Honorable Mention Recipients of the Rubenstein Award for Highly Effective Teaching 2011 

Twenty Honorees Selected

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About the Award

These are the 20 Honorable Mention recipients of the Rubenstein Award for Highly Effective Teaching in 2011. Learn more about the award.

Christine Bennett, Watkins Elementary School, Early Childhood Montessori

Ms. Christine Bennett teaches early childhood Montessori at Watkins Elementary School. Ms. Bennett has taught in DCPS for 23 years.

“Ms. Bennett’s classroom is filled with quietly busy two to six year old students who are all intensely involved in work of their choosing. Ms. Bennett runs a model Montessori classroom where students direct their own learning, are challenged with a variety of meaningful activities, and benefit from an environment made warm and nurturing not just by their teacher, but by their peers as well. Ms. Bennett’s students help one another, share, and work together collaboratively. Her class gives great examples of how much young learners can excel academically and cooperate socially when under the guidance of a strong, but loving teacher.” - Master Educator

Seth Brecher, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Ninth through Twelfth Grade Special Education


Mr. Seth Brecher is a special education teacher and transition specialist at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, where he teaches students in grades nine through twelve. He also teaches College Summit, a class that prepares students for post-secondary education and helps students navigate the financial aid process. Prior to joining Ellington two years ago, Mr. Brecher taught at Deal Middle School and also worked in finance and marketing roles in the private sector. Mr. Brecher serves as his school's WTU building representative, helped market and promote Ellington’s performance of ‘Dreamgirls,' and has been featured during DCPS’s Inclusive Schools Week.

“[Mr. Brecher’s] class is a large credit to why I actually decided to apply to college. Applying to college seemed to be a daunting and tedious task. Not in Mr. Brecher’s class. He walks in every day with enthusiasm and energy that made college seem attainable. Very few teachers have the opportunity to be the turning point for a student. First period College Summit has been that for me.” -Student

Perea Brown, Langdon Education Campus, Third and Fourth Grade Montessori

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Ms. Perea Brown teaches third and fourth grade Montessori at Langdon Education Campus where she is also the cheerleading coach, step team coordinator, and choir coordinator. Ms. Brown has been with DCPS for twelve years and is the parent of two DCPS graduates and two current DCPS students.

“My daughter is in [Ms. Brown’s] third grade class, and I can’t tell you how much growth I have seen in just the past few months. Ms. Brown motivates her students and accepts nothing but the best from them. I had the opportunity to transfer my daughter to the prestigious Sidwell Friends on scholarship, and I chose to keep her at Langdon knowing Ms. Brown would be her teacher. Ms. Brown goes above and beyond the classroom for the students at Langdon. The parents stop her daily and ask if their child can be in her room or stop by after school for some tips or strategies for their child who is not in her room.” - DCPS Parent

Brenda Burns, Garrison Elementary School, Ward 2, Pre-Kindergarten

Ms. Brenda Burns teaches pre-kindergarten at Garrison Elementary School. A member of the first cohort of early childhood teachers in DCPS, Ms. Burns has also taught at Ludlow-Taylor, Thomas, and Hearst Elementary Schools during her 36-year career in the District.

Ms. Burns is a supervising teacher for student teachers from several local universities, a member of the city-wide Pre-K Focus Steering Committee, and an evaluator for the U.S. Department of Education’s National Awards for Model Professional Development. Ms. Burns has served on the Local School Restructuring Team for 15 years and was nominated for the Agnes Meyer Teacher of the Year Award.

“Ms. Burns is a model early childhood teacher. In addition to her years of service and dedication to our students, she engages her classes with academically rigorous work that is also developmentally appropriate. Students in Ms. Burns’s class are eager to participate and are excited about learning. The nurturing environment Ms. Burns has created in her classroom makes children feel safe and parents confident that with Ms. Burns their children will thrive and grow.” - Master Educator

Brenda Collum, Visiting Instruction Services, Secondary Science

Ms. Brenda Collum is a secondary science teacher with Visiting Instruction Services and has worked in DCPS for 27 years. Ms. Collum has been honored as the DCPS Science Teacher of the Year three times and has been a recipient of the Governor’s Award for Environmental Science. Ms. Collum has helped students achieve numerous honors in local and national science competitions.

