Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Two Bethesda teachers win Greenblatt awards

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For their dedication to students and their engaging teaching styles, two Bethesda teachers were recently honored with a county teaching award.

Stephanie Lee, a science teacher at Westland Middle School, and Christopher Orlando, a math teacher at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, were each given Marian Greenblatt Awards, a teaching excellence prize given to three veteran Montgomery County schoolteachers each year. The award is a $1,000 prize and a chance at winning the county Teacher of the Year award.

‘‘Most people don’t go into a job like this for awards,” Orlando said. ‘‘But when something like this happens, it’s really nice.”

When Orlando came to Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School seven years ago, he strived to make math fun for students who came to him with a less-than-ideal view of the subject.

Orlando, 37, of Washington, D.C., said he credits his students with helping him win the award.

‘‘I have great students, who do very well on their [AP and IB] tests,” he said. ‘‘And I just have a great time teaching them.”

Karen Lockard, an assistant principal at Bethesda-Chevy Chase, said Orlando is being modest.

‘‘This is a teacher who teaches in a way many others wish they could,” she said. ‘‘It’s clear he loves what he does and loves the kids he teaches.”

Lockard said Orlando will often study at home to make sure he knows topics in multivariable calculus or algebra backwards and forwards.

Lee found out she won the award about a month ago, but was presented the prize during a school assembly Tuesday. Students say the award was well deserved.

‘‘She’s awesome,” said 12-year-old Lina Bauer of Chevy Chase. ‘‘She’s a great teacher because she’s really patient and always has time for you.”

When she was in middle school, Lee couldn’t stand her science teacher. When she became a science teacher, herself, seven years ago at Westland Middle School, she vowed to never make science as boring as her middle school teacher had.

‘‘I try to make connections with the material and their actual lives,” said Lee, 29, of Silver Spring. ‘‘And I really try to get to know the kids as people, and not just students.”

For Daniel Vogelman, Lee’s principal at Westland Middle School, the choice was clear.

‘‘Her dedication to her students surpasses what you ordinarily see, and teachers are generally pretty dedicated,” he said. ‘‘She just develops such a rapport with the students.”

Lee and Orlando, besides their dedication in the classroom, also share a dedication to their students beyond science and math. Lee said she often gives up her lunch hour to meet with students in her classroom, and enjoys getting to know about their lives outside of the school. Orlando serves as the senior class sponsor at B-CC, helping the seniors with everything from prom to graduation.

Lee said she is trying hard to avoid the pitfalls of her own sixth-grade science teacher.

‘‘I try to play games with the students to keep them motivated, and keep them involved in what they’re learning,” she said. ‘‘Sixth-graders have a great amount of energy, so it’s important to use it to your benefit.”

Mickey Greenblatt, founder and president of the Greenblatt Education Foundation, said one visit to Lee’s classroom was all he needed to know she was perfect for the award.

‘‘She was just so energetic,” he said. ‘‘We watched her teaching something very basic, the scientific method, and she brought it to life.”

As for Orlando, Greenblatt said the proof is in the success of his students.

‘‘The kids just respond to his teaching,” he said. ‘‘He prepares students for very complicated tests, and they consistently score fives on their AP Calculus tests.”

The Greenblatt Awards were first given in 1989, in honor of Marian Greenblatt, Mickey’s wife and a former Montgomery County school board member and education advocate. Three veteran teachers are awarded prizes each year, as is one first-year teacher.