FCEF Teacher of the Year Award

Meet the Nominees of the Teacher of the Year awardNominees Announced for 2018 FCEF Teacher of the Year Award

Falls Church City Public Schools (FCCPS) announced eight nominees for the Falls Church Education Foundation (FCEF) Teacher of the Year award. These eight nominees were selected by colleagues, students and parents for their outstanding dedication as educators.

Nominees were surprised in their classrooms with balloons by a prize patrol that included Superintendent Peter Noonan, Assistant Superintendent Lisa High, FCEF President Cecily Shea, FCEF Executive Director Debbie Hiscott. All nominees will receive tickets to attend the FCEF Annual Gala in May, and will be recognized at the annual FCCPS “Celebration of Excellence.”

The winner, who will be announced in April, will be selected by a panel of judges and will be awarded $1500 from the FCEF. The winner will also be entered as a finalist in the Washington Post Teacher of the Year Award.

The nominees are:

Julie Custer, Second Grade Teacher, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School

Lacey Gandy, Fourth Grade Teacher, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School

Emilia Hosier, Fourth Grade Teacher, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School

Farrell Kelly, World History and Geography Teacher, Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School

Heidi Lang, Gifted and Talented Specialist, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School

Miriam Schimmoller, Third Grade Teacher, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School

Dave Sikora, Kindergarten Teacher, Mt. Daniel Elementary School

Mary Jo West, Band Director and Teacher, George Mason High School


Julie Custer Teacher of the Year nominee celebrating with colleagues

Julie Custer, Second Grade Teacher, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School

“Julie has a love of learning that is infectious in her classroom. She provides thought provoking and challenging activities that our students enjoy. Julie has an innate ability to accommodate her lessons to her students’ needs while teaching.” Joanne Woods, TJ Special Education Teacher

“Julie has the gift of seeing each child as an individual, each with unique gifts and struggles, and finding ways to foster those to bring out their best.”  Elizabeth and Rich Meade, parents

“She sees the differences in (her students) and what makes them special. She attends their soccer games and cheers along with the parents...Julie champions healthy choices for snacks and class parties, and awards birthday children with their choice of extra recess, reading or other special indoor classroom activity.”  Mike and Brittany Sakata, parents

“Mrs. Custer runs a structured, organized class with an effective combination of high expectations and support to help all of her students succeed. She is very patient and according to my daughter, always very encouraging.”  Christopher and Katie Lanier, parents


Teacher of the Year nominee Lacey Gandy celebrating with colleagues

Lacey Gandy, Fourth Grade Teacher, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School

“Ms. Gandy exemplifies what a teacher should be. She inspires each one of her students to be their very best. She has full confidence in their abilities to achieve and plans engaging learning experiences to meet the needs of her students.”  Ira and Allyson Greene, parents

“Lacey creates a warm, positive, and caring atmosphere in her classroom. It is a place where children take risks in their thinking, are inspired to seek opportunities that are challenging, and have a desire to seek personal growth by deepening their understanding and expanding their knowledge.”  TJ Fourth Grade Team

“Her enthusiasm, dedication and special way of creating community in the classroom is genuinely unique and we could not be more grateful for her role as an inspiring teacher in our son’s life.”  Sally Roever and Jason Grubb, parents

“From the moment we met Mrs. Gandy at the meet the teacher day prior to the start of school, her enthusiasm and warmth were infectious and inviting.”  Rebecca Masri, parent


Teacher of the Year nominee Emilia Hosier congratulated by colleagues

Emilia Hosier, Fourth Grade Teacher, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School

“She engages her student in meaningful ways. She touches their lives not just academically , but emotionally and culturally. She has a natural ability to identify every student's potential for growth and to support with compassion.”  Holly Shaffie, TJ ESOL/LIEP Teacher

“While Emilia works hard to lift up every student who walks into her room, she especially is committed to progress of those students who might otherwise be at-risk: student who are still learning English, or students who might struggle with disabilities, or students whose personal lives are filled with hurt and adversity. For these and all kids, Mrs. Hosier is an antidote to struggle.”  TJ Administrative Team

“Mrs. Hosier epitomizes the PYP trait of being balanced, making her a role model among her colleagues. Mrs. Hosier has a class of students with very different needs, and she is careful to find ways to provide enrichment and extra support to help all students stay engaged in her classroom.”  Ellyn Fine, parent

“Emilia’s positive attitude and beautiful smile radiate to all of our team members. Emilia’s infectious positivity influences not only her teammates, but her class as well.”  TJ Fourth Grade Team


Teacher of the year nominee Ferrell Kelly celebrating his nomination with a few of his students.

