Excellence Awards - Individual Winners

Recognizing Multiple Pathways to Excellence

2021 Individual Winners

Growth Category 

  • Contributes to the development and/or improvement of programs, services, or curriculum; fosters staff growth, effectiveness, or professional development. Addresses existing systemic equity challenges to ensure access.

Rachel Bowerman, Reading Teacher, Fairview Elementary School

rachel bowermanRachel is an incredible literacy coach who guides teachers at Fairview Elementary in a positive and influential manner. Her instructional knowledge is admired by teachers and she is sought after for her expertise regularly. Her knowledge of all things literacy, testing, and data are just the start of her brilliance. Through Rachel, the staff has gained valuable literacy skills from professional development and collaborative team meetings. During distance learning, Rachel led teachers through curriculum, tips, and tricks to support all learners. When a third grade teacher at Fairview unexpectedly left, Rachel was asked to stand in. She willingly jumped right in and has done an amazing job acting as a teacher while still fulfilling her literacy coach role.

Stephanie J. Gray, Coordinator IV, School Counseling Services & College Success Program, Instructional Services

stephanie grayStephanie's impact reaches far and beyond her direct team, influencing other district leaders and school-based professionals. She serves as a leader whose organizational skills and collaborative leadership provides her colleagues with multiple opportunities to learn and grow both professionally and personally. She has a knack for building capacity in others and is intentional about providing opportunities for her staff to engage and lead in projects and programs that develop and refine their leadership skills. Specifically, to the charge of addressing existing systemic equity challenges, Stephanie's commitment and dedication to the goals of the division while ensuring collaboration and individualized connectedness has become a driver to her success. Stephanie truly is an asset to our district, schools and more importantly our students.

Jacqueline Shuhler, History & Social Studies Teacher, Irving Middle School

jacqueline-shuhlerMrs. Shuhler is a rock star. She consistently works to grow as a teacher, as a mentor, and as a person. A master of the civics curriculum and a lifelong learner, she participates in district curriculum development every year, collaborating with teachers across the county, seeking multiple perspectives, and adding a creative flair to her instruction. She is an informed citizen and ensures that students have the most up-to-date information regarding current events. Mrs. Shuhler has made a personal commitment to ensure that all students see themselves in the civics curriculum. She champions student research on a variety of federally recognized celebratory months such as Women’s History and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Mrs. Shuhler is a dedicated educator who represents and promotes growth in every sense of the word. 

Patty Washington, School-Based Technology Specialist School Improvement & Supports

patty washingtonPatty Washington is the School Based Technology Specialist with IAS. Ms. Washington goes above and beyond to support students and staff. Virtual learning was an absolute success because of Ms. Washington's professionalism, initiative, and expertise. Outside of virtual learning, Ms. Washington has also been instrumental to the growth of the Interagency Alternative Schools program. She provided the technology assistance to endeavors such as our FlipGrid Back-to-School-Night, which provided IAS with the platform for its first ever organization-wide Back to School Night; our Parent Portal Google site; and our virtual Beginning-of-Year and End-of-Year processes. There is no one more deserving of the FCPS Excellence Award in the area of Growth.


Impact on Others Category

  • Develops successful partnerships and outreach to parents, businesses or neighborhoods; provides community services or service learning projects; displays outstanding responsiveness, customer service, or customer satisfaction. Demonstrates cultural responsiveness in building relationships and leverages impact to address equity.

Paul Downey, Coordinator III, Information Technology, FASTeam Information Technology

paul downeyOver the past year, Paul has served as a subject matter expert and advisor at the highest levels of leadership during some of the most challenging times in our history. Paul led his team in the creation of numerous learning resources for staff in the transition to remote learning. He helped to drive training for staff and teachers in multiple virtual tools that, while commonplace now, were completely foreign to the majority of FCPS in March of 2020. He guided the creation of materials that were approachable and easy to deliver in a compressed time frame. Over the course of the year, Paul was responsive over and over again to questions from teachers, principals, and Division leadership. Dozens of conversations began with “Paul, how can we…,” and he worked tirelessly to find solutions that leveraged existing processes, innovated new practices, and were mindful of limited resources. 

Joy O. Gordon, Educational Specialist, Instructional Technology Instructional Services

jay gordonIn addition to her regular duties as a resource teacher and mathematics department chair, Joy Gordon serves on Zoom and Schoology adoption committees. She has brought her gained knowledge and expertise back to the Online Campus and increased the capacity of her colleagues. This has included running an ongoing series of trainings known informally as "Tech Tuesdays," and also scheduling time to work with each of the six other Resource Teachers individually. Joy is the de facto School Based Technology Specialist (SBTS as we like to call them) and Help Desk for the Online Campus. She performs the additional duties of an SBTS without complaint - this has included not just Schoology and Zoom training, but also manually transferring all of the files from the Blackboard Learn shells into the Schoology Content Resource Folders.

