Two Elementary Teachers Win Lowrie Awards
Catherine Ladd, a first grade teacher at Wood Acres Elementary School, and Travis Payne, a fourth grade teacher at Glen Haven Elementary School, are this year’s recipients of the Shirley J. Lowrie “Thank You for Teaching” Awards. Read a little more about them below:
A 13-year veteran of MCPS, Ladd is in her fourth year teaching first grade at Wood Acres Elementary School. She has taught kindergarten through second grade, and has developed strategies to meet the needs of a variety of students, including gifted, learning disabled, autism spectrum and ESOL students. She is passionate about teaching students with disabilities alongside their peers and maintaining high expectations for the success of all students. A lifelong learner, she regularly shares ideas, personal reflections and instructional practices with colleagues.
She models her teaching after her own mother, who taught first grade for more than 38 years. Ladd has a tremendous ability to make connections with her students, and to see their talents and their potential. Pre-pandemic, the first day of school found her crouching down to the eye level of each of her students and expressing enthusiasm that they were in her class. She fosters a growth mindset that encourages kids to make mistakes, and to learn from them. She finds each student’s unique strengths, and comes up with clever ways to help children set goals, tackle their challenges and feel good about their successes. She has mentored student teachers in the classroom, and held inspiring age-appropriate conversations with students about diversity and inclusion. Once COVID-19 forced schools to go virtual, she made daily videos of herself navigating the online platforms to help parents find the materials they needed to help their children. She created online rituals for the children, so they could enjoy lunch bunches, spirit days and birthdays together. Parents describe her interactions with children as patient, empathetic, fun and magical.
Payne is in his first year at Glen Haven Elementary School. He is dedicated to developing strong relationships with students and families. Delivering high-quality instruction during virtual learning has been challenging, to say the least. In an effort to learn how to best serve his students, Payne developed an extensive family outreach process, with a series of customized questions on academics, social-emotional well-being, technology skills, distance learning needs and the preferred means of communication. He arranged online meetings with his families. His myMCPS virtual classroom is easy to navigate and visually appealing, which maximizes access and reduces barriers for families.
He spent last summer going the extra mile as well, taking on a leadership role as the CARES Act tutoring program lead teacher in the expanded summer school program.
Colleagues call him a change agent, saying that everything he “touches only gets better.” He has helped tech-hesitant teachers use innovative resources to engage students and differentiate for equity. He started the Let Me Run program (similar to Girls on the Run), which allowed young boys to focus on mental and physical wellness, and where Payne could discuss the importance of integrity, friendship, self-expression and teamwork. The group even ran a 5K together. He has also devoted time to the Building Our Network of Diversity (BOND) program that works to recruit, develop, support and retain male educators of color. He has helped BOND with technology innovation, and serves as the leader of the elementary school division of the BOND Learning and Leadership Institute for Young Men.
Pre-COVID, he sponsored the school safety patrol, and even found time to dress as the school mascot, Bella the Bulldog, during pep rallies and family nights. He previously worked at JoAnn Leleck Elementary School, and has been active in Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) work at both schools.
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.
Ladd and Payne each received a $2,500 prize.