Three teachers have been named finalists for the 2020–2021 MCPS Teacher of the Year Award by the Marian Greenblatt Education Fund. They are: Anne Moore, kindergarten teacher at Farmland Elementary School; Inge Chichester, World Studies content specialist at Sligo Middle School; and Rodney Van Tassell, social studies resource teacher at Winston Churchill High School.
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.
Anne Moore is a kindergarten teacher at Farmland Elementary School. 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. 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.
Inge Chichester is the World Studies content specialist at Sligo Middle School. She 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.
The Greenblatt Education Fund is also honoring Joanna Martinez-Mack, a science teacher at Julius West Middle School, as the 2020 Rising Star Teacher of the Year. This 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, who must have five years or more of teaching experience in Montgomery County, are 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.