“When it comes to effective teaching, there is one teacher that stands out in my mind who is most deserving of recognition. Ms. Collum has a love for all children. She is a positive person who is able to see the potential, capabilities, skills, talents, gifts, and special attributes of all students. She believes that every child has something special to contribute to society no matter how unique their circumstance, disability, or situation.” - Colleague

Elsa Domingo, Phelps High School, Ninth through Eleventh Grade Mathematics

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Ms. Elsa Domingo teaches Algebra I and II, Honors Algebra I, and SAT preparation for students in grades nine through eleven at Phelps High School. An educator for 18 years, Ms. Domingo has been in DCPS for eight years and has previously taught in the Philippines. She was honored with the Ward 7 Outstanding Teacher Award in 2007 and is currently working with the State Department of Education to prepare DC teachers for the Common Core high school mathematics curriculum. Outside of the classroom, Ms. Domingo enjoys facilitating workshops to support parents in helping their students with math at home. She is a mentor teacher, the data lead at Phelps, and the parent of a Wilson High School student.

“I want to tell you how much Ms. Domingo has changed my life. Ms. Domingo has changed my life by helping me to stay focused and stay positive during the time that I was in her class. As a student coming from a deep background of sadness and hurt, she has found a way to connect to my life. Ms. Domingo shows that she is there for me, such as when I come to school with a bad attitude from what has happened before school. Ms. Domingo takes time to listen to what I have to say and relates to what has happened and cheers me up. During times when things just feel like they are going wrong in school, she always comes to me and gives me pointers of how I should resolve that situation.” - Student 

Linda Gatling, Neval Thomas Elementary School, Vocal Music


Ms. Linda Gatling teaches pre-kindergarten through fifth grade vocal music at Neval Thomas Elementary School and has been with the district for 18 years.

Prior to her time at Thomas, Ms. Gatling taught vocal music and served as the leisure education coordinator for students at C. Melvin Sharpe Health School. Outside of the classroom, Ms. Gatling is an established choral conductor, consultant, and theatre specialist.

She coordinates the Fun, Fly and Fit program, a United Way fitness and nutrition initiative, and manages a community partnership with the Washington National Opera Education Program. Ms. Gatling is a native of Washington, DC, and she and her son are both DCPS graduates.

“Ms. Gatling is an exemplary teacher. She is a team player and an asset to Neval Thomas Elementary School and community. She brings a variety of partnerships and cultural activities to the school. She provides exposure and experiences to help ignite the spark of enlightenment for students of all ages and abilities. She brings magic to the classroom as well as to the music community. Ms. Gatling is insightful, energetic, enthusiastic, highly motivated, and skilled.” - Colleague

Michael Hughes, Deal Middle School, Seventh Grade English

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Mr. Michael Hughes teaches seventh grade English at Alice Deal Middle School, where he has worked for the past 21 years and where he is also the fencing coach. Mr. Hughes has taught in public, private, rural, and urban schools since 1979 and is the proud parent of a DCPS graduate and current Wilson student.

“Both of my children were lucky enough to have spent a year with English teacher Mr. Hughes when they were students at Alice Deal Middle School, and memories and lessons from Mr. Hughes’s class are still a staple of our family lore. In their seventh grade years, it was a regular occurrence for them to come home and at the dinner table, offer highlights of their English class discussions. Mr. Hughes would have their classes talking about literature and life, and the discussions always sounded animated, enthusiastic, topical, and thought-provoking. My husband and I witnessed our budding teenagers thinking and expressing themselves maturely. I believe this development was aided by Mr. Hughes who managed to treat his students like they had minds of their own – he respected them as young thinkers. [My children] continue to love language, reading, literature, and the arts.” - DCPS Parent

Aqueelha James, McKinley Technology High School, Biotechnology

Ms. Aqueelah James teaches tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade biotechnology at McKinley Technology High School.

Outside of the classroom, Ms. James leads the HOSA Club, a nationally recognized club for students interested in health occupations, and enjoys helping students with school assemblies and fundraising activities.

“Students perform at higher levels because of their experience in Ms. James’s class. Ms. James creates such a supportive learning environment in her learning laboratory that she has one of the highest rates of student attendance in the school, despite the fact that she teaches one of our most rigorous courses. Recently, one of my parents remarked about the impact of Ms. James. She added that she has never seen her daughter so excited about one class in her life.” - Colleague

Jonathan Jou, Jefferson Middle School, Sixth through Eighth Grade English as a Second Language

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Mr. Jonathan Jou teaches sixth, seventh, and eighth grade English as a Second Language (ESL) at Jefferson Middle School, where he has spent his 18-year teaching career. Mr. Jou was one of the first two DC teachers to receive the the prestigious Milken National Educator Award in 2004 and has also been honored with the Scottish Rite Educator Excellence Award and the DCPS Excellence in Education Award. Mr. Jou tutors new ESL students after school and oversees the Jefferson Fan Dance Troupe, a group of young ladies of various ethnic backgrounds working together to promote multicultural awareness among all students.

