Provided by Prince William County Schools (PWCS)
In surprise announcements this morning, Principal Robert Eichorn of New Directions Alternative Center, and Dr. Robert Scott, Advanced Placement Seminar teacher at Osbourn Park High School, learned they had won the county’s top awards for principal and teacher.
Principal of the Year
Associate Superintendent for Student Learning Rita Goss congratulated Eichorn with the great news that he is the 2017-18 PWCS Principal of the Year. Goss had previously arranged through Assistant Principal Amy Cole for Eichorn to be in an English 10 classroom. Students were totally surprised and Eichorn was speechless.
“I don’t know what to say,” Eichorn said. “This isn’t about me; it’s about the students and what they do every day,” deflecting accolades shared by Goss on behalf of Superintendent Steve Walts.
Also present was Elmer Alvarenga, former New Directions student who, at 16 years of age, earned his high school diploma at New Directions last month and is considering offers from four universities. Alvarenga initiated the nomination of Eichorn for the Principal of the Year award and enlisted the help of Cole.
“I nominated Mr. Eichorn because he is a great principal,” said Alvarenga, “and he gives second chances. He gave me a second chance.”
“We all hoped Mr. Eichorn would be selected, because he is that amazing,” said Cole. “He truly always puts staff and students first. It has to be in the student’s best interest; nothing else matters.”
Eichorn will lead the new Independence Nontraditional School when it opens this fall. “I have had the honor of knowing Eichorn in the past four years that I attended New Directions and I can honestly say I would not be who I am today if this man had not been in my life,” writes a former student. “The responsibilities that he carries on his shoulders hold more weight than those of an average school principal. Because to him, being the principal of that school is much more than a job. It is an establishment where he can assist in the growth and development of each individual student, guaranteeing that despite being in an alternative school, their quality of education is never compromised.”
With nearly 30 years of experience, Eichorn has served as a teacher and administrator in Fairfax, PWCS and Ecuador. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social science and political science from James Madison University, and a master’s degree in special education from George Mason University. He is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in nontraditional and special education from George Washington University.
Teacher of the Year
Associate Superintendent for High Schools Mickey Mulgrew surprised Dr. Robert Scott in his classroom to make the announcement. “This is a significant honor,” said Mulgrew. There are a lot of very good teachers. This is very well deserved.” Osbourn Park Principal Neil Beech accompanied Mulgrew.
“Speech, speech!” cheered students as they applauded Mulgrew’s announcement. “Thank you,” Scott said. “This is entirely not expected. There are so many teachers who are great at what they do, you guys know that. In fact, my favorite thing about this job is going around every day and seeing what other teachers do, and saying, ‘I wish I had done that,’ and then go to a teacher and say, ‘Can I borrow that?’”
“Robert Scott is not simply a great teacher,” said Beech. “He is a game changer in our field, and the type of educator that other great teachers aspire to be.”
Scott teaches Advanced Placement seminar and research classes at Osbourn Park High School. “While he worked incredibly hard, I think Dr. Scott encouraged self-fulfillment over productivity,” a former student wrote. “He firmly believed that everyone in our class had something distinct and valuable to bring to the table. He enforced the idea that learning was always a process, exemplified through his grading policy that allowed us to turn in as many drafts as necessary to get the grade we needed.”
For the past two years, the senior class at Osbourn Park has invited Scott to be their commencement speaker. “Robert’s peers and students recognize him as a uniquely talented educator,” Beech said.
During his more than 25 years of experience in education, Scott has served in a variety of roles, including special education teacher, guitar teacher, English teacher, coordinator of gifted and advanced programs, assistant principal, principal, and adjunct professor. He is also a published author and inaugural Poet Laureate for Prince William County. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Colby College, a master’s degree in special education from University of Massachusetts, and a doctorate degree in educational leadership and policy study from University of Northern Colorado. He is also a Thomas J. Watson Fellow.