MCPS Educator Named Nation's Most Hopeful Teacher

August 21, 2013
Mary Hawkins-Jones, of Westover Elementary, receives inaugural award

A Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) fifth-grade educator has been named the Most Hopeful Teacher in America—the first person ever to receive the award.

Mary Hawkins-Jones, from Westover Elementary School, was announced as the winner of the inaugural Most Hopeful Teacher Award during an event at Gallup World Headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, August 21. The award is given by Gallup and Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, to recognize a teacher who does outstanding work instilling hope in her students.

Ms. Hawkins-Jones has been an educator for 23 years, many of those years in MCPS. She has worked at Westover Elementary for the past seven years. 

“For more than two decades, Mary Hawkins-Jones has been providing students with an outstanding education and helping them feel hopeful about themselves and their future,” said Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr. “She is a strong example of the power of hope and is representative of the commitment that our staff and community have to making sure that MCPS students are prepared to thrive in their future.”

Ms. Hawkins-Jones makes it a point to get to know each of her students well and individualizes instruction based on the student’s needs and goals. She tells her students not to be afraid to make mistakes, because they are an important part of the learning process. She also encourages them to dream big and work hard.

One of her early MCPS students was a shy first-grade girl who always tried to hide in class. Ms. Hawkins-Jones encouraged the young girl to participate and have big dreams. That student, Cristina Ulrich, eventually became a teacher and is the current MCPS Teacher of the Year. Ms. Ulrich credits Ms. Hawkins-Jones for helping her believe in herself.

“You can have a big impact on students by giving them a little hope,” Ms. Hawkins-Jones said.

Using data from its student surveys, Gallup identified 192 “High Hope” schools. Gallup and Atria Books asked the principals of these schools to nominate an effective classroom teacher who best nurtured hope and whose students achieved at a high level. Each nominee submitted a personal statement and a letter from their principal. Interviews were conducted with four finalists.

Ms. Hawkins-Jones was named as the winner of the Most Hopeful Teacher Award during Wednesday’s event, which also featured remarks by Dr. Starr and Shane J. Lopez, a senior scientist at Gallup and one of the nation’s foremost experts on hope.

MCPS has included hope as a significant part of its new Strategic Planning Framework, which will guide the work of the district in the years to come. The Framework is built around the three competencies that students need for success in the 21st century—Academic Excellence, Creative Problem Solving, and Social Emotional Learning (SEL). One way MCPS will monitor SEL is through the results of the Gallup Student Survey, which is given annually and measures hope, engagement, and well-being.

“Mary Hawkins-Jones shows us that hope matters and makes a difference in the lives of our children,” Dr. Starr said. “It is an important part of education in the 21st century and I am proud that MCPS has made a strong commitment to developing well-rounded, hopeful students.” 

Learn more about Mary Hawkins-Jones

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