Two Elementary Teachers Win Lowrie Awards
Julie Miller, a third grade teacher at Ashburton Elementary School, and Sheila Shea, a special education teacher at Diamond Elementary School, are this year’s recipients of the Shirley J. Lowrie “Thank You for Teaching” Awards. Read a little more about them below:
Miller is in her 11th year of teaching in MCPS. She creates a classroom environment where students feel comfortable taking risks. She engages her students using hands-on approaches. Her “students don’t just learn; they do,” wrote Ashburton Principal Greg Mullenholz. “Her approach is creative, interactive and often ends with a project that pushes students to change the world.” Her colleagues consider her the go-to person for support with teaching ideas and materials. She creates fun flipcharts, differentiated assignments and engaging activities not only for her students, but for all of third grade. She looks for new ways to teach that will make the subject matter more appealing. When the focus was on economics in social studies, she opened a “school supplies store” in her classroom, where students could get experience with what it means to save and how to spend money on goods. When the focus was on weather, students built model homes to show the impact of natural events on them. Mullenholz regularly receives student writing assignments that call on him to reconsider the lunch and recess schedules. Miller also builds personal relationships with her students and their families; she gets to know their personalities, strengths and weaknesses. She identifies the one thing that motivates each student, and uses it to help them achieve their potential. Miller’s energy, enthusiasm and passion for teaching are contagious. Students feel empowered to try their best every day. She holds a degree in early childhood education from Hofstra University, and a master’s degree from the University of Maryland.
Shea is the special education team leader at Diamond, where she has been for the last 19 years. She has been teaching for 45 years, and retired after the 2019-2020 school year. She is a dedicated educator whose career has focused on engaging students in hands-on memorable lessons that impact and excite their learning. One of her greatest strengths is her ability to adapt instruction to help students with disabilities access the general education curriculum. She is a warm and sympathetic educator whose compassion for parents helps build solid relationships during difficult conversations and meetings. She also maintains an excellent rapport with colleagues. She established and organized a weekly meeting for special education paraeducators that planned for their continued professional development. She’s also mentored several new teachers, and has provided parent workshops. She works to establish personal and meaningful relationships with each of her students and their parents. She will meet with a parent at 7 p.m. to accommodate a work schedule; she will meet on a weekend to explain an IEP. “Sheila has taught us all what inclusion looks like and she lives her life promoting the cause,” wrote speech language pathologist Diana Koch. Her work carries over into the community and her personal life. She supports an adaptive religious education class for children with special needs. She organizes and adapts activities for people with cerebral palsy. Once a month, she delivers meals to a women’s shelter.
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.
Miller and Shea each received a $2,500 prize.