“I must assert that while [Mr. Jou] is phenomenal in class – a great motivator and teacher – it is the extra time after school and on Saturdays that makes the true difference for many of these students whose parents' language skills are even more limited. For example, he visits his students' homes, tutors them, and works to ensure that they are prepared for school, helping parents find uniforms, school supplies, and outside resources like community enrichment programs for weekend and summer study. Personally, I have witnessed the drastic changes his students undergo from the time they arrive in the United States and at Jefferson MS to the time they leave. In the beginning, many of them are quite shy; by their second or third year, they are confident and poised. Indeed, Mr. Jou's influence and impact can be seen in all of them, especially when they blossom into the highly dedicated, eager, successful students they work hard to become.” - Colleague 

Lakia Kenan, Orr Elementary School, First Grade

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Ms. Lakia Kenan began her teaching career five years ago at Orr Elementary School, where she currently teaches first grade. In recognition of her outstanding teaching, Ms. Kenan was named Orr’s Teacher of the Year. Ms. Kenan is a graduate of Ballou Senior High School.

“The word outstanding only begins to describe this amazing educator and her impact on the lives of the children in Anacostia. At any given moment during the school day, Ms. Kenan’s classroom embodies the best practices of teaching and learning. [She] is a master at teaching, assessing and responding to her students’ academic and social-emotional needs. She runs her classroom of independent first graders like a well-oiled machine. Her students constantly strive to meet her high expectations. It has been an honor to collaborate and learn from such an exceptional educator. Ms. Kenan’s reflective practices and commitment to her students’ success directly impact all the students at Orr Elementary.” - Colleague

Alyssa Lipshie, Murch Elementary School, First and Second Grade

Ms. Alyssa Lipshie teaches first and second grade at Murch Elementary School. Prior to her fifteen years at Murch, Ms. Lipshie taught at Truesdell Elementary for four years. She is an active member of the Responsive Classroom Committee at Murch, organizes the school’s ‘International Night,’ and is an elected representative of the WTU’s School Chapter Advisory Committee.

“My son and I had a difficult kindergarten year. He started kindergarten as a beginning reader and slowly regressed all year. My son went from a kid who was excited about school and learning, to a kid who became filled with doubt about his abilities and decided he was not ‘a reader’ and ‘not smart’. So I started this school year with a lot of apprehension, cautiously optimistic that this would be a better year and resolved that if things did not improve this year, I would have to leave DC for my son’s sake. However, we have had an amazing school year so far. It is impossible to put into words how transformative Ms. Lipshie has been in mine and my son’s lives. My son is back, and I am so grateful to Ms. Lipshie. He is excited about learning again and every day I get home, he has all kinds of knowledge to share with me.” - DCPS Parent

Heather Roy, Janney Elementary School, First Grade

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Ms. Heather Roy teaches first grade at Janney Elementary School. Ms. Roy has been at Janney for six years, four years as a classroom teacher and two years as a paraprofessional. Prior to joining DCPS, Ms. Roy supported students with special needs in a self-contained classroom in Seattle, Washington.

“I wondered (and worried) at the beginning of the year about how Ms. Roy could possibly manage so many different children, let alone teach them to read, be critical thinkers, write, add and subtract, count money or many of the other things that busy first graders do these days. My worries are gone. My first sign that she was a fabulous teacher was the first week of school when my normally shy daughter came bounding out of school with a huge smile on her face saying how much she loved the classroom. This is true of all of Ms. Roy’s students. The students love her and so they are ready to learn. With a combination of precision and focus with compassion and spirit, Ms. Roy ensures that students are on task, learning, and well cared for at school. And while her focus is 100% on the children, she is also thankfully very responsive to parents who have questions or concerns. I am so thankful that Mrs. Roy is my daughter’s teacher. In my daughter’s words, ‘She’s the best!’” - DCPS Parent

Emily Schneider, Tyler Elementary School, Early Childhood Autism

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Ms. Emily Schneider is an early childhood autism teacher and an autism team leader at Tyler Elementary School. Currently, Ms. Schneider is preparing to take the certification exam to become a board certified behavior analyst for the upcoming school year. Ms. Schneider has taught at Tyler for five years.

“When we first anticipated the start of school for our then three year old son who has autism, we didn't know whether we would see any improvement. It was thanks to Ms. Schneider's tireless efforts in teaching our son, providing services such as ABA and being communicative about everything. In fact, Ms. Schneider became part of our family. When I once walked into the classroom bursting out in tears because [my son’s] behavior was so challenging, she immediately offered moral support and professional expertise. She has been amazing at steering us through the process of helping our son be able to be integrated in a general education classroom. I can honestly say that Ms. Schneider has not only changed [my son’s] life, but she changed our life as a family as well.” - DCPS Parent

Kristin Schrauth, Francis Stevens Elementary School, Preschool

Ms. Kristin Schrauth teaches preschool at Francis Stevens Elementary School, where she is also a member of the Parent-Teacher Association. Before joining Francis Stevens, Ms. Schrauth taught at Ross Elementary for five years and chaired the Local School Restructuring Team.