Farrell Kelly, World History and Geography Teacher, Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School

“His teaching focuses on making his students stronger people through knowledge.”  Elisabeth Snyder, former student (GMHS Class of 2021)

“One of the most impressive characteristics of Mr. Kelly’s immensely strong teaching skills is the sheer joy and enthusiasm he brings to teaching his students, which in turn make them more interested in the subject.”  Rory Dippold, MEHMS Assistant Principal

“Mr. Kelly’s sense of humor and ability to let the students learn from their mistakes help the students find their path. In his mind there are no bad ideas and no idea is too ambitious.”  Husky Prints Newspaper Editorial Staff

“Mr. Kelly’s brilliance in the classroom is evident in how he taught us poetry - something he encourages students to embrace in their lives...He made poetry tangible - something you whisper or shout, something you laugh and cry about, something that stays with you long after you’ve closed the book.”  Annie Castillo, former student (GMHS Class of 2019)


Heidi Lang, Teacher of the Year nominee, celebrating with colleagues and parents

Heidi Lang, Gifted and Talented Specialist, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School

“In her classroom, there is seemingly no limit to the ideas that kids can explore and share, from serious and metaphysical to silly and even harebrained.”  Shilpa Satoskar, parent

“She is really kind, helpful and caring. Not in a normal way, in a special way. This way is kind at all times; funny when wanted or appreciated, and serious when needed.” Anand Colby, student

“Ms. Lang’s unpretentious style, outside the box thinking, and kindness have been central to why my child loves school.”  Rosaly Kozbelt, parent

“Heidi’s confidence in her students translates to a love of learning about challenging, complex, and fascinating issues.”  Komal Bazaz Smith, parent


Miriam Schimmoller, Teacher of the Year nominee and colleagues

Miriam Schimmoller, Third Grade Teacher, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School

“She creates space for kids to have opportunities to be leaders and listeners by teaching students to observe and acknowledge each other’s strengths. She also individualizes her teaching, engaging parents and students to make a personalized lesson plan and address each student’s needs.”  Tara & Peter Villano, parents

“Her knowledge of the Primary Years Programme at our school is unrivaled, and she is a leader in helping our teachers maximize their quality relative to IB instruction.” TJ Administrative Team

“Miriam incorporates so many small elements into her classroom to create a cohesive, nurturing and celebratory community.”  Linda Green, parent

“I don’t know is you can describe teaching as thing of art or beauty, but Miriam makes it so.” Lindsey and Jeff Potts, parents


Dave Sikora is congratulated on being nominated for teacher of the year by students, principal Erin Kelly and Superintendent Peter Noonan

Dave Sikora, Kindergarten Teacher, Mt. Daniel Elementary School

“...he is a teacher who lives his curriculum. His passion for exploring the world, and for learning engage our children fully, empowering them with the skills needed to become active learners and to improve the community and world through action.”  Sonia Ruiz-Bolanos, parent

“He has a unique relationship with each student and an understanding and bond based on common interest or way of thinking. This emphasis on relationships helps every child feel valued and ‘heard’ in his classroom.”  Robin and Brian Camarote, parents

“Students lucky enough to enter his classroom are taken on daily adventures that might have them living in an igloo for a day or decorating the room with Star Wars themed snowflakes.” Lisa Mueller, TJ teacher

“He creates a comfortable, flexible environment where students are able to inquire about things they are  interested in, explore their individuality and learn to be productive members of a classroom community.”  Erin Truesdell, Principal, Mt. Daniel


Mary Jo West, 2018 Teacher of the Year Nominee

Mary Jo West, Band Director and Teacher, George Mason High School

“Ms. West’s positive attitude is infectious. You can’t be around her without feeling as though she truly loves what she does and she wouldn’t be doing anything else as her life’s work.”  Gail Warner, parent

“As a role model and leader, Mary Jo inspires every student to reach deep down inside and play with joy and flair.”  Ari Allan Autor, parent

“Mary Jo has been one of my biggest inspirations to pursue music as a career, and I know she’s inspired many of my peers, too.”  Kit Richards, GMHS Class of 2018

“Fittingly, Mary Jo is best described as an orchestra. Her teaching personality combines the booming presence of a tubs, the precision of percussion, the gentle sensitivity of a triangle, the control of a concertmaster, and the breadth of all 88 keys of a piano in her knowledge and wisdom about the subject of music.”  Nancy Romps, parent

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