Two graduates of the Johns Hopkins School of Education, Michael Williams and Alison Sayers, were recognized as outstanding teachers from their respective counties at the Maryland Teacher of the Year Gala last fall at Martin’s West. In addition, Christian Pazdersky was named an “inspirational leader in the classroom” in Anne Arundel County private schools by What’s Up? Magazine.
Michael Williams, the Montgomery County Teacher of the Year, graduated with a master’s degree from SOE in 2003. He serves as the Social Studies Department chair at John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, as well as teaches an advanced placement class in Theory of Knowledge. He has also taught U.S. History and African American History.
Williams co-founded the Montgomery County Minority Scholars Program, a student-driven initiative that focuses on reducing the opportunity/achievement gap and expanding the number of African American and Latino students involved in honors and AP classes. The program is in 15 high schools and three middle schools.
He is a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher alumnus and the 2014 recipient of the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award. While at his previous school, Walter Johnson High School, Williams served as head coach of the varsity soccer team and sponsor of the Black Student Union.
“Michael Williams inspires his students to challenge expectations and tackle obstacles to their success. He is a role model and mentor, and I congratulate him,” said Michael Durso, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education.
Alison Sayers, the St. Mary’s County Teacher of the Year, teaches high school English at Fairlead Academy I. She earned her master’s degree in school counseling from SOE in 2008.
Sayers led efforts in the past year to establish a new Honor Council. A voluntary program, the council provides a forum where students are free to discuss and find ways to resolve minor disciplinary infractions before a group of their peers. She came up with the idea of the student-led council when she realized traditional approaches, such as suspensions or detentions, did not change behavior for struggling students.
“I had two goals in mind in setting up the Honor Council. I wanted students see they each are valued members of the school community and how their behaviors directly affect others,” she said.
Sayers also helped set up a mobile library for students. The library has collected almost 400 books from lists recommended by students.
Rebecca Cline, academic dean at Fairlead I, says of Sayers: “An outstanding teacher, Alison has set her students up for continuous gains throughout their school career. She fosters an atmosphere of trust in her classroom where students aren’t afraid to be wrong. She is not only teaching students how to read and write, she is teaching them how to think!”
Christian Pazdersky, who holds an MAT from the School of Education, has taught for seven years at St. Anne’s School of Annapolis, teaches middle-school mathematics, pre-algebra and algebra.
He said his proudest teaching moment came when one of his students, who struggled in math and sought out tutoring from him, told him that he was seriously considering majoring in math when he goes to college.
“I am quite proud to think that I played a part in building this student’s confidence and interest in math,” he said.
Pazdersky has taken on a number of leadership roles to support the community, including serving as the school’s Developmental Designs Resource Teacher, accompanied students on a trip to Costa Rica for service learning and environmental science opportunities and has held parent education workshops to share the school’s approach to mathematics.
“As the Mathematics Department head,” said Lisa Nagel, head of school, “Christian has worked with students in kindergarten, as well as teachers, in developing and implementing math lessons in the classroom.”