Two Being Honored as Rising Star Teachers of the Year
Two teachers have been named Rising Star Teachers of the Year 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.
This year’s recipients are Samir Paul, computer science teacher at Montgomery Blair High School, and Kaila Wiggins, first grade teacher at Clopper Mill Elementary School.
Paul, a 2006 alumnus of the Math, Science and Computer Science Magnet Program at Blair, is in his fourth year of teaching and his second year teaching computer science at his alma mater. In the three courses he has taught—Computer Programming 1, Algorithms & Data Structures and Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science—he has gone beyond the resources provided to him and created project-based learning opportunities for students to code and to discover the power of computer science. He has a unique classroom management style which has proven effective—his students watch his prepared lectures at home and he spends his classroom time working on college-level problem sets. He has also added a plethora of programming experiences to his Algorithms & Data Structures course, including encryption, steganography, credit card validation techniques and DNA data extraction.
After Paul’s first year of teaching, Blair saw an immediate impact on student assessment data. The school’s AP computer science scores reached a five-year high. In 2004, Blair’s computer science students scored an average of 4.4 with 55 percent receiving the highest score of 5. In 2015, nearly 100 students scored an average of 4.8 with 84 percent receiving a top score of 5.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a master’s from American University. He is the vice president of the school’s PTA, a position that had never previously been held by a teacher. He worked to modernize the website and developed a parent outreach database. He is also a member of the board of directors for the Blair Magnet Foundation and represented Blair at a White House Summit on computer science education.
Wiggins is a first grade teacher and team leader at Clopper Mill, where she has taught since the 2013–2014 school year. She plans lessons that are creative, innovative and include strategies that support active listening, critical thinking and participation. Colleagues say she has a wonderful ability to motivate and engage students, is a conscientious planner and reflective educator.
She is committed to meeting the needs of all learners through differentiated practices. To that end, she is the grade level SIOP team leader. SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) is an approach to teaching English language learners that integrates language and content instruction. The role is critical as she helps team members include content and language objectives in all lessons; adapt content for all levels of language proficiency; and integrate meaningful activities for all students’ language production and application. Her efforts have been effective, as 79 percent of her students have met or exceeded the county reading benchmark during the 2014–2015 school year, and 78 percent have already met or exceeded the 2015–2016 Grade 1 reading benchmark.
She is knowledgeable about effective instructional strategies and the latest educational trends that promote student success, among them Chromebooks, the Promethean Board and Google Classroom. She leads professional development sessions for her peers and serves as facilitator for the Imagine Learning after-school program, which helps level the playing field for all students through a variety of diverse measures. Wiggins provides intensive, job-embedded training in research-based best practices, rigor and classroom management. She also provides one-on-one support to teachers to access student data from the Imagine Learning program.
Paul and Wiggins will be honored at the annual Champions for Children celebration on May 3 at Wheaton High School. The event is hosted by MCPS and the Montgomery County Roundtable for Education (MCBRE).