This morning, Frederick County Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Terry Alban surprised Tuscarora High School Literacy Specialist Lydia Kowalski with the news that Kowalski is the district's finalist for The Washington Post Teacher of the Year Award. Each year the Washington Post recognizes teachers in the Washington Metropolitan area who exemplify excellence in their profession and who contribute to improvements in education. The Washington Post will announce its winner in April.
Board of Education President Brad W. Young also attended the surprise “prize patrol” visit, as did Kowalski’s parents, husband and daughter.
A number of colleagues and students joined Principal Christopher Berry in recommending Kowalski for Teacher of the Year recognition. According to Superintendent Alban, the common thread in letters supporting Kowalski’s nomination was her connections with students that make them feel special and want to come to school to learn.
“She is the teacher you can always go to for any reason, and she is always there to help,” wrote a class of 2020 student.
Another praised her as a “model teacher” for “inspiring her students to aim higher in their education” and as “a teacher who touches the hearts of anyone she interacts with.”
Principal Berry said, “When students speak of teachers who inspire them at Tuscarora High School, invariably Ms. Kowalski’s name is in the mix. It is a combination of her personal enthusiasm and her ability to unlock in students the ability to love reading and the English language.”
A colleague shared that Ms. Kowalski not only works with reading interventions ranging from basic phonics with Learning for Life students to higher level comprehension in a year-long English class, but she works with and co-teaches with members of every department in the school.
A class of 2021 student also praised Kowalski: “She has an innate ability to find out what kind of push you need…especially through the books she gives out. I imagine that’s the hardest thing for a teacher to figure out—how to really reach and connect to each student. Mrs. Kowalski seems to instinctively know how to hone in on what a student is most excited about and cultivate that.”
Kowalski earned her Bachelor of Arts degree summa cum laude in English, with a minor in secondary education, at Mount St. Mary’s University and Master of Science degree with reading specialization at Hood College. She taught language arts at West Frederick Middle School from 2002-2005 and worked as literacy specialist at Ballenger Creek Middle from 2005-2011, as well as adjunct professor at Hood College 2006-2010. She was assigned to Tuscarora High in 2014, where she has chaired the English Department, coordinated the English learner program, served as National English Honor Society advisor, and works as literacy specialist.
Left to right are: FCPS Superintendent Dr. Terry Alban, Lydia Kowalski’s mother, father, daughter and husband. Washington Post Teacher of the Year Finalist for FCPS Lydia Kowalski, Tuscarora High School Principal Chris Berry and BOE President Brad W. Young