Provided by Prince William County Schools (PWCS)
Two teachers received the Outstanding New Teacher of the Year award for their exceptional performance. Apple Federal Credit Union Foundation, sponsor of the PWCS new teacher orientation program, awarded $500 to each.
New teachers walk into their classroom on their first day facing a daunting challenge: keep the attention of students, inspire and encourage these students to learn, collaborate with colleagues, build relationships with students and families, and much more. Kaleigh Doan, Hylton High School French teacher, and Ashley Dunnaway, Minnieville Elementary School first grade teacher, met—and even exceeded—these challenges.
Doan and Dunnaway were nominated by their administrators and colleagues. Both were introduced to an audience of more than 700 newly hired teachers in August and shared their insight into what contributes to a successful first year.
Dunnaway’s classroom is always buzzing with children engaged in activities, says a colleague. Students are often seen running to greet her in the morning. She is described as a reflective, passionate, and inspiring teacher who supports her lessons with technology, charts, and other visual tools to meet the needs of her students. She purchased several iPads so that her students could learn to be digital citizens of the future.
“I look at things through a lens of equity rather than equality because what works for one student may not work for another,” said Dunnaway. “When it comes to teaching, I try to think outside the box. Children are naturally curious, and I believe when you capture students’ interests, they will enjoy learning.”
Principal Nathaniel Provencio has high praise for Dunnaway. Her class last year was comprised of 70 percent second-language learners, and 90 percent finished the year reading on grade level. Results in writing were just as impressive. At the end of the year, Dunnaway published a picture book with illustrated stories and pictures created by every student.
“Not only is Ms. Dunnaway one of our most outstanding teachers, she was one of my best students; I was her third grade teacher in 2001,” Provencio said. Notably, that was Provencio’s first year in the classroom. Dunnaway graduated from Hylton High School in 2011.
Doan has a rare gift to relate to students and has mastered the ability to teach all levels, according to Principal David Cassady. “She is one of the best new teachers I have ever seen,” Cassady said. “She is an exceptional teacher, bringing real world experiences into the classroom. Her students have excelled and grown to love her classroom and the French language.”
Doan’s classroom walls are filled with French memorabilia and student work. She moves around the room with confidence and ease, juggling student questions and handing out gentle reminders to stay on task, said a colleague who observed a lesson.
“One of my most important values as an educator is to create a ‘family’ atmosphere in my classroom where students feel safe, valued, and empowered,” Doan said. “In this way, my classroom becomes an effective learning environment in which students are both self-motivated and peer-encouraged to strive for success.”
In her remarks to new teachers in August, Doan shared this advice: “Set high expectations for your students, believe that they can get there, and then, put in the extra work to help them to get there. Take the time to talk to them about their lives, even when it seems that there is no time. Smile, be present, be real, and when they tell you a crazy joke, laugh.”