Three Finalists Named for Teacher of the Year
Three teachers have been named finalists for the 2021–2022 MCPS Teacher of the Year Award by the Marian Greenblatt Education Fund. They are: Sara Kopf, first grade teacher at New Hampshire Estates Elementary School School; Joseph Bostic, Jr., math content specialist at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School; and Patricia Richards, science teacher at Walter Johnson High School.
Sara Kopf is a first grade teacher at New Hampshire Estates Elementary School. She has been teaching first grade for 20 years in MCPS elementary schools, spending the entire time in highly impacted schools and predominantly teaching traditionally underserved students, many of whom grow up speaking a language other than English. During the 2018-2019 school year, the last year for which there is complete data, 15 of her 16 students made more than a year of reading progress. Her class proudly publishes a newspaper, Kopf Kids News. In 2020, she co-founded the Anti-Racist Educator Club to help teachers educate themselves and implement anti-racist education in their classrooms. Students love her because she is kind, fun and cares about them. She finds each student’s strengths to help them overcome their struggles, and teaches them to never give up. She creates opportunities for them to express their understanding through drawings, music and technology. When the school was searching for strategies to get kids to read more during virtual learning, Kopf sprung into action. She created a video showing students how to record themselves on RAZ Kids; held a staff professional learning session on getting kids to love virtual school; and enlisted her father to read to students in her virtual classroom. Kopf, who calls her students Kopf’s Kids, has continued to teach with joy and expertise despite running a temperature for more than 200 consecutive days due to COVID-19.
Colleague Heather Holmes observed, “Sara calls her students, ‘Kopf’s Kids,’ and she values each one of her students’ progress and achievement in school. Her students are taught to never give up. They recite a daily mantra including phrases like, ‘I am valued. I am loved. I can achieve anything!’”
Joseph Bostic, Jr. is the math content specialist and 8th grade team leader at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School. Parents describe him as a patient, caring and inspirational leader. Coworkers say he is hard-working, relentless and creative. An action plan he developed led to a reduction of truancies schoolwide from more than 33 percent to less than 25 percent. He uses data to modify instruction to meet student needs, resulting in better student performance on assessments. He is a member of the school improvement team and instructional leadership team, and led the creation of the school’s math webpage, which provides valuable resources to families. As a CARES program tutor, he holds “jam sessions” to help students with math work; spends time with high-need students during lunch; and facilitates teacher mentor groups for some students. In homeroom, Bostic offers freestyle Fridays, where students can share talents, artwork and song. He spearheaded a free college and resource fair for students and parents. As a coach, he recruits athletes, teaches them life lessons and motivates them to perform at their highest level. He is an electrical engineer, and works to recruit teacher candidates in the STEM fields. He has also worked to increase teacher diversity through MCPS’ Conversation Series and the BOND (Building Our Network of Diversity) project, which focuses on recruiting, supporting and retaining male educators of color.
A parent of one of Mr. Bostic’s students remarked, “He is an exceptional teacher, mentor, and positive role model. Mr. Bostic’s love of teaching shines through in this challenging teaching environment and he truly has each student’s best interest at heart.”
Patricia Richards is a science teacher at Walter Johnson High School. In her 25th year with MCPS, she is described as an extraordinarily positive, dedicated and strong leader, with an energy and enthusiasm that inspires students and faculty. She has worked to make science more practical, hands-on and engaging. She was instrumental in boosting Advanced Placement (AP) student participation, particularly African American and Latino students, by 59 percent. She helped to reduce the number of minority students receiving a D or E in science classes by 40 percent. When students did not understand concepts or didn’t score as well as expected on assessments, she reflected on her teaching practices to identify what could be done differently. She brought new AP courses to the school and helped create a summer AP teacher training workshop series. She has organized a student trip to the Galapagos Islands, and hosted guest speakers, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and purchased equipment more likely to be found in a college lab than a high school one. Through a partnership with Rutgers University, Richards’ molecular biology students discovered and published novel gene sequences. She has created strong bonds with colleagues and students, who one year voted her the teacher “most likely to be called mom.”
Principal Jennifer Baker said, “One cannot look at any aspect of the culture and climate at Walter Johnson High School without seeing a direct pathway to Ms. Richards. She is a mentor, leader, teacher, colleague, influencer, creator, believer, and so much more.”
The Greenblatt Education Fund is also honoring Lindsey Flint, a fourth grade teacher at Chevy Chase Elementary School, as the 2021 Rising Star Teacher of the Year. This award honors teachers with less than five years of experience whose creativity and enthusiasm encourages students to stretch themselves and achieve more.
Finalists for the Teacher of the Year Award, who must have five years or more of teaching experience in Montgomery County, are interviewed by a panel of educators, Board of Education members, MCPS staff and representatives from the Montgomery County Council of PTAs, as well as a member of the Greenblatt family.
The Teacher of the Year will be announced during a virtual awards celebration in April.
The Marian Greenblatt Fund, named for a former Board of Education member, recognizes teachers that inspire their students to achieve, encourage younger teachers to be the best they can be, and help their school and community. The Fund awards each Teacher of the Year finalist a prize of $2,000, and the Rising Star Teacher $1,000.