Outstanding Elementary Teacher, Finalists, and School Recipients

The outstanding elementary teachers recognized at 2017 FCPS Honors

2017 Outstanding Elementary School Teacher   

Jillian Bell, Fifth Grade Teacher, Brookfield Elementary School, Region 5a picture of jillian bell

At her first teaching job in an inner city school in Albany, New York, Jillian struggled to engage students—until she started using her vacation to visit them and their families at home. “I learned that pretty decorations and lesson plans didn’t matter,” she says. “I needed to reach before I could teach.” Whether she’s sharing a student’s “glows and grows” with a parent, acting as designated principal, or leading a “Girls on the Run” event, interacting with the wider community remains a priority for Jillian. Fellow staffers praise her as a leader who’s changed school culture, a “natural” in the classroom with a gift for mentoring. One former student, now on scholarship at a top college, even credited Jillian for her success. “Without Ms. Bell’s belief in me and fostering my sense of confidence,” she wrote, “I do not believe any of this would have been possible.”

 

 

2017 Outstanding Elementary School Teacher Finalist  

Sean Gray, Sixth Grade Teacher, Dranesville Elementary School, Region 1a picture of sean gray

Sean discovered early in life that “learning is personal.” The lessons came at the dinner table where his parents (an FCPS principal and teacher) discussed the importance of making each student or staff member feel valued and heard. In 23 years as a teacher, Sean has continued to believe that students want to be connected – both to what they’re learning and to the adults teaching them. Whether it’s in a Socratic seminar, at the after-school program he set up for struggling students, or coaching his Dranesville Dragon Runners Club, Sean tries to do just that. In fact, students have dubbed his teaching style the “Gray Factor,” for the way he’s able to look at things from their perspective and draw on their strengths. “This is what is so special about Mr. Gray,” says one. “He sees something in you that you would never see in yourself.”

 

 

2017 Outstanding Elementary School Teacher Finalist  

James Koontz, Fourth Grade Teacher, West Springfield Elementary School, Region 4a picture of james koontz

Before he became a teacher eight years ago, James was a defense contractor and stay-at-home dad. This helps account for the “real world” context he brings to his classroom, where students have learned to balance a checkbook, design a resort and write for the class newspaper. James founded the robotics and 3D printing clubs and created a schoolwide “Innovation Time” to encourage students to figure out how they learn best. He also serves as the school’s PTA representative and is a core member of the Responsive Instruction team to reach struggling students. Colleagues praise him as a collaborative leader and mentor who goes out of his way to help. “James is a prime model of an educator dedicated not only to his students,” says a coworker, “but to the school, staff and community at large.”

 

 

2017 Outstanding Elementary School Teacher Finalist  

Abir Saah, First Grade Teacher, Camelot Elementary School, Region 2a picture of abir saah

Abir believes every student is capable of making progress. What sets her apart as a teacher is how far she’ll go to ensure that happens. From a two-hour parent/teacher conference to personally tutoring a child after class, Abir’s commitment to her students and their families is regularly described as “incomparable.” As one parent noted, “Long after most of us had ended our workday, Ms. Saah was still working to make sure our son could get the best education possible.” While making a difference in student’s lives has been Abir’s primary goal, after 33 years of teaching, she’s quick to point out she couldn’t do it alone. “Learning does not occur in a vacuum,” she says, “it requires the involvement of a community.”

 

 

2017 Outstanding Elementary School Teacher Finalist  

Eli Tinkelman, Fifth Grade Teacher, Hollin Meadows Elementary School, Region 3a picture of eli tinkelman

Eli’s students are never surprised when he hands them a book he says will “speak directly” to them. “Mr. T.” is known for going all out to reach the kids he teaches – not only during class, but by attending their games and concerts, checking in when they’re sick or even dropping books by their homes during a blizzard. Co-teachers praise the level of differentiation Eli provides to a population whose challenges (55 percent below poverty, 40 percent ESOL) overwhelm many educators. “He’s always reaching out to other teachers, content specialists and coaches about how to help mentees or make himself better, “says one. Eli says he learned by failing early on that you have to know the people you’re trying to help. Now he’ll do what it takes, even if that means studying Spanish in South America – as he’s done during the summers – to better understand his students.

 

 

2017 Outstanding Secondary Teacher - School Recipients

  • Annandale Terrace Elementary School
    • Matthew Stensrud, Music Teacher
  • Armstrong Elementary School
    • Kim McLeod, Fourth Grade Teacher
  • Bailey's Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences
    • Jessica Vranas, ESOL Teacher*
  • Bailey's Upper Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences
    • Laura Wagner, Fourth Grade Spanish Immersion Teacher
  • Beech Tree Elementary School
    • Safaa Ahmad, Fifth Grade Teacher
  • Belle View Elementary School
    • Abby Betz, Second Grade Teacher
  • Bonnie Brae Elementary School
    • Jennifer Goodwin, Multiple Disabilities Teacher
  • Braddock Elementary School
    • Wanda Negron-Rivera, Third Grade Spanish Immersion Teacher
  • Bren Mar Park Elementary School
    • Lisa Turco, Special Education Teacher
  • Brookfield Elementary School
    • Jillian Bell, Fifth Grade Teacher*
  • Bucknell Elementary School
    • Cassidy Doane, ESOL Teacher
  • Bush Hill Elementary School
    • Patience Galvan, First Grade Teacher
  • Camelot Elementary School
    • Abir Saah, First Grade Teacher*
  • Canterbury Woods Elementary School
    • Denise Castillo, Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing Teacher
  • Cardinal Forest Elementary School
    • Brian Shields, Fourth Grade Teacher
  • Centre Ridge Elementary School
    • Elizabeth Baxter, Third Grade Teacher
  • Centreville Elementary School
    • Nia Manoleras, Second Grade Teacher
  • Cherry Run Elementary School
    • Kristen Melchiori, Second Grade Teacher
  • Chesterbrook Elementary School
    • Amy Vallath, Fourth Grade Teacher
  • Clermont Elementary School
    • Latriece Pettie, Multiple Disabilities Teacher
  • Colin Powell Elementary School
    • Jamie Penney, Fourth Grade Advanced Academics Program Teacher
  • Columbia Elementary School
    • Daniel Solsberry, Advanced Academic Teacher
  • Crossfield Elementary School
    • Heather Baucum, Librarian
  • Cunningham Park Elementary School
    • Kathy Coles, Fourth Grade Teacher*
  • Daniels Run Elementary School
    • Michelle Mills Witteried, Third Grade Teacher
  • Deer Park Elementary School
    • Lynn Heick, Second Grade Teacher
  • Dranesville Elementary School
    • Sean Gray, Sixth Grade Teacher*
  • Eagle View Elementary School
    • Ann Brownridge, Second Grade Teacher
  • Fairfax Villa Elementary School
    • Jen Masi, Preschool Teacher*
  • Fairhill Elementary School
    • Kirsten Chen, Special Education Teacher
    • Kelly Deneault, Fifth Grade Teacher
    • Kaleigh Klemm, Advanced Academics Teacher
    • Paula Majewski, Second Grade Teacher
    • Jessica Mayes, Kindergarten Teacher
  • Fairview Elementary School
    • Valerie Junttila, Music Teacher
  • Flint Hill Elementary School
    • Brooke Nye, Fourth Grade Teacher
  • Forestdale Elementary School
    • Jean Barrett, Art Teacher
  • Fort Hunt Elementary School
    • Lani Morris, First Grade Teacher
  • Fox Mill Elementary School
    • Michelle Bekenstein, Kindergarten Teacher*
  • Franconia Elementary School
    • Arlyncia Pina, Third Grade Teacher
  • Garfield Elementary School
    • Kate Strotman, Third Grade Teacher
  • Groveton Elementary School
    • Catherine Matthews, Sixth Grade Teacher
  • Gunston Elementary School
    • Ramiah Ford, Sixth Grade Teacher*
  • Halley Elementary School
    • Krista Anderson, Fifth Grade Teacher
  • Haycock Elementary School
    • Ashley Melton, Fourth Grade Teacher
  • Hayfield Elementary School
    • Stella Centanni, Second Grade Teacher
  • Herndon Elementary School
    • Katie Cruz, First Grade Teacher
  • Hollin Meadows Elementary School
    • Eli Tinkelman, Fifth Grade Teacher*
  • Hunt Valley Elementary School
    • Jenni Pak, Kindergarten Teacher
  • Hunters Woods Elementary School
    • Heather Demuth, Fifth Grade Teacher
  • Keene Mill Elementary School
    • Nicole Zenker, Physical Education Teacher
  • Kent Gardens Elementary School
    • Debra Wines, Advanced Academics Resource Teacher*
  • Kings Park Elementary School
    • Rebecca Halloran, Librarian*
  • Lake Anne Elementary School
