D.C., Virginia Public Schools Name Teachers of the Year

Teaching can be a thankless job, but the recipients of this year’s Teacher of the Year awards are certainly feeling the gratitude.

On Tuesday, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced the 2013 Teacher of the Year is Simon Elementary School’s Kathy Hollowell-Makle. The D.C. Principal of the Year is Kelly Miller Middle School’s Abdullah Zaki.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell similarly congratulated Fairfax County teacher Melissa Porfirio Tuesday for her win of the 2014 Virginia Teacher of the Year award.

Simon Elementary kindergarten teacher Hollowell-Makle started off as a volunteer at an after-school program and realized that teaching was her passion. In 1998, she joined Teach for America.

“I realized that I loved teaching,” Hollowell-Makle said. “Here I am some 15 years later.”

Hollowell-Makle has been teaching at Simon Elementary for four years. She’s served as a grade-level chair and mentor teacher. She’s also had a role in the national dialogue about elementary school funding, serving on a roundtable with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“Ms. Hollowell-Makle is a people person and enjoys working with all students,” said Adelaide Flamer, principal of Simon Elementary School. “She is an asset to the staff of Simon Elementary School and a jewel to her students and their families.”


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While Hollowell-Makle has received praise for her policy work, the classroom is where her heart remains.

“The best part of teaching is having former students recognize me, and being able to see how wonderful they turned out to be,” Hollowell-Makle said.

Principal Abdullah Zaki has had nearly 15 years of experience as D.C. educator, starting as a teacher at Roosevelt Senior High School.

Abdullah Zaki then went on to serve as assistant principal at Maya Angelou Public Charter School, Ballou Senior High School and Benjamin Banneker Academic High School.

Today, he’s the principal of Kelly Miller Middle School. Under his leadership, truancy has dropped from 30 percent to 1 percent, and suspensions have been reduced by more than 50 percent. Standardized test scores for Kelly Miller students have increased by more than 30 percent in math and 15 percent in reading.

“[Zaki’s] determination and focus on student achievement is not matched by many administrators that I have been exposed to in my over-20-year educational career,” Mark King, DCPS instructional superintendent for middle schools, said.

Virginia teacher Melissa Porfirio beat out seven other regional nominees for the coveted state title at the annual Virginia Teacher of the Year banquet Friday.

“This is a group of dynamic and outstanding teachers,” Porfirio said. “I was so surprised when my name was called. It is such an honor to represent Virginia’s teachers.”

A teacher in Fairfax County for eight years, Porfirio worked as a social worker in North Carolina and taught English in Seoul, South Korea before settling down in Virginia. She now serves as a mentor to new teachers and has been featured in the county’s training videos.

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