell has been a social studies resource teacher at Winston Churchill High School since 2011. He has also worked at Takoma Park Middle School. He is known as a collaborative problem solver who is patient, detailed and constantly on the lookout for new ideas. He has brought a focus to his department on student-centered learning by modeling and teaching about project-based learning. This year, he arranged student desks in pods of four, because he believed this fosters student-to-student discourse. His lessons are fun and creative. He had students write a breakup song between the U.S. and Great Britain; and transformed his classroom into a courtroom for students to put Thomas Jefferson on trial for writing the Kentucky Resolution. These efforts have resulted in high achievement on Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History exams and Maryland High School Assessments. In the last decade, he grew the AP U.S. History and Psychology programs about 300 percent, and saw scores increase from an average of 3.5 to 4.1. He was the longtime head coach for Churchill swimming and diving, and coaches numerous All American, All-County and All-Met athletes.
—“A good teacher is someone who will teach you enough to pass the class, but a great teacher, like Mr. Van Tassell, will make you love his subject and want to come to class every day,” wrote student Emily Abramson.