Arlington Public Schools announced its 2023 Employees of the Year during surprise visits on April 14. In addition to the Teacher, Principal and Support Employees of the Year, APS added two new awards: the Assistant Principal of the Year and the Leadership Award.
2023 Teacher of the Year
The 2023 Teacher of the Year is Deitra Brady-Pulliam, a third-grade teacher from Hoffman-Boston Elementary. Brady-Pulliam makes it a priority to know every student in her class as a whole person. She can see what each student brings to the class community and uses the students’ unique strengths to help them overcome their difficulties and develop a positive self-concept. She actively engages and motivates her students by designing activities that foster learner independence and mentorship. She is an incredible guide who empowers her students to oversee their own learning by creating interesting, open-ended tasks that target real-world skills. As her nomination stated: “She has a magic way of bringing out each student’s true potential and hidden abilities!”
Brady-Pulliam encourages open and effective parental involvement in her classroom and believes that her parents are the most important resources in the success of her students, therefore, it is important to include them as partners in education. One parent wrote, “I love seeing my son hugging Mrs. Pulliam more than once every single time and running to me to talk about his stimulating conversations with Mrs. Pulliam. I can see the difference she makes in her students’ personality with her compassion, kindness, and love towards them.” Brady-Pulliam believes in the wise words of Aristotle, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
2023 Principal of the Year
Thomas Jefferson Middle School’s Keisha Boggan is named the 2023 APS Principal of the Year. Boggan is a model leader who inspires her staff and students with a clear vision, an open ear to input, and a commitment to excellence. She builds leadership capacity among her staff and cultivates strong family and community relationships. She also institutes systems that make Thomas Jefferson Middle School a safe and effective place for students to learn, grow, and act – the school slogan. Boggan clearly articulates her school’s vision and leads the greater charge of holding students to high academic standards with the support needed to help them achieve. Boggan has brought together a team that, like herself, genuinely likes working with children and helping them to succeed.
Boggan has a willingness to try new things. If she believes that an idea will be a positive thing for her students, she is open to trying it. She is unafraid to start new programs or efforts that benefit students, even if it means more work for her. She encourages team spirit and has established an environment of trust. The staff trusts her to lead, and she trusts her staff to do their work with students. Boggan makes her staff feel valued and appreciated. She looks for ways to reduce teacher workload and improve morale. Boggan is also enthusiastic about making sure the community knows what a special place Thomas Jefferson Middle School is.
New – 2023 Assistant Principal of the Year
The 2023 Assistant Principal of the Year is Barcroft Elementary School’s, Dr. Gabriela Rivas. The new Assistant Principal of the Year Award recognizes an outstanding Assistant Principal who has succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students. The assistant principal is acknowledged by their peers for the exemplary contributions they have made to the profession, their school, their students, and the division.
Dr. Rivas deeply believes that every student is capable of high levels of success. Whether providing feedback to teachers or interacting with students, she consistently demonstrates the leadership and commitment she expects among staff members. She takes personal responsibility for making sure that students have the social and emotional support needed to be successful learners. She knows every Barcroft family and goes to great lengths to help them find needed resources. Many parents have her cell number and know that she is available to them day or night when they have concerns. She works hard to empower parents to help their children and fosters and maintains the Barcroft community that operates as a family.
Through her thoughtful actions, she communicates that every member of the Barcroft family is valued and irreplaceable. She ensures that all voices are heard, considered, and valued. As a result, Dr. Rivas has earned the trust of staff, parents, and students. She leads with humility and service; for her it is always about the students and staff. She exemplifies selflessness and service to others and embodies the school motto: Work Hard, Get Smart, Have Fun, Be Kind.
New – 2023 Leader of the Year Award
Director of Elementary Education Wendy Pilch is named the 2023 Leader of the Year. The APS Leadership Award honors the contributions of P-Scale staff who have led significant and sustained initiatives to strengthen academics, student wellbeing, operations, employee engagement, family engagement or other areas that serve our schools and students. Each of these areas of leadership is likely to involve the establishment and fostering of strong collaborative networks among educators.
Described as committed, dedicated, and having an unrelenting desire to ensure that all students achieve at high levels and have their social and emotional needs met are some of the qualities associated with Pilch being selected Arlington Public Schools’ Leader of the Year. Pilch epitomizes grace, compassion, and devotion, and works diligently to ensure that leaders are provided with the support and guidance to run highly-effective learning communities. She maintains a connection with principals and works tirelessly to support their work.
Pilch strives to maintain a diverse and equitable lens in her approach to all things to ensure that all perspectives and needs are valued and considered. She is child-centered, and deeply driven by a belief in the success of all learners. It is not uncommon for Pilch to “roll up her sleeves” to do whatever tasks are necessary to lighten the load for principals. From meeting regularly with administrators, providing building coverage, meeting directly with teachers, parents, and students, nothing is outside of her scope of work. Pilch mirrors and supports the culture and climate of APS in which each school leader can find solutions that fit the unique needs of each school.
2023 Support Employees of the Year
- A-Scale: Patricia Greco, Instructional Assistant, Swanson Middle School
Problem-solver, relational and committed to student success are three characteristics that aptly describe Patricia Greco. She is an enthusiastic teacher and learner. Swanson’s students are excited to work with her and teachers express a great deal of appreciation for her abilities, finding her approachable and helpful. Greco consistently removes barriers so that every student is challenged and engaged. She broadens pathways and builds support systems by regularly providing additional help, resources and instructional tools and support to students so that they can evidence growth as learners and as people. She understands that sometimes the job description doesn’t always outline the ways support can be delivered.
