Five Frederick County Public Schools teachers are advancing as finalists for the 2021-2022 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 per year to be selected as the county’s Teacher of the Year. This year, after several levels of review that included interviews, essays and other requirements, FCPS has narrowed the field to five outstanding finalists. They are: Chanese Goodman, Donna Karajeh, Michael Lepeonka, Jennifer Ryan and Christy Williams.
Tuscarora Elementary School teacher Chanese Goodman brings a lot to the table. She is recognized and admired as an educator who balances work, community service and family with grace and excellence. At her school she’s a cultural proficiency representative and book study leader. She also initiated a mentorship program for minority students. In addition, Goodman leads the team that helps students and parents to celebrate diversity via a Heritage Virtual Library she created for the Tuscarora Elementary website. Her leadership contributes to the success of school and local community.
Passionate about making a positive impact on the lives of our youth, is how supporters of Middletown Middle’s Donna Karajeh describe the 7th grade English Language Arts (ELA) teacher. She proudly serves as her school’s equity representative and is an active School Improvement Plan (SIP) member. From her nomination form comes this statement – “When Donna presents on the topic of equity, she engages staff in courageous conversations by relating to the topic given her own experiences.”
At Parkway Elementary School, Michael Lepeonka has been teaching math for more than 10 years. The 5th grade teacher specialist truly exemplifies what it means to be a dedicated educator, professional and colleague. His peers say he maintains positivity while being practical and realistic in his thinking and decision making. He is co-chair of the School Improvement Plan and is a 5th grade Math League Coach. Students and parents at Parkway love “Mr. L.,” as he’s affectionately known, because of his enthusiasm in the classroom and consistent efforts to build relationships with families. Lepeonka is also a former assistant varsity boys basketball coach at Tuscarora High.
A ball of sunshine and a leader among leaders is how colleagues describe Jennifer Ryan at West Frederick Middle. The 8th grade bilingual (English and Spanish) teacher is a team leader, new teacher mentor and community outreach worker. Ryan is a founding member of the FCPS Racial Equity Committee and an LGBTQ+ advisor. Students feel comfortable leaning on her for support and willing to give her their best. She recently led a workshop program for teachers that explored the topic of racism, guiding them with strategies to help navigate uncomfortable conversations in the classroom.
Urbana Elementary math specialist Christy Williams has been teaching in the FCPS system since 2002 and truly knows her subject. She’s a member of the school’s leadership and improvement teams and a PTA teacher representative. Williams is appreciated by school officials because she is always available to help both students and staff, and because she works hard to encourage equity and empathy at Urbana Elementary. Her principal stated, “Christy is that staff member you wish you could duplicate.” In 2017, she was a Thurmont Lions Club Teacher of the Year nominee.
FCPS will announce the winner of the 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year award later this spring. FCPS’s current Teacher of the Year is Jill McWilliams, a multi-grade kindergarten/first grade teacher at Walkersville Elementary School.
A list of 2021 nominees and their photos are online at www.fcps.org/toy.