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Deal Teacher Wins School System’s Top Honor

February 13, 2017

(2015 Inspired Teacher Leader Jan Schuettpelz stands with DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson. Photo credit: Kate Magill/ The Current)

This piece, which features 2015 Inspired Teacher Leader Jan Schuettpelz, was written by Kate Magill and originally appeared in The Northwest Current.

Jan Schuettpelz, a seventh-grade science teacher at Alice Deal Middle School, recently won D.C. Public Schools’ top honor as the Teacher of the Year.

Schuettpelz learned of her award Feb. 1, in her classroom full of cheering students, as D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and newly appointed Chancellor Antwan Wilson made the announcement.

“I am just always inspired by the students to try to bring my best every day,” Schuettpelz said moments after she received the award in the Tenleytown school. “I think it’s just a passion for what I do, and for trying to make science come alive for them, so that they might be our next great scientists.”

The school system’s annual award comes with a $10,000 prize, and nominations can come from students, parents and community members. Schuettpelz will be recognized alongside other honorees at the Standing Ovation for D.C. Public Schools event on March 13 at the Kennedy Center.

“When we look to find the Teacher of the Year, we look to find teachers that have demonstrated that their students are growing, who have demonstrated that their colleagues … look up to them, that they have an unquenchable thirst to learn, and to grow and to be better,” Deputy Mayor for Education Jennie Niles said following the announcement.

Schuettpelz was recognized for her innovative lessons in the classroom as well as for her extracurricular efforts with students, including founding the Girls STEM Science Club and the “Mighty Girls Book Club” at Deal.

She also participated in the Inspired Teaching Institute last school year, in which she built on skills to create more “engagement-based instruction.” The institute is run in partnership with D.C. Public Schools, as part of an effort to strengthen teachers’ practices and to foster professional development.

A Woodley Park resident, Schuettpelz is now in her fourth year at Deal, and her 19th year as a teacher.

She credited her students with pushing her to grow as an educator. “We have the greatest humans in the District right here, they’re amazing,” Schuettpelz said. Her students, she said, “come in and work hard every day, [and] inspire me to come up with interesting lessons.”

The award announcement Feb. 1 also marked Wilson’s first official appearance as D.C. school’s chancellor. He comes to the District from Oakland, Calif., where he served as the superintendent of schools.

Wilson expressed his excitement to build on the progress that Bowser’s administration has made in improving the city’s school system, including an increased focus on middle schools. He said one of his top priorities is to create school environments in which students feel valued and challenged.

“Quite simply we want to focus on excellence in education and equity,” Wilson said, “making sure our students know that we are preparing them — not just to be successful while they’re in school, which is extremely important, but we’re preparing them for what’s going to meet them when they graduate. And we expect them to graduate.”

He also emphasized the importance of social and emotional learning for students, in order to foster self-awareness and self-motivation.

One of Wilson’s goals in his first year in office is to visit every school in the District, a process he has already begun. After touring several classrooms at Deal last Wednesday, he mentioned how impressed he was with the engaged educators.

“I love being in classrooms because I’m often mesmerized by how teachers captivate students’ attention,” Wilson said. “At the end of the day, a good classroom is one where students are challenged, where they are put in positions to be successful.”

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