Two Elementary Teachers Win Lowrie Awards
Emily Alcroft, first grade teacher at Flower Valley Elementary School, and Amy Blasko-Brooks, kindergarten teacher at Montgomery Knolls Elementary School, are this year’s recipients of the Shirley J. Lowrie “Thank You for Teaching” Awards.
Alcroft has been with MCPS for 14 years, and has taught first and third grades. Blasko-Brooks has spent 15 years with the school system, most of the time as a teacher, but she has also been a paraeducator.
Each morning, Emily Alcroft greets each of her students by name. Her classroom is warm and welcoming and students know what is expected of them. Students are engaged and focused. She instructs math and reading lessons through small group teaching. Students participate in rotations to practice skills through technology, collaborative problem solving and independent practice. She uses her voice and intonation to encourage student attention and plans effective classroom instruction using her Promethean Board, along with intriguing games and activities. She incorporates technology, multimedia and critical thinking strategies to encourage problem solving.
Almost daily, she sends reports home to parents, offering personal notes about how their children did that day and offering tips on how they can support learning at home. Parents also receive frequent emails about events and a weekly newsletter about things the class did during the week, including questions parents can ask their children.
Alcroft is the Grade 1 team leader, and she leads her team in collaborative planning time several days a week, leading the review of curriculum expectations to determine long-range planning. She keeps an ongoing interest in educational issues and strategies, even creating book clubs with staff. Other teachers often visit her classroom to observe how she runs her differentiated small groups and manages student behavior.
Parents and coworkers describe Amy Blasko-Brooks as funny, supportive, energetic and creative. She is knowledgeable on the developmental stages of how students learn, so she’s able to communicate with them in a number of ways. She has a natural ability to take complex processes and break them down into understandable chunks of learning that students can understand, says Bertram Generlette, Blasko-Brooks’ principal. She’s also able to differentiate her instruction for students’ needs. She regularly shares information with parents and she maintains data notebooks documenting student achievement and growth.
She has also mentored many student teachers, but her reach has gone far outside the walls of Montgomery Knolls. She was contracted to write for the Grade 1 Reading Language Arts Instructional Guides used by teachers throughout the county. She also helped create Math on the MOVE, a homework game book that reinforces math concepts taught in the MCPS curriculum; it was made available in English and Spanish to teachers across the state.
Blasko-Brooks is a student cheerleader, but also a challenger—generous with praise but adept at nudging students forward in a way that will motivate them. Outside of academics, she believes in the importance of teaching students manners, good citizenship and social skills. She’s also an active participant in school community events.
“Mrs. Brooks is the kind of teacher that kids never forget and parents dream of having for their children,” wrote one parent. “ … she is in a league of her own.”
The annual “Thank You for Teaching” awards are made possible through the Shirley J. Lowrie Memorial Fund, established at the Community Foundation for Montgomery County. Lowrie taught for several years as a teacher and substitute teacher in California and Connecticut before relocating with her family to Potomac.
The Lowrie award comes with a $2,500 prize.