    • Karen Stevens, Fourth Grade Teacher
  • Lane Elementary School
    • Whitney Dierman, Fourth Grade Teacher
  • Laurel Hill Elementary School
    • Rosaleen Sypher, First Grade Teacher*
  • Laurel Ridge Elementary School
    • Megan Counts, Multiple Disabilities Teacher*
  • Lees Corner Elementary School
    • Katie Griffith, Third Grade Teacher
  • Little Run Elementary School
    • Tina Brown, Physical Education Teacher
  • London Towne Elementary School
    • Erin Schillinger, Special Education Teacher
  • Lorton Station Elementary School
    • Laurie Hartt, Advanced Academics Teacher
  • Louise Archer Elementary School
    • Lynn Kinni, Fifth Grade Teacher
  • Mantua Elementary School
    • Sheila Andersen, Sixth Grade Teacher
  • Marshall Road Elementary School
    • Mary Twellmann, Sixth Grade Teacher
  • McNair Elementary School
    • Lalitha Doraiswamy, Fifth Grade Teacher
  • Mount Eagle Elementary School
    • Christina Gibbs, Special Education Teacher*
  • Navy Elementary School
    • Meghan Bailey, Special Education Teacher
  • North Springfield Elementary School
    • Suzanne Metz, Physical Education Teacher*
  • Oak Hill Elementary School
    • Christine Crawford, Third Grade Teacher
  • Oak View Elementary School
    • Kerry Hayden, Special Education Teacher
    • Diane Hurd, Second Grade Teacher
  • Oakton Elementary School
    • Robyn Brown, Sixth Grade Teacher
  • Orange Hunt Elementary School
    • Donna Jones, German Immersion Teacher
  • Parklawn Elementary School
    • Megan Kvandal, First Grade Teacher
    • Arline Riley, Multi-Age Teacher
  • Pine Spring Elementary School
    • Vickie Theodoropoulos, First Grade Teacher
  • Poplar Tree Elementary School
    • Stephanie Sniffin, Fifth Grade Advanced Academics Teacher
  • Providence Elementary School
    • Meghan Kelleher, Sixth Grade Teacher*
  • Ravensworth Elementary School
    • Erin Fortenberry, Art Teacher
  • Riverside Elementary School
    • Iman Bahabib, 5h Grade Teacher
  • Rolling Valley Elementary School
    • Emily Griswold, Second Grade Teacher
  • Rose Hill Elementary School
    • Lori Peevy, Physical Education Teacher
  • Sangster Elementary School
    • Kimberly Cherington, Sixth Grade Advanced Academic Program Teacher
  • Saratoga Elementary School
    • Kim Harris, Fifth Grade Teacher
  • Shrevewood Elementary School
    • Romona Wright, Fifth Grade Teacher
  • Silverbrook Elementary School
    • Christina Takacs, Fifth Grade Teacher
  • Sleepy Hollow Elementary School
    • Amanda Snyder, Multiple Disabilities Teacher
  • Springfield Estates Elementary School
    • Vivian Samec, Multiple Disabilities Teacher*
  • Stratford Landing Elementary School
    • Karen Snow, Librarian
  • Terra Centre Elementary School
    • Kim Fairchild, Fourth Grade Teacher
  • Terraset Elementary School
    • Neil Costello, Physical Education Teacher
  • Timber Lane Elementary School
    • Megan Kratz, Third Grade Teacher
  • Union Mill Elementary School
    • Jenny Murray, Physical Education Teacher*
  • Vienna Elementary School
    • Cheryl Allen, Third Grade Teacher
  • Virginia Run Elementary School
    • Josh Antoncic, Physical Education Teacher*
  • Wakefield Forest Elementary School
    • Shannon Long, Second Grade Teacher
  • Waples Mill Elementary School
    • Jennie Smith, Early Childhood Special Education Teacher*
  • Washington Mill Elementary School
    • Mary Johnson, Resource Teacher*
  • West Springfield Elementary School
    • James Koontz, Fourth Grade Teacher*
  • West Springfield High School
    • Timothy Spicer, Social Studies Teacher*
  • Westbriar Elementary School
    • Tara-Jeanne Tompkins, Advanced Academics Resource Teacher
  • Westgate Elementary School
    • Charlotte Gonzalez, Fifth Grade Teacher
  • Weyanoke Elementary School
    • Anthony Garces-Foley, Fourth Grade Teacher
  • White Oaks Elementary School
    • Charlotte Hoffer, Fourth Grade Teacher
  • Willow Springs Elementary School
    • Alecia Carroll, Third Grade Teacher
  • Wolftrap Elementary School
    • Karen DeHoratiis, Librarian

* Denotes Pyramid-Level Recipient

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