Hundreds of District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) teachers took over the world’s busiest performing arts center for a glamorous night of acknowledging top leaders with cash awards up to $230,000.
The seventh annual Standing Ovation Awards for DCPS kicked off Monday, March 13 at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Northwest despite an impending snowstorm.
“I’m thrilled to celebrate every great teacher, leader, educator and staff person who works to educate all the young people who enter our doors,” said newly appointed Chancellor Antwan Wilson. “With the committed educators at DC Public Schools, we will continue to be the fastest-improving urban school district in the country and close the achievement gap.”
Wilson acknowledged former DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson, who attended the event.
“Over her five year tenure, Chancellor Henderson passionately championed DCPS’s student and families,” Wilson said. “Under her leadership DCPS was twice named the fastest improving urban school district in the country. She left quite a legacy and I am honored to have the opportunity to improve upon this legacy and strong foundation.”
Burt Lancaster, native Washingtonian and custodial foreman at Beers Elementary School in Southeast, received the School Staff Member of the Year Award after 28 years of service in DCPS.
“It has been a joyful journey to provide a clean environment for the students and staff,” Lancaster said. “I tell the students all the time that it’s very important to know that whatever job you do, know it means something. I ask them, ‘Don’t you want to come to a clean school everyday?'”
Principal of the Year went to Anita Berger of Banneker High School in Northwest; Teacher of the Year, Jan Schuettpelz, science teacher from Deal Middle School in Northwest; and Excellence in Service to social worker Ann Brogoli.
“This award goes to all of the social workers in DCPS,” Brogoli said. “The service award means to me, love. Love in action is service. I am donating 10 percent of my award to Eyes Wide Open Mentoring, an organization that serves homeless middle schoolers primarily at Hart Middle School.”
Tim Gunn, co-host of Lifetime’s “Project Runway” and noted fashion expert and education champion, returned to host the event for the second time. Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Andra Day served as the headliner, performing her hit single “Rise Up.”
Other notable appearances included Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Nigerian novelist and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
“The first teachers in my life were my parents,” Adichie said. “My father was the first professor of statistics and data at the University of Nigeria and my mother was the first female registrar of the same institution.”
“I was fortunate to be surrounded by individuals who were passionate about education and created an open door where education and life could roam seamlessly through one another,” she said.
Adichie presented Stanton Elementary School in Southeast with the Excellence in Family Engagement Award.
“When formal educators become partners with their scholars and parents and start building relationships based on actively involving families in a child’s education it can change the impact in the classroom,” she said.
In 2011, Stanton teachers began conducting home visits to physically connect the barriers between school and home.
“The school receiving the award for excellence in family engagement has developed a program and initiatives to make a commitment to it’s families,” Adichie said.
Stanton Principal Rena Johnson said the “award represents a culmination of years of dedication and perseverance by teachers, by staff and most of all our community.”
“DC Scholars and Community Schools embarked upon a journey to turn around a chronically underperforming school four years ago,” she said. “The key to this work, which we did not fully internalize [until] the second year, is that no school can fully go through a transformation without authentic relationships with families and their students.”
Johnson said the initiative, which started in spring 2012, today has over 400 students receiving home visits.
“I cannot underscore that this work is not easy and can easily be undone by mindsets that believe academic engagement and achievement is not important to the families that look like mine or that college is not in their students reach,” she said.