The Excellence in Teaching Awards recognize the outstanding achievement and dedication of seven DCPS teachers with a $10,000 award. Winners are nominated by DCPS educators, students, parents, and community members, and then selected by a central office panel. Eligible teachers must earn a rating of Highly Effective under IMPACT.
Excellence in Teaching Award winners are recognized at the annual Standing Ovation for DC Teachers, hosted by DC Public Education Fund and held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Learn more about the 2011 Excellence in Teaching recipients.
2012 Excellence in Teaching Award Winners:
Sarah Bax, Eighth Grade Math Teacher, Hardy Middle School
Sarah Bax was committed to serving urban communities from early in her career. Upon graduating with an urban studies degree, Ms. Bax joined DCPS 19 years ago as a Teach For America corps member, and she has spent the last 13 years as a mathematics teacher at Hardy Middle School.
Ms. Bax’s students thrive in her classroom, which she describes as “an ever-evolving mix of urgency and conceptual creativity, with a consistent inclusion of good ole’ fashioned fun.” She relishes the moments when her students “discover their inner mathematician” and “experience the glory of being thirteen—that who they are is hardly finished and already amazing.” Despite the time she commits to her students, Ms. Bax has taken on numerous other leadership roles, including serving on the Chancellor’s Teachers’ Cabinet, as a Master Teacher in the Math for America DC program, and as the math department chair at Hardy. She excels at these other roles, but teaching is her true passion. She loves that “every day is an awesome adventure—there is joy in every step.”
Mayra Canizales, Instructional Coach (Previously English Language Arts Teacher), Columbia Heights Education Campus
Mayra Canizales joined DCPS four years ago as a sixth grade English language arts teacher at Columbia Heights Education Campus. This year she transitioned into the role of instructional coach.
Ms. Canizales chose DCPS because she truly believes that we will become one of the highest performing urban districts in the country. Ms. Canizales shares, “I knew that I would be challenged, supported, and developed in this district – it’s the best choice I could have ever made!” As the lead teacher for sixth grade English language arts, Ms. Canizales led her grade level team to significant gains – in 2011-12, the percentage of sixth grade students who were proficient on the ELA DC-CAS increased by 25%. She describes her teaching as “a balance between high academic and behavior expectations, care, humor, and a deep belief that every child has multiple gifts and talents waiting to be uncovered, developed, or polished.”
Ms. Canizales knows the impact of a great teacher and shares, “I love teaching because a quality education changes the life trajectories of students and their families.”
Hope Harrod began her teaching career in DCPS 11 years ago, and this year marks her fourth at Burroughs Education Campus. After studying history as an undergraduate, Ms. Harrod decided to pursue a master’s degree in education.
“I became a teacher because I wanted to be a part of helping to develop a generation of children who love learning. I love to watch as students come to realize that their ideas and opinions matter.” Ms. Harrod is constantly perfecting her craft through a variety of leadership roles and professional development opportunities. She mentors teachers through the DC Teaching Fellows Program, coordinates school book fairs, organizes mathematics labs for students after school, and has served as a faculty member for a research institute through the Teaching America History project where she helped high school history teachers integrate the use of primary sources in the classroom.
When asked what she loves most about teaching, Ms. Harrod said, “I love helping students develop the tools to think critically, ask questions, and articulate their ideas with measured precision. I love watching them grow. It never fails that as they grow, they become more and more confident that the world’s opportunities are for them and that they can grab on if they only reach out.”
Valyncia O. Hawkins, Fifth Grade Teacher, Anne Beers Elementary School
Valyncia Hawkins attended Anne Beers Elementary School as a DCPS student, and began teaching at Beers 18 years ago through Teach For America. Ms. Hawkins is extremely grateful for the education she received as a DCPS student and feels as though the success she found throughout her life began with the strong foundation provided by Beers Elementary, Sousa Junior High School, and Ballou Senior High School.
Ms. Hawkins describes her classroom as student-centered, and a place where students are expected to take initiative and responsibility for their learning. Ms. Hawkins shares, “My biggest joy is when students begin to recognize the intrinsic rewards of academic and social achievement. Knowing that I contributed to this progress is my joy!” Outside of the classroom, Ms. Hawkins represents her school community in a variety of leadership roles including serving as a school representative for the Washington Teachers’ Union and facilitating at a NASA Educators Workshop.
It is evident that Ms. Hawkins cares deeply for her school community and is grateful for the support it provides to her. “I would like to publicly thank my family, the staff, and the community of Beers for helping me become the teacher I am today.”
Kristin Schrauth began teaching in DCPS eight years ago as a pre-kindergarten teacher at Ross Elementary School, and she has spent the past two years as a preschool teacher at Francis-Stevens Education Campus. Ms. Schrauth quickly became involved in the Francis-Stevens community, serving on the Local School Advisory Team and Parent-Teacher Association. Ms. Schrauth has also represented her colleagues at the district level as a member of the Chancellor’s Teachers’ Cabinet.
Before becoming a teacher, Ms. Schrauth served as a social worker in Milwaukee, but soon discovered that teaching was the best fit for her. “I like giving children the advantage of a head start in their education and helping to ensure that they are on an even playing field with others that have more advantages.” As a preschool teacher, Ms. Schrauth understands the important role she plays in the lives of her students. “I work each year to help my students become thinkers and intrinsic learners. I am there to guide them by asking questions and directing their explorations.
My ultimate goal is to set the foundation for them to be independent and responsible students, both academically and socially, for the rest of their learning careers.”
Brian Thompson, Tenth Grade World History Teacher, Cardozo High School
Brian Thompson joined DCPS four years ago after serving in the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army, and came to the district with a strong desire to continue serving his country in a different capacity.
He takes great pride in teaching at Cardozo and credits his colleagues with much of his development as an educator. “Cardozo has such a proud history, and I am honored to be a part of it.” But his students are the ones who keep him in the classroom. “They bring such joy to my life. I learn from them on a daily basis, and they always make me smile and laugh.” To bring out the best in his students, Mr. Thompson makes history relatable by insisting that there are no right answers to the questions he challenges them to answer. Rather, he guides students to examine the subject “through their own perspectives, and to use evidence and reason to formulate an understanding of the past.”
When his students face challenges, Mr. Thompson supports them in finding their own solutions, reminding students that “everyone fails at some point in life. The people who succeed are those with the resolve to get back up and try again. I want to provide this generation with the tools necessary to succeed in this world, and help them become better citizens.”
Camille Townsend, Fourth and Fifth Grade Teacher, Ketcham Elementary School
Camille Townsend began teaching at Ketcham Elementary School eight years ago as a DC Teaching Fellow. After Ms. Townsend’s father, who was ill with cancer at the time, told her to “find what she wanted to do and pursue it no matter what,” she decided to leave law school and become a teacher.
Ms. Townsend has served in numerous leadership roles at Ketcham, including serving on the Academic Leadership Team and as the teacher lead for upper grades, assisting her colleagues with lesson planning, student grouping strategies, and behavior management. Inside the classroom, Ms. Townsend has created an environment that demands the best from her students. Her students not only learn, they experience. Just like their animated teacher, Ms. Townsend’s students “adjust their invisible binoculars to show that they are analyzing something, and do ‘snake dances’ to show that they need to use their rounding rules.” Witnessing Ms. Townsend teach is a joy for anyone who visits her classroom.
Principal Tyler wrote, “Ms. Townsend makes me a better principal. I get butterflies when I watch her deliver instruction and see excitement in the eyes of her students. She inspires me every day to be better.”