Julius West Educator Named Rising Star Teacher of the Year
Joanna Martinez-Mack has taught science to sixth and seventh graders at Julius West Middle School for the last three years.
She has been named this year’s Rising Star Teacher by the Marian Greenblatt Education Fund. This award honors teachers with less than five years of experience whose creativity and enthusiasm encourages students to stretch themselves and achieve more.
Martinez-Mack has a friendly and positive demeanor, and is deeply passionate about education and the success of her students. She has been a strong member of grade-level Professional Learning Communities, advocating for new technologies and incorporating initiatives, such as higher order questioning, active classroom and student discourse, into curriculum activities. She looks for computer resources to make content more accessible and engaging for students, and revises materials and presentations to share with colleagues. She uses modified instructional materials for struggling learners, while maintaining challenging and rigorous instruction for higher-level learners.
Colleagues say her greatest strength is her relationship-building skills with students and coworkers. She greets students at the door, and opens her classroom to them during lunch and after school. Her classroom is warm, inviting and one in which students feel safe to take risks.
She routinely reflects on her skills, determines where she needs to grow and attends professional growth classes.
Her involvement in the community extends beyond the classroom. She helped get outside speakers and participated in meetings for La Familia, a club for Hispanic students. She also sponsored the Julius West Scholars, a group of high-achieving African American and Hispanic students working toward closing the achievement gap. She co-sponsors the STEM Club and sponsors the school’s 60-member cross country team.
She also sponsors the Green Team, which works to raise awareness about energy conservation and ecology, and provides STEM activities to students. She is working to get Julius West certified as a Green School. She helped write a grant proposal for the school to participate in the Energizing Student Potential program sponsored by MCPS, Pepco and the Exelon Foundation. The grant program will allow her to organize an Energy Fair at the school in the spring.
“She recognizes when students accomplish something amazing in her class; she makes learning fun; and she rewards students for being academically great!” wrote parent Lucie Koulet-Vickot.
Martinez-Mack will be honored at the Champions for Children celebration on Monday, April 27, at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club.