Laura Simons, 2018 Teacher of the Year (courtesy photo)

Alexandria City Public Schools has named T. C. Williams High School physics teacher Laura Simons as its 2018 Teacher of the Year and George Washington Middle School’s Jesse Mazur as 2018 Principal of the Year. Both were also named as finalists for The Washington Post 2018 Outstanding Teacher and Principal of the Year.
 
The winners were recognized during surprise celebrations at their schools on Thursday morning. Staff, students and family members gathered at T. C. Williams and George Washington to cheer as the winners were announced.
 
Nominated by her students, Teacher of the Year Laura Simons is a National Board Certified Teacher who has been with ACPS since 2010.
 
"Ms. Simons is truly an exceptional teacher with a talