By James Cullum
Things have changed since wooden rulers wrapped knuckles and students were woken by a smack to the back of the head by their teachers. On Wednesday evening, the Alexandria Education Partnership presented five teachers with its Excellence in Education Award. The teachers were recognized for their extraordinary abilities to connect with their students and to make learning stimulating and fun.
“These are teachers that students will remember in 25 years,” said Scott Burr, AEP Chair. “Students, teachers and school administrators had to put in a bunch of time just to get them nominated for the award. These teachers touch students in a unique way.”
Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille agreed. “On behalf of all the citizens of Alexandria and City Council, I congratulate all of the teachers being awarded. You don’t do it because of the pay,” he said. “Education is important. A high level of education helps market and promote the City, and that sustains economic growth and makes families want to live and prosper here.”
Award recipient Mark Aleckson teaches algebra and pre-calculus at T.C. Williams High School. Students respond to his teaching by arriving to his classes early and staying late. “My responsibility is to teach each child and to do my best…Being a teacher is more than just a contract on paper. It’s that human element that makes us different,” he said.
Priscilla Douglass has taught first and second grade at Jefferson-Houston School for Arts and Academics for 25 years. Douglass sets the tone for her students by using an incentive rather than a discipline plan, focusing on positive behavior and regularly communicating with parents. “I try to make learning fun. I love the kids and I usually have a good rapport with the parents,” she said.
Julie Wescott is a physical education teacher at George Mason Elementary School. “I work pretty hard. I definitely put in more contract hours, like many of us do,” she said. ” I get to work with the kids, making sure they give each other respect and making sure they are in shape and healthy.”
Julie Riedy is a middle school math teacher at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School. The only award winner who does not teach at an Alexandria public school, Riedy engages students as an advisor, as the organizer and leader of a math/science summer camp program for girls and as a soccer and softball coach. “In middle school, kids are trying to figure out what they do and don’t like. Math is usually on the list,” she said. Still, “I really love my job.”
Dr. Beverly Vick is a first grade teacher at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School. Her classroom is filled with bird feeders, bright book baskets, reading benches and a rocking chair. “I came to Alexandria straight from my completion of a doctoral program. Instead of going to higher education, I went back to the classroom. My husband thought I was nuts, but it was the best decision of my life,” she said.
The Alexandria Education Partnership is a non-profit with a goal to build a sustainable mechanism for community support of the Alexandria City Public School system.