“Ms. Schrauth is an amazing teacher and colleague. Her students are always engaged in lessons and they're only three years old! It's amazing what she's teaching her students and how she goes about getting them to understand the concepts she teaching. She makes learning fun.” - Colleague

Diane Terrell, Stoddert Elementary School, Pre-Kindergarten

Ms. Diane Terrell teaches pre-kindergarten at Stoddert Elementary School and has been with DCPS for 38 years. Ms. Terrell was selected as a Teaching and Learning Framework Fellow in 2010, serves on the Local School Restructuring Team, and is a member of the Parent-Teacher Association.

“I first met Ms. Terrell as a four year old student in her pre-kindergarten class, and she has maintained a close relationship with my family and me ever since. My mother and father had emigrated from El Salvador, so for my family, Ms. Terrell's class was our first experience with the American education system. Ms. Terrell and I quickly developed a strong teacher/student bond. Throughout elementary school, Ms. Terrell would pick me up from my house in the morning and bring me back in the afternoon. Many of these mornings and afternoons were spent ensuring that I was prepared for classes, doing last minute reviews of words for spelling tests, reciting passages that were to be recited from memory. The lessons I learned about navigating and traversing different cultural divides, as well as standing up for yourself, from her to this day have shaped how I interact with the world.” - Student

Tracy Thomas, Houston Elementary School, Fifth Grade Reading and Social Studies

Ms. Tracy Thomas teaches fifth grade reading and social studies at Houston Elementary School. Ms. Thomas has been at Houston for five years, having previously taught at Merritt Education Campus for thirteen years. She is a member of Houston’s Professional Development Team and Spelling Bee Chair.

“Ms. Thomas is one of the nicest teachers in my school. Ms. Thomas always gives us a lot of work, so when we get in middle school we will know our stuff. When we get in trouble she is always fair.” - Student

Amy Trenkle, Stuart-Hobson Middle School, Eighth Grade US History

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Ms. Amy Trenkle is an eighth grade US history teacher at Stuart-Hobson Middle School, where she has been teaching since 1999. She is a National Board Certified teacher in early adolescence social studies/history, and she has served on several advisory boards to local museums, including the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies, the National Museum of American History, and the Newseum. Ms. Trenkle was the recipient of the DC History Teacher of the Year Award in 2005 as sponsored by the Gilder-Lehrman Institute. Currently, she is serving as an adjunct professor of education at American University.

“Ms. Trenkle motivated not just me but everyone in her class. I love the way she keeps her students excited. Although her classroom is like a living history class, my classmates and I learned history for a lifetime outside the walls of Ms. Trenkle’s class because of all the trips, programs, and outdoor experiences she planned for us. She is fair, energetic, caring, loves history, loves learning, and loves finding new ways for her students to learn.” - Student

Mary Washington, J.O. Wilson Elementary School, Kindergarten

Ms. Mary Washington teaches kindergarten at J.O. Wilson Elementary School, where she has taught for the past 25 years. Outside of the classroom, Ms. Washington leads the student council, chairs the kindergarten department, and is a TAG representative.

“Ms. Washington is one of the most humble and modest teachers in the system. Students’ assignments [are] differentiated in content and process to cater the lesson to the specific needs of the widely varied skill levels in her class. She is a positive, reflective, and open-minded teacher who is willing to work hard…and embraced the idea of growth based on an observer’s feedback.” - Master Educator

Mary Williams, H.D. Woodson High School, English

Ms. Mary Williams teaches AP English at H.D. Woodson High School and has been with DCPS for 25 years.

Building on her own passion for the dramatic arts, Ms. Williams has supported her students in winning a national video contest for Bob’s Big Boy restaurant and in writing and performing their own professionally recorded music video.

Ms. Williams was herself featured in “Spellbound,” an Academy Award nominated documentary about the National Spelling Bee, and her students have won first place in the regional oratorical contest three years in a row.

Ms. Williams has been honored as the Ward 5 and Ward 7 Teacher of the Year and recognized several times by Who’s Who Among America’s Best Teachers.

“Ms. Williams has taught and helped a lot of youth in the District of Columbia become successful. Because of the skills taught by Ms. Williams I am able to endure the hardships and overcome any obstacle. Ms. Williams is a role model as well as a teacher and a mentor, not only because of her commitment to volunteerism and generosity, but because she has welcomed the challenges that come along with being a non-traditional teacher and teaching non-traditional students that sometimes have no drive or purpose in life. She has shaped, modeled and, transformed many doers, dreamers, and global thinkers of the 21st century.” – DCPS Student

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