Three Finalists for MCPS Teacher of the Year Announced

March 6, 2019

Three teachers have been named finalists for the 2019–2020 MCPS Teacher of the Year Award by the Marian Greenblatt Education Fund. They are: Maura Backenstoe, kindergarten teacher at Burning Tree Elementary School; Madeline Hanington, English content specialist and teacher at Hallie Wells Middle School; and Teak Bassett, social studies teacher at Clarksburg High School.

Maura Backenstoe is a kindergarten teacher at Burning Tree Elementary School. Backenstoe manages a diverse classroom, including the majority of the school’s kindergarteners with IEPs, physical disabilities, sensory and developmental issues, as well as non-native English speakers.  During the past five years, 99 percent of her students met or exceeded the grade-level reading benchmark. Backenstoe shares best practices and analyzes student data during collaborative meetings. She is a mentor to other teachers, serves as Student Government Association advisor, and coordinates the Challenger Baseball Program, which pairs high school athletes with students with disabilities. As both “Mother Hen” and school prankster, she is widely considered the glue that holds her school together. 

—“I call her the ‘miracle-working magical unicorn teacher’ because she inspires joy and excellence in every student, of every background and need, regardless of whether they are in her class,” wrote parent Alex Robbins.

Madeline Hanington is an English content specialist and teacher at Hallie Wells Middle School.  Once an English Language Learner herself who holds an undergraduate degree in art, her teaching style is dynamic, challenging, innovative and nurturing. Data demonstrate the effectiveness of her approach. Academic intervention programs she created and implemented increased Maryland State Assessment scores by at least five percent. A 2011 Milken Educator Award Winner, Hanington is also not only a mentor to the school’s English teachers, but also supports and advises the rest of the staff and others outside Hallie Wells. She serves as co-sponsor of the Junior National Honor Society, as well as the school’s Lady Scholars program, an after-school program to support young women in achieving their highest potential.

—“Her lived experience: immigrant parents, poverty, academic success, coupled with her natural traits of caring and dedication, make Ms. Maddy Hanington an exceptional teacher who makes THAT difference in children’s lives,” said Principal Barbara Woodward.

Teak Bassett is a social studies teacher at Clarksburg High School. He has trained new and veteran teachers, and written curriculum used throughout Montgomery County. A 19-year veteran, he provides frequent and specific feedback using diagnostic, summative and formative tests. Bassett anticipates the struggles within a topic and teaches students how to ask questions and ensures that each child contributes in class. He hosts study sessions during lunch and after school. Almost every student in the Advanced Placement Comparative Government class he recently developed earned a 5 on the exam. Bassett has coached speech and debate, as well as girls’ lacrosse, JV football and JV softball. He sponsors the Student Government Association and the Coyote Ambassadors Program, which, among other activities, provided Thanksgiving dinners to 60 needy families in the community.

—“If I could choose just one teacher … to teach, guide, inspire and challenge my own children, Teak Bassett would be at the very top of my list. … I can’t imagine the number of students whose lives he has changed with his attention and care,” wrote Clarksburg resource teacher Rachel Clements.

The Greenblatt Education Fund is also honoring Brendan Kelly, instrumental music teacher at Albert Einstein High School, and Virginia Pantella, STEM teacher at Gaithersburg Middle School, as the 2019 Rising Star Teachers of the Year. This award honors teachers with less than five years of experience whose creativity and enthusiasm encourages students to stretch themselves and achieve more.

Finalists for the Teacher of the Year Award, who must have five years or more of teaching experience in Montgomery County, are interviewed by a panel of educators, Board of Education members, MCPS staff and representatives from the Montgomery County Council of PTAs, as well as a member of the Greenblatt family.

The teachers, along with other MCPS employees and partners, will be honored for their extraordinary work as part of the annual Champions for Children Awards Celebration. The MCPS Teacher of the Year will be named during the event, which will take place Thursday, April 25, at BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown.

The Marian Greenblatt Fund, named for a former Board of Education member, recognizes teachers that inspire their students to achieve, encourage younger teachers to be the best they can be, and help their school and community. The Fund awards each Teacher of the Year finalist a prize of $2,000, and the two Rising Star Teaching awardees $1,000 each.


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