Lauren N. Keenen, Emotional Disabilities Teacher, Cedar Lane School

lauren keenanAs the special education chairperson, Lauren oversaw all IEPs, handled referral packets, and assisted with other meetings. She was diplomatic and able to defuse emotionally-charged responses while always putting students’ needs first. She was organized and efficient; even during her busiest times she always made herself available to colleagues for support. Our administrators sought out her leadership on a regular basis. We are not sure how she, as a mother of three young children, and with a difficult commute, managed everything required of her. Last year, she just had her third baby. She ran all her meetings from home, with the baby in one arm while pulling up screens and typing like a pro! You may notice this written in past tense as Lauren has now moved into a new position as a Multiagency Liaison with Special Services. 

Doris A. Malcolm, Instructional Assistant, Clearview Elementary School

doris malcolmDoris has worked in Fairfax County Public Schools for over thirty years in many roles including food service, transportation, and instruction. As an instructional assistant in a special education preschool classroom, she impacts the lives of her students, their families, and her team in profound ways every day. Her smile and optimistic attitude provides a reassuring and comforting welcome to our earliest learners and their families. Doris goes above and beyond in her work with children. Her positive energy is contagious. She is incredibly patient, kind, and holds high expectations for her young learners with unique needs. Doris whole-heartedly believes that all children can learn. The Clearview preschool team and FCPS are lucky to have such a dedicated instructional assistant. 

Shelly Koshuta, Student Information Assistant, Marshall Road Elementary School

shelly koshutaShelly has always been an exemplary employee but during the pandemic she went above and beyond the call of duty in every way. Her responsiveness to the community during a global pandemic should be celebrated, honored and acknowledged. At the elementary level we created class lists multiple times as students switched from virtual to in-person learning among the myriad of others changes that occurred. Ms. Koshuta kept meticulous lists and has an incredible memory which allowed her to move students around, knowing their personal preferences and situations that had to be considered. Shelly is a problem-solver and not only identifies what needs to be done but she creatively solves all dilemmas and turns a challenge into something simple and manageable. We could not have survived this last school year without her level head, positive attitude and her incredible problem-solving abilities. 

Megan Mauer, Food Services Operations Specialist, Financial Services

megan mauerMegan is the Nutritionist/Specialist for Food and Nutrition Services (FNS). Megan has made a tremendous impact on her department and the FCPS community. Megan develops all the menus according to VDOE/USDA guidelines and special needs accommodations. When we closed schools unexpectedly due to COVID in March 2020, FNS had inventory of food and supplies at all the schools and our warehouse. Megan developed menus to utilize the food based on quality of products, quantities, and expiration dates. She developed meal kits for multiple days with heating instructions for families. Because of her tireless effort and due diligence, we were able to utilize most of the food and supplies and help feed our Fairfax County community. She worked tirelessly, adapted to the ever-changing situations and always with a positive attitude! 

Christine McKinney, School Counselor School, Improvement & Supports

christine mckinneyChris is an amazing FCPS educator, counselor, confidante, advocate, advisor, visionary-creator and compassionate caretaker who supports the most marginalized students in FCPS. Prior to this pandemic year, there really hasn't been anything that Chris hasn't seen in her 51 years in FCPS. Through it all, Chris has been the hub of the wheel for Interagency Alternative Schools. Whether she's bringing in home cooked meals every Friday for all of her students so that she knows they've had a good hot meal before the weekend or spending hours on the phone making sure a student and their family have shelter for the night or on weekends visiting a student who has been hospitalized, Chris is always taking care of others. 

Morgan Miciak, English Teacher, Irving Middle School

morgan miciakWhen reflecting on her time in middle school, the thing Morgan Miciak remembers the most is having a space where she could connect with other students who shared the same passions and pastimes, and the teachers who made that space available. Now, in her seventh year teaching eighth grade English at Irving Middle School, Morgan has tried to recreate that experience for her students. Through sponsoring after school clubs over the last few years, such as a Harry Potter themed club and the Environmental Club, Morgan has helped create fun and inclusive spaces in the Irving community, leaving an immeasurable impact on the lives of her students. 

Daniel Mikhail, Technology Support Specialist, Information Technology

Rachel Sweeney, English Teacher, Rocky Run Middle School

rachel sweeneyRachel’s impact on others at Rocky Run is immeasurable. She is the equity lead, an English teacher, and a resource teacher. Rachel supports students beyond just her classroom by collaborating with our student services department to support Young Scholars and our College Partnership program. She is instrumental in ensuring equity remains a focus in all areas. She creates collaborative partnerships between and among students, parents, staff, and the community. She is a tireless advocate who prioritizes student and family belonging and engagement. Her focus on cultural proficiency, equity, and inclusion has had an incomparable impact on both the Rocky Run Middle School community and the Fairfax County Public Schools community. 

