Damascus High School Educator Named MCPS Teacher of the Year

April 21, 2015

Educators, community members celebrated as Champions for Children

A veteran social studies teacher from Damascus High School has been named the 2015-2016 Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Teacher of the Year. Joseph Gannon, Jr., who has worked for MCPS for 27 years, will now compete for Maryland Teacher of the Year.

Mr. Gannon was named Teacher of the Year on Tuesday (April 21, 2015) during the 13th annual Champions for Children Awards Celebration, held at the Fillmore in Silver Spring. (Watch the Teacher of the Year announcement)

“Congratulations to Joseph Gannon on being named MCPS Teacher of the Year and for his exemplary service to students over the past 27 years,” said Patricia B. O’Neill, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education. “He is clearly a teacher who sets high expectations for his students and then does whatever it takes to help them reach those expectations.”

Mr. Gannon was one of three finalists for Teacher of the Year, along with Josephine Luster, a fifth-grade teacher at Chevy Chase Elementary School, and Jill Raspen, a sixth-grade English teacher at Ridgeview Middle School. All three had received the Master Teacher Award from the Marian Greenblatt Educational Fund, making them eligible to compete for MCPS Teacher of the Year.

“Joseph Gannon and the other Teacher of the Year finalists are representative of the outstanding commitment and dedication of our teachers and staff throughout the district,” said Larry A. Bowers, interim superintendent of schools. “I want to congratulate them and all those who we honored at the Champions for Children event and thank them for helping to make MCPS one of the nation’s best school districts.”

The Champions for Children celebration is hosted by the Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education (MCBRE) and is made possible through generous donations from sponsors. MCBRE is a nonprofit organization, comprised of senior business leaders who share their expertise with MCPS leadership and sponsor programs that connect what students are learning in the classroom to the real world.  

“We are proud to partner with MCPS to support the dreams of students and provide them with opportunities to develop skills that will help them succeed in the future,” said Tiffany Godbout Williams, executive director of MCBRE. “An important part of supporting MCPS is recognizing the excellence of its employees and community members and that is what Champions for Children is all about.”

MCPS Teacher of the Year

Joseph Gannon has been teaching at Damascus High School for nearly 20 years and in that time has taught U.S. History, World History, Economics and other subjects. He has taught on-level and honors level classes and started the AP World History program at the school. He has also been heavily involved in extracurricular activities. For instance, Mr. Gannon created the Student Travel Program at Damascus High and has planned and led 14 trips abroad to 16 countries on five continents.

Students, parents, and colleagues recognize his ability to develop strong relationships with students that then lead to outstanding results in the classroom. As one example, in May 2014, more than 100 students took the AP World History exam and 93 percent earned a college-ready score of 3 or higher.

“He challenges (his students) and pushes them to achieve at higher levels. Mr. Gannon supports them to be able to meet those high expectations,” Jennifer Webster, principal of Damascus High, wrote in her nomination letter. “Most importantly, students say he knows them. He know who they are, how they learn, and he is committed to ensuring their success.”

Elizabeth Setzler, a parent whose children have had Mr. Gannon as a teacher, wrote: “Mr. Gannon values every single one of his students. He is able to reach all his students on some level in a way that I have not seen replicated in any other classroom. He values diversity of thought as long as a student can discuss their ideas with intelligence.”

Prior to joining Damascus High, Mr. Gannon served as a social studies teacher at John F. Kennedy High School and as an instructional assistant at the former McKinney Hills Elementary School. He received a Bachelor of Arts in history and a Bachelor of Science in social studies education from the University of Maryland.

All of the Teacher of the Year finalists receive $1,000 from the Greenblatt Educational Fund, $1,000 from MCBRE, and a Dell Latitude E 5450 Laptop. As the MCPS Teacher of the Year, Mr. Gannon will receive an additional $1,000 from MCBRE and a one-year auto lease from Fitzgerald Auto Mall.

Recognizing Excellence

Several other MCPS staff members and community members were recognized for their excellence and commitment at the Champions for Children event. They are:

  • Ginger Berry, Project Success teacher, Argyle Middle School, Greenblatt Rising Star Teacher of the Year;
  • Betty Collins, director, Department of Instructional Leadership Support, Dr. Edward Shirley Award for Excellence in Educational Administration and Supervision;
  • Lisa Bligen, special education paraeducator, Argyle Middle School, Supporting Services Employee of the Year;
  • Emergent BioSolutions, Business Champion for Children; and
  • Larry Edmonds, Northeast Consortium/Paint Branch cluster coordinator and Parent-Teacher-Student Association president, Volunteer Champion for Children.


The Champions for Children event is made possible through generous donations from sponsors, including:

  • Kaiser Permanente, which sponsors the Marian Greenblatt Master Teacher Awards;
  • Cigna, which sponsors the Dr. Edward Shirley Award for Excellence in Educational Administration and Supervision;
  • Adventist HealthCare, which sponsors the MCPS Supporting Services Employee of the Year Award;
  • Lockheed Martin, which sponsors the Marian Greenblatt Rising Teacher Award;
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which sponsors the MCPS Volunteer Champion Award; and
  • The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the MCPS Business Champion Award.

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