- C-Scale: Hannah Oukib, Cafeteria Manager, Williamsburg Middle School
Oukib has been serving up meals and smiles to the staff of Williamsburg Middle School for over two decades. It is with tireless devotion that she makes sure the cafeteria is always prepped and ready to serve breakfast and three lunches each day. If students are not able to eat what is offered, Oukib will find another alternative at that moment to ensure that the student has something to eat. In addition, Oukib extends cafeteria hours to accommodate students returning from field trips. She trains her staff to ensure that students include a healthy option on their trays. Students are often sent back to add more vegetables or fruit to ensure that it is a full serving. Oukib is organized and pays attention to detail. For example, the kitchen is always spotless. She takes pride in making sure that those who enter the kitchen walk away knowing that their food was prepared in a place that is clean and that food is properly stored. It is these behind-the-scenes employees who provide the heartbeat of a school, and Oukib has proven invaluable to the success of Williamsburg over her many years of service.
- D-Scale: Gerald Mendizabal, Bus Driver Transportation
Gerry Mendizabal provides daily operational excellence with a smile. He ensures all students receive a safe ride to and from school while embracing the diversity of all our students. He has an extraordinary ability to get along with people of all backgrounds, adults, and middle schoolers alike. One student wrote, “I am recommending him because he is a great person and the best bus driver I have ever met. I say this because every morning he greets everybody and every afternoon, he says goodbye. He also has a lost-and-found on his bus. Lastly, I am recommending him because he is the kindest bus driver ever. I say this because in 2nd grade he celebrated the birth of his kid with us by giving us cookies. I have multiple great memories while riding his bus and I know other kids do too.”
- E-Scale: John Stuhldreher, Director, Arlington Education Television, School and Community Relations (SCR)
Stuhldreher has been an essential part of Arlington Public Schools for almost 40 years. His reach has spanned every department and school, working to find the story and share all that is APS. He is a master storyteller who facilitates cross departmental collaboration. He can be in a room with administrators, teachers, and students and ingest all ideas, strategies, and agendas, filter through it all and capture a clear and focused story that encompasses each key point. Stuhldreher is a Cine Golden Eagle winner and Emmy nominated for his APS documentary “It’s Just Me…” which gives a comprehensive telling of the integration of Arlington Public Schools, as told by the heroes who were there and fought to make it happen. He brings that same enthusiasm working on a passion project like this to everything else he does. Stuhldreher has an innate ability to instantly put people at ease, from a PreK student to the Superintendent. He brings out the best in people both professionally and personally, onscreen and offscreen. His positivity is contagious.
- G-Scale: Nichole Anderson, Employment Specialist, Human Resources-Talent Acquisition and Management (TAM)
Anderson serves as an employment specialist for the Talent Acquisition and Management department. Her tasks are varied, and she is always focused on performing the role to the best of her ability while providing backup support to other members of the TAM team. Anderson supports 26 elementary schools and programs, the Office of Special Education and Student Services with their hiring and onboarding needs. Additionally, she provides support to the talent acquisition coordinator with onboarding contractors, and the Assistant to Teacher Scholarship Program. What sets Anderson apart is that while she works in Human Resources, she never loses sight of the human aspect of each person that she serves. Each encounter, conversation and onboarding meeting are individualized, and she treats each person with humility and empathy. Anderson is a true team player and takes ownership of the schools and programs that she serves. She is constantly thinking of how her work will impact others.
- M-Scale: Rosa Montes, Custodian, Wakefield High School
Montes began her career as a line custodian 16 years ago. Her years of persistence, hard work, and dedication have not gone unnoticed. Dependable, consistent, responsive, and positive are the adjectives that come to mind when thinking of Montes. She can be counted on to be on time, to be present every day, to complete her assigned responsibilities, and to willingly take on any additional tasks to support the safe and efficient functioning of Wakefield High School. She does not sit back and wait to be told what to do. She is consistently proactive in addressing needs and looking for how she can support Wakefield’s staff and students. In Montes’ role, she frequently interacts with members of the community who come to use the facilities at Wakefield and to attend events. These individuals regularly comment on how helpful Montes was, how pleasant she was in responding to their requests, and how much they appreciated her assistance. Montes is an exemplary employee, and a genuine asset to APS.
- X-Scale: Tenita Chapman, Extended Day Supervisor, Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School
Chapman started her career with Arlington Public Schools in 1989. She has become a permanent fixture at Drew.
Each day, Chapman guarantees that the students at Drew receive the best before and after school programming available. She arranges for community members to share their talents during program time, and for the students to engage in activities that stimulate their minds and open their eyes to a world beyond the door of Drew. Chapman is also amazing at building relationships in the Drew community. The relationships she has built with the other staff in the building, the parents, and organizations that work with the community have enhanced the program at Drew. Using these relationships, she has brought in guest presenters, new programs, and other resources to make the program even more successful. Chapman is Drew! She is always willing to do whatever is needed to make sure that the students at Drew succeed. It doesn’t matter what is needed or when it is needed, Ms. Chapman will always be there for the Drew community.
Celebration of Excellence
The Award Winners will be recognized at the annual Celebration of Excellence on Tue, May 23. Additional details coming soon.