By Candace Rojo Keyes
GREENBELT — The grand ballroom inside the Greenbelt Marriot was nothing but class Monday night as Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) celebrated its teachers and crowned the 2019 Teacher of the Year.
Daleisha Myers, a fifth-grade teacher at Tulip Grove Elementary School, was selected from an exemplary class of 26 teachers as Prince George’s County’s 2019 Teacher of the Year during the formal ceremony on May 14.
“Right now I’m still in a state of shock,” Myers said.
Myers is something of a superstar in the Bowie education realm. At Tulip Grove, in addition to teaching fifth-grade language arts, reading, writing, and math, she is also the professional development lead teacher and serves on the school management team. However, her work does not stop there.
After school, Myers has volunteered for the Tulip Grove health fair, reading night, the PTA fall festival and multiple fundraisers. She also holds a position as an adjunct professor at Bowie State University and has been recognized by both the university and the city of Bowie for her teaching.
“I truly believe Mrs. Myers is an ideal teacher of the year,” Jaime Coffen, Tulip Grove’s principal, said. “Her involvement in education provides a solid platform and the insight needed to speak eloquently about the state of public school education.”
Each of the 26 reckognized teachers were nominated by their schools for their hard work, dedication and passion for both teaching and learning. During the ceremony, five finalists were announced. Those five finalists included Largo High School’s Arnice Williams, J. Frank Dent Elementary School’s Charina Pacheco, Laurel High School’s Luis Pentón Herrera and Buck Lodge Middle School’s Jason Venezia-Walerstein.
Myers was selected as the winner for her “engaging instruction, passion for teaching and dedication to developing the next generation of teachers.”
“Mrs. Myers epitomizes the level of excellence we look for in our teacher of the year,” said PGCPS Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell. “Her dedication and outstanding instruction prepare students for future academic challenges.
In her view, Myers said what makes her teaching style special is her focus on creating a family atmosphere in her classroom and making it a safe haven for her students.
“One of the things I tell my kids on the first day of school is that we’re a family,” she said. “We spend five days a week together for nine to 10 months out of the year. We are a family. We nurture one another, we help wipe away the tears, we celebrate each other successes, and we help each other out. We are a family.”
Her passion for education began in high school and with a deep admiration for the teachers in her life. She has now spent 12 years teaching in Prince George’s County, where she feels she can really make a difference.
But she does not credit only herself in the excellence she has achieved. She said building up teachers and helping create future leaders is not just the work of one person. During her acceptance speech, she credited her principal, her fellow educators at Tulip Grove and her husband with propping her up along the way and pushing her to accomplish more.
“My biggest champions are not sitting the room. They are my students and the first thing I’m going to do when I see their faces…is I’m going to say ‘we won,’” Myers said. “I cannot wait to be the first person to walk into that classroom tomorrow to tell them they’re the reason that all of us are here in the first place.”
The 2017 Prince George’s County Teacher of the Year, Carolyn Marzke, also spoke about the importance of teacher collaboration and how much she learned from her year of representing Prince George’s County and learning with and from the other county teachers of the year in the state.
Marzke called the experience “inspiring and humbling,” as she explored the educational systems of the state, learned new skills, helped train new teachers and gave presentations on education.
“One theme dominated our discussions every time the Maryland Teachers of the Year got together, no matter where were, who we were meeting with or the focus of our gathering, and that theme was the foundational importance of relationships in teaching,” she said.
Those relationships are formed with the students, their parents, other teachers, individual school leadership and the community. And Myers said what she is looking forward to most in the next year is the relationships she can form with the other teachers of the year.
Another huge theme of the night was celebrating the impact that teachers have on their students. Maxwell thanked the teachers in the county, personally, for their work and their unwavering dedication to their students.
He noted that he was once a PGCPS student and his teachers were an unmistakable key factor in his success and where he is today.
“It is the teachers and principals that help to grow the children in this county to believe in themselves when sometimes it’s hard to do it on their own,” he said. “I would be like so many other people if it weren’t for the educators in this schools system…I would not have been the teacher, not have been the assistant principal at Central, not have been the principal at Buck Lodge, not have been the principal at Northwestern, not be standing here today if it weren’t for people like you who invested me. And I thank you every day from the bottom of my heart.”
Beyond words of thanks, there was also a number of gifts for the nominated teachers, several more prizes for the five finalists and a long list of awards for the 2018 Teacher of the Year, as several community partners wanted to also thank the teacher for their work.
As Myers prepares to take on her new role and take part in the Maryland Teacher of the Year program, she will also be buying new supplies for her classroom with a $500 award and driving to school in a brand new set of wheels. Pohanka Honda provided the newly inducted county Teacher of the Year with a prepaid, three-year lease on a brand new Honda Accord LX.