John R. Terrien, Auto Technology Teacher, Hayfield Secondary School

john terrienJohn has been an Auto Tech teacher at Hayfield Secondary School for more than 12 years. The impact he has had on this school--and equally on the community--is tremendous. And he has always done so in a very selfless way, never drawing attention to himself. He has worked hard to create a program and culture where kids learn a life skill and feel that they are truly part of something. He also takes care of his colleagues. His dedication goes beyond the classroom as he has coached basketball, baseball, and is currently head coach of Hayfield's back-to-back district champion golf team. John is everything a good teacher, coach and colleague should be. 

Sonya Williams, Director, Student Services, Westfield High School

sonya williamsSonya is the Director of Student Services at Westfield, and works tirelessly to develop a caring school culture. She builds strong relationships with students, staff, and parents, and as a result of her approachable demeanor, students and staff often go to her for advice. This year, she made it a priority to ensure that students and families would maintain a feeling of connectedness to the school. She worked with two student groups to build peer relationships, started a Student Advisory Council, worked with our parent liaison to host evening information sessions for parents in English and Spanish, and partnered with local community organizations and churches to obtain school supplies and food gift cards for students in need. 

Joseph Wolfe, Electric Construction Teacher, Edison High School

joseph wolfeJoe is quick to share opportunities and to collaborate. He takes the lead in offering cross and co-curricular activities with other teachers and regularly involves his students in community service projects for non-profit organizations and also works with local business and industry leaders to place students in paid summer internships and youth apprenticeships while in high school and after graduation for apprenticeships. Joe trains his students to be leaders and collaborators and develops more experienced students into Team Leaders. Also, Joe was voted, "Most Inspiring Teacher" by his students during Teacher Appreciation week last May, which says so much about his impact on his students. 


Innovation Category

  • Contributes to efficiency or effectiveness through cost savings, creativity, or problem solving; engages in reflection to craft culturally responsive solutions that eliminate barriers; develops new ideas that show promise for a broad impact to FCPS.

Matthew Bechtel, Educational Specialist, Career & Technical Education Instructional Services

matt bechtelMatt is the work-based learning educational specialist for Career and Technical Education (CTE) in the Office of Counseling and College and Career Readiness (CCCR). He is a former middle school technology and engineering teacher and school-based technology specialist who is deeply invested in providing equitable access for all students to meaningful, rigorous, and relevant learning experiences in preparation for them to join and contribute their acquired skillset in the 21st-century global workforce. He has been dedicated to fostering the potential of his students in the classroom and as a support specialist. He is very passionate about supporting the expansion of work-based learning experiences across content areas. 

Jakelin Soriano Lake, Student Information Assistant, Braddock Elementary School

jakelin lakeThe pandemic intensely affected families, particularly those underserved and homeless, who needed support and assistance. Jakelin had spent years working with community outreach organizations that focused on supporting families in need and forming valuable partnerships. Jakelin’s innovative network came to the rescue! Because of these partnerships and this network, families are accessing and utilizing faith-based, county and state pandemic emergency funding. Through her innovative network of resources, Jakelin is supporting the needs of not just the Annandale Community but FCPS families all across Fairfax County. 


Student Achievement Category

  • Contributes to student success by closing the achievement gap through the use of culturally responsive practices, measuring progress using assessments, implementing interventions, or student engagement.

Allison L. Burns, Learning Disabilities Teacher Gunston, Elementary School

allison burnsAllison is a phenomenal example of excellence. She is dedicated to ensuring all students are successful. Her knowledge, experience, and passion have greatly impacted the work at Gunston, benefiting all educators and students. Mrs. Burns has been a part of many leadership roles at Gunston. She has planned, modeled, and implemented strategies and supports that have resulted in growth throughout the school. Her work consistently goes beyond her job description. The embodiment of positivity, flexibility, perseverance, and unwavering determination have played a major role in the successful work she has accomplished at Gunston. 

Leslie Kelly Houston, Learning Disabilities Teacher, Braddock Elementary School

leslie kelly houstonThanks to Leslie, students learn to embody Portrait of a Graduate skills and apply them not only while in her class but they acquire these skills for life. Students transform through Leslie’s coaching and mentoring into self-directed stewards working towards building themselves into the 21st century citizens that we all want to cultivate. Leslie Houston is truly deserving of FCPS recognition for all that she does to contribute to student achievement. "Leslie Houston is the light that shines on the path of success for special education children. Any administration that is fortunate to have her on their staff. 

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