Frederick County Public Schools announces the five teachers advancing as finalists for the 2020-2021 FCPS Teacher of the Year Award, the county’s most prestigious award for teachers. Every school in FCPS is asked to nominate at least one outstanding teacher every year to be selected as the county’s Teacher of the Year. This year, after several stages of review that included interviews and submitting essays and other materials, FCPS has narrowed the field to five outstanding finalists. They are: Philip Arnold, Erica French, Ashley Lillard, Jill McWilliams and Joseph “Tom” Mitchell.
FCPS Career and Technology Center (CTC) instructor Philip Arnold was initially a systems engineer by profession but a teacher at heart. Arnold, who teaches Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Architecture and Engineering classes, is best known for helping students gain skills to solve real-world problems. His students have won awards at national SkillsUSA, and some even traveled to Africa to install their invention to provide clean water for a school. Arnold has earned the Charles E. Tressler Distinguished Teacher Award, two Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams Excite awards, ProJet Aviation Teacher of the Year recognition, and was named the FCPS Career and Technology Education Teacher of the Year.
Brunswick Middle math teacher Erica French is a former Brunswick Middle student. Having taught honors classes for Highly Able Learners, Honors Algebra I and Algebra II, she is touted as one of the nicest, coolest teachers and one who knows how to connect with students. In addition to teaching math, French implemented a tutoring program to help struggling students stay on top of their grades. She has supported her colleagues as a mentor for new teachers, sixth-grade team leader and professional development facilitator for Google Classroom. She is also an FCPS Vanguard Teacher Leader and curriculum writer.
Thurmont Primary first-grade teacher Ashley Lillard is a passionate educator and advocate for science, technology, mathematics and social-emotional learning. Last year, she secured a Battelle National Biodefense Institute grant to fund a robotics lab project at her school. She is working with colleagues to plan a joint STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) night with Thurmont Elementary to foster enthusiasm for coding and programming for students at both schools. Lillard has taught elementary students since 2007. She was the Lions Club Teacher of the Year for Thurmont Primary in 2014-2015.
At Walkersville Elementary, Jill McWilliams teaches a multi-grade kindergarten/first-grade class. She is a teacher leader whose engaging instruction results in her students making significant progress and leads her colleagues to look to her for guidance and support. McWilliams served as the kindergarten team leader and then volunteered to serve as the substitute team leader when a colleague went on leave. She has taught at several elementary schools in Frederick County, including Glade, Thurmont and Walkersville, and she was an FCPS Teacher of the Year nominee in 2016.
Urbana Middle music teacher Joseph “Tom” Mitchell is in his 31st year of teaching. At Urbana Middle since it opened in 2007, he has taught 21 years in Frederick County. Mitchell is described as sincere, compassionate, caring, humble and student-centered. He teaches choir and orchestra. He also plays cello in the Frederick Symphony Orchestra, teaches private cello and bass students, and is a guest conductor for various local ensembles. Mitchell has initiated and organized a variety of music programs including the after-school GLEE! Club. He also earned the status of National Board Certified Teacher in 2018.
FCPS will announce the winner of the 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year award later this spring. FCPS’s current Teacher of the Year is Mike Franklin, who teaches physical education at Catoctin High School.
A list of 2020 nominees and their photos are online at www.fcps.org/toy.