APS News Release

Wakefield Educator Named 2017 Teacher of the Year

TOY_Michelle Cottrell-Williams_Arlington Public Schools_color photoWakefield High School social studies teacher Michelle Cottrell-Williams was named 2017 APS Teacher of the Year.

“Michelle fosters strong relationships with her students and is creative in her approach to teaching,” said Superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy. “She has been able to successfully connect with students by using the most contemporary instructional strategies and technologies as a part of her daily practices.”

Cottrell-Williams holds a Bachelor of Science from Utah State University. She earned Master’s degrees from The George Washington University and George Mason University.

Cottrell-Williams has been an educator for 10 years all of which have been at Wakefield. She is the lead classroom teacher of World History II, U.S. and Virginia Government, AP European History, Sociology and senior project.

Her lesson plans incorporate a variety of strategies and methodologies to help all students understand the material. “Ms. Cottrell-Williams is a dynamic educator who focuses on student learning. When you enter her class, you will find students actively involved in the lesson, engaged in dynamic discussions, participating in simulations or analyzing texts,” said Principal Dr. Chris Willmore.

According to Wakefield special projects coordinator Lisa Labella who nominated Cottrell-Williams, she is an excellent listener and problem solver who is willing to collaborate and assume a leadership role. “Michelle does not hesitate to contact parents and she is sensitive to the diverse backgrounds and circumstances of our families and strives to keep them informed.”

Cottrell-Williams works tirelessly to close the achievement gap. APS Social Studies Supervisor, Cathy Bonneville Hix wrote in her letter of support, “Michelle is a fierce advocate for students. She teaches a diversity of learners and her classroom is clearly student-centered and engaging,”

Former student teacher and now a teacher in Fairfax County, Ashley Steptoe also shared, “Many of her students are new to the United States and still learning English when they come to her classes. Not only does she work to convey the required subject material, she also works to get to know her students.”

Colleagues of Cottrell-Williams highlight her leadership and willingness to collaborate. Wakefield teacher and the 2010 APS Teacher of the Year, Colette Fraley summed it up, saying, “Finally, a word about her leadership skills. Right out of school, she became a team leader with her 9th grade ‘house,’ engaging disparate teachers with disparate ideas and personalities to work together for the greater good.”

Cottrell-Williams will serve as Arlington’s nominee for the 2017 Virginia Teacher of the Year Award, and is one of 19 metropolitan area teachers who have been recognized as a finalist for The Washington Post 2017 Teacher Award.

On Tue, May 16, the School Board, staff and APS community will recognize Cottrell-Williams and the 33 other APS teachers who have been named Teacher of the Year for their individual schools. The celebration will be held at Washington-Lee High School, and will also recognize this year’s APS Principal of the Year and the Support Employees of the Year. The reception will be held at 5:30-6:30 p.m. and the program will begin in the auditorium at 6:30 p.m.

This year’s APS Teacher of the Year school-based honorees include:

Abingdon Elementary School – Jacqueline Firster, resource teacher for the gifted
Arlington Career Center – Lisa Styles, counselor
Arlington Community High School – Jamie Odeneal, ESOL/HILT
Arlington Science Focus Elementary School – Kelly Kurtis, math coach
Arlington Traditional Elementary School – Christine M. Swain, second grade
Ashlawn Elementary School – Susan Katsanis, fifth grade
Barcroft Elementary School – Twanna Betts, second grade
Barrett Elementary School – Kathleen Aiken, art
Campbell Elementary School – Jessica Berg, second/third grade
Carlin Springs Elementary School – Mary Clare Moller, reading specialist
Claremont Elementary School – Amanda Moore, music
Discovery Elementary – Elizabeth Kuleski, second grade
Drew Elementary School – Phyllis Elaine Edwards, art
Glebe Elementary School – Stevie Ray Gray Jr., physical education
Gunston Middle School – Monica Lozano, minority achievement coordinator
H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program – William Podolski Jr., music
Henry Elementary School – Keenan Hall, music
Hoffman-Boston Elementary School – Molly Patrician, music
Jamestown Elementary School – Dani Greene, PreK special ed
Jefferson Middle School – Rachel Payne, seventh grade social studies
Kenmore Middle School – Holly Ousley, librarian
Key Elementary School – Rebecca Lehr, art
Long Branch Elementary School – Carolyn Ayoub, ESOL/HILT
McKinley Elementary School – Natani Vaughn, fourth grade
Nottingham Elementary School – Nicole Gustafson, library media specialist
Oakridge Elementary School – Samantha Doland, ESOL/HILT
Randolph Elementary School – Erin Kowalevicz, first grade
Stratford Program – Caitlin Davies, special ed teacher
Swanson Middle School – Mary Hannah Klontz, music
Taylor Elementary School – Sharon Delores Gaston, grade 5 reading specialist
Tuckahoe Elementary School – James Brent, first grade
Washington-Lee High School – Frank V. DeRocco, counselor
Williamsburg Middle School – Susan Hodkin, seventh grade math
Yorktown High School – Cara Saavedra, math