Walkersville Elementary School multi-grade kindergarten-first grade teacher Jill McWilliams was named the Frederick County Public Schools 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year this morning during Board of Education President Brad W. Young and Superintendent Dr. Terry Alban’s virtual “SurPRIZE Patrol” visit to an online school meeting. The school system’s most prestigious award recognizes excellence in the teaching profession.
“We had 68 outstanding Teacher of the Year nominees,” said Superintendent Dr. Theresa Alban. “The creative ways that Mrs. McWilliams dedicates herself to building connections with students and their families, combined with the ways she encourages students’ support of one another and collaborates with her peer educators, make her an excellent representative of quality teaching in Frederick County.”
Principal Christina McKeever shares her enthusiastic endorsement: “Going above and beyond is an understatement when describing Mrs. McWilliams and the impact she has at Walkersville Elementary with students, families and staff. She is always learning something new and incorporating the practices into her classroom. Her students have made significant progress as a result of her engaging instruction and high expectations. She is known as a teacher leader whose colleagues look to her for guidance and support. It is a pleasure to observe the passion she brings to the classroom and beyond to support an exceptional culture of learning.”
Asked what she would promote as her platform if selected Maryland or National Teacher of the Year, McWilliams responded, “Together we are better….Building connections and the resulting communities are the primary goals….the consistent thread that permeates every lesson I teach, every interaction…to foster high-achieving, successful learners. I understand the power inherent in the connection between teacher and parent/guardian…to positively impact a child’s learning and life. … I invite parents/guardians to become my partner in educating their child.”
To achieve this partnership, McWilliams helped create a summer program offering positive, engaging experiences two weeks before the school year for a stronger beginning. During the school year, she encourages parent volunteers in class and sends a weekly Home-School Journal to parents, in which she writes a letter highlighting the week’s learning. The Home-School Journal also includes student expressions about the best part of their school week and written statements from the parents back to their child. This, she says, provides classroom connections and facilitates quality discussions at home. At the end of the school year she provides bound copies for each child to keep.
McWilliams earned her Bachelor of Science degree in applied learning and development with specialization in English and early childhood education from the University of Texas in Austin in 1992 and her Masters of Science in education, early childhood literacy, from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2013.
FCPS will celebrate McWilliams and each school-selected Teacher of the Year at a special event, with details to be determined based on safety considerations due to the pandemic. The Board of Education will honor McWilliams at a future meeting. She and other Maryland district Teachers of the Year will receive honors at a state-wide gala, conditions permitting, on October 9. Of the 24 local Teachers of the Year, one will be selected the Maryland Teacher of the Year and go on to compete for the National Teacher of the Year award.
McWilliams was grateful to receive gifts from community organizations supporting the FCPS Teacher of the Year. Signifying the year 2020, Stauffer Funeral Homes donated $2,020, and the FERKO Maryland Federal Credit Union donated $1,000.