Celebrating Outstanding Teachers Meet Three Star Teachers in the DMV

Over the past two years, teachers have gone above and beyond for their students. During the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic, they proved their adaptability by juggling virtual, in-person and hybrid learning. After schools fully reopened, they’ve helped students readjust to being in the classroom.

This month, during Teacher Appreciation Week, May 2-6, it’s time to celebrate and recognize teachers for their service and dedication. Meet some of the outstanding educators who serve the DMV.

Dr. Monica Isquith BASIS Independent McLean
Dr. Monica Isquith | Photo courtesy of BASIS Independent McLean

 

Dr. Monica Isquith

Subject Expert Teacher: Spanish | BASIS Independent McLean

Dr. Monica Isquith has been a teacher in Northern Virginia for 20 years. She’s spent the past six of them at BASIS Independent McLean. She teaches middle school science and high school honors biology, and her students have a passing rate of 100% on the AP exams.

Isquith serves as the sponsor for the Hispanic Honors Society and the Biology Club. She started the girls’ middle school basketball team and the co-ed volleyball and tennis teams. She’s taken students on four trips to the Galapagos Islands for an interactive Spanish and science learning experience.

What do you love most about being a teacher?

I love the amazing energy the students have and the impact I can make on their lives. The most rewarding part is to see students getting excited about learning. But what I love most is the interaction with the students—to know them and work hard to inspire them.

Dr. Monica Isquith BASIS Independent McLeanWhat is one of your biggest goals as a teacher?

My biggest goal is that students feel safe in my classroom—that they are able to participate and share their ideas without being judged. If they feel safe, they will learn and enjoy being at school. I hope my students gain confidence and determination and that they feel the passion I have for what I teach and are able to apply it to themselves. When you treat your students with love, learning gets easier for them, and you receive love back.

What was your funniest teaching moment?

There have been a lot in 20 years, but a really sweet and funny moment was when we dissected a brain. One of my students yelled out, “This is the best moment of my entire life!” I know this student will have moments that are more amazing in her life, but on that day, I made her have the best day of her life!

How can parents work with teachers to best support their children?

Parents should focus on the learning part and the student’s experiences at school, not just on the grade. Always ask your child to tell you something they learned in school that day. Even if there is no answer, never stop asking.

 

Pearl Brown and Hannah Chick

Co-Teachers, Middle School Classroom | Oneness-Family Montessori School

Pearl Brown applies her scientifically trained mind—she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry—and poetry-writing heart to provide versatile teaching and mentoring to Oneness-Family middle school students. She is known to use, by turns, power, tenderness, pressure and patience in the classroom.

Prior to joining Oneness-Family in 2009, Hannah Chick was the dean of students in the middle school at the Thornton Friends School in Silver Spring, as well as a middle school and high school science teacher. While at the school, she developed a three-year integrated middle school science program with an environmental focus. A biology major in college, she teaches all subjects at Oneness-Family.

 

Pearl Brown with students Oneness-Family Montessori
Pearl Brown with students | Photo courtesy of Oneness-Family Montessori School

 

What do you love most about teaching?

Brown: I love the positive impact that I have on each of my students. I love getting to know what they like and don’t like and what makes them laugh. The most rewarding part of teaching is guiding students to honor, respect and love themselves—to say yes to their strengths and welcome the lessons learned from their weaknesses.

Chick: I love teaching in a multi-age classroom because I cherish the relationships I develop with students over my three years with them. Especially in middle school, so much change and growth happens over three years. I get to be a part of their journey of growing and discovering themselves. It’s incredibly rewarding to help students stretch beyond their comfort zone academically, socially and personally and to see the sense of accomplishment, pride and confidence they exude when they surpass their expectations of their abilities.

What is your teaching approach?

Brown: My approach is to teach students to think through an assignment. The most important skill in learning is not that you got the “right” answer, but that you can explain the reasoning that led you to the answer you got. That helps students develop confidence in their reasoning and analytical skills, which helps them better handle their academic and personal challenges.

Chick: I tend to lean into understanding the big picture and recognizing patterns over encouraging students to memorize information.

What is one of your biggest goals as a teacher?

Brown: My hope is that after my students have left my class they will have confidence in their abilities to think and reason and to explain their work, that they will love and honor the person they are becoming, that they will always affirm their goodness and that they will recover from their mistakes with resiliency, grace, and a deeper knowledge of their personhood.

Chick: I hope that the students I work with grow in their confidence in their capacity to meet challenges, their ability to advocate for themselves, their capacity for self-reflection and their willingness to seek out novel experiences that push them beyond their comfort zone.

Hannah Chick with students Oneness-Family Montessori
Hannah Chick with students | Photo courtesy of Oneness-Family Montessori School

 

How can parents work with teachers to best support their children?

Brown: Understand that the child we see and interact with at school may not be the same child they see at home. Therefore, it is important that teachers and parents form a team in which consistent communication flows easily and honestly. Parents should love and accept their children as the whole person they are. Too often parents act like grades define their child’s success or failure, and that is simply not true. The goal of education should be to educate the whole child, not just isolated academic parts of the child.

Chick: Communicate! If there are things going on at home that are out of the normal routine, send an email so teachers have a heads up. Trust that your child’s teacher has his or her best interest at heart. If your child tells you that something is going on in class that surprises you, reach out and ask questions. Make it a family routine to talk about the things they do in class each week.

About Jennifer Marino Walters

Jennifer Marino Walters is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and lifestyle topics. She is also the author of 12 books for children, with two more on the way. Jennifer lives in Burke, Virginia with her husband and three children. When she's not writing, she loves to explore the D.C. area with her family!

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