Magnet teacher James Schafer was recognized as a finalist in the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) "Teacher of the Year" competition on Feb. 19. The three finalists for the county's "Teacher of the Year Award" will receive $1,000 from the Marion Greenblatt Education Fund and compete for the "Teacher of the Year" title to win additional prizes.
A panel of judges will observe Schafer in the classroom and conduct an interview on Thursday as a part of the evaluation process. Panel members include two representatives from the Montgomery County Board of Education, teacher Mickey Greenblatt of the Marian Greenblatt Fund, Montgomery County Buisness Roundtable for Education (MCBRE) Program Manager Rachel Sprecher and MCBRE Executive Director Heather Schwagar.
Schafer was surprised when he learned of his nomination from the Blair administration. "[Mr.] Williams calls me down to the main office one day and says that he would like to support my candidacy," he said.
After his talk with Williams, Schafer organized the requisite documentation for a nomination packet due Jan. 15. "You need principal, the administration and parental support," he said. "I also provided documentation of my accomplishments, like coaching It's Academic." The judging panel also considered his students' test scores from his Advanced Placement (AP) Physics, Quantum Physics, Thermodynamics and Pre-Calculus classes.
Schafer will compete with two other finalists, one a teacher at Wootton High School and another at Travilah Elementary School, to win the county "Teacher of the Year" award and advance to a statewide competition. Each finalist will be honored at the MCBRE's "Champions for Children" Awards Celebration on April 28, which will take place at MedImmune's global headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md.
In a congratulatory letter to the finalists, Schwagar listed several prizes that will be awarded to the winner. "The MCPS Teacher of the Year will receive some wonderful prizes. They include a one-year auto lease from Fitzgerald Automall, a Dell laptop computer, a $1,000 cash award for your school and a $1,000 cash award for you personally," she wrote.
Amy Leskana, who wrote the parent letter of recommendation, fully supports Schafer in this competition. "I'm very happy to hear this," she said. "I thought he was very fair and he looks out for the students." As a physics major Leskana recognized that Schafer is well-qualified to teach her children, junior Rachel Leksana and sophomore Caitlin Leksana. "He really understood the material," Leskana said. "I think that he is an asset to the school."