Three Williamsburg-James City County teachers were surprised with balloons and applause Thursday when they were named the Teachers of the Year for 2012.
Elementary school teacher Carol Meier, middle school teacher Jamal Oweis and high school teacher Mary-Lyons Hanks were honored Thursday night with a ceremony and reception hosted by the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee at the College of William and Mary’s School of Education.
“All of us have had teachers that, when we look back over our school years, inspired and encouraged us to be what we are today,” said Committee President Joe Poole. The committee presented each teacher with an apple-shaped trophy and a cash prize of $500, collected through donations and sponsorships.
“We are recognizing those who, according to their peers, students and others in the community, have gone the extra mile in creativity, community service, caring or a combination of all of these,” said Superintendent Steven Constantino. “They have consistently demonstrated effort and passion far above the norm – the kind that our students and their colleagues will remember for years to come because of their student empathy, guidance and instructional expertise.”
Meier joined the staff of James River Elementary School in 2005 after 16 years of teaching in Winchester schools. She specifically requested students considered “challenging.” Her nominator said she is confident in her ability to build a positive relationship with the children and their families, producing academic and behavioral gains in her students every year.
When several of her students were absent on the day of a field trip to Jamestown, Meier made plans to take the children personally on her own time so they would not miss the experience.
Meier is the International Baccalaureate Program leader for the fourth grade, is active on the school’s leadership team and serves as a mentor for new teachers. She can often be seen helping tutor students after school.
Meier earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Northern Iowa in 1980, and has completed graduate-level coursework at the University of Virginia, Shenandoah University and James Madison University.
Hornsby Middle School math teacher and coach Jamal Oweis is known for demanding excellence both in the classroom and on the basketball court and baseball fields.
He also works to raise money for several school departments, most recently teaming with special education teacher Kristin Castano to coordinate a concert of classical piano music that raised more than $1,000 for the athletic and special education departments.
Oweis joined WJCC schools 33 years ago. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degree from the College of William and Mary, and earned National Board Certification in 2007. A student’s parent said of Oweis, “Mr. Oweis inspires them to not only learn the material, but to be excited about it. While our country struggles to compete with other nations in our ability to excel in math and science, one wonders what it would be like if every school had a Mr. Oweis.”
Lafayette High School math teacher Mary-Lyons Hanks takes care to show her students how they’ll use the skills learned in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, probability, statistics and calculus in the real world. In her classrooms, students are shown how each math concept has a “real-world” application.
To show students how geometry is vital to meteorology, she invited Channel 12 meteorologists Mark Freedman, Andrew Frieden and Kevin Jeanes to answer her students’ questions via Skype. Hanks is known for her ability to connect personally with students, taking time outside the classroom to show how concepts can be applied to life.
She has served on division-wide committees and represented WJCC at the Virginia Department of Education’s “end-of-course” math assessment sessions, then shared what she learned with other math teachers in the division.
Hanks earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Virginia Tech, a master’s degree in education from Old Dominion University and has completed graduate-level work in mathematics at South Carolina State University. She joined WJCC schools in 1998; she has also taught at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton and Christopher Newport University.
Her nominator said Hanks “exemplifies the highest standards of the teaching profession. She brings to teaching an exceptional academic background and a sincere interest in the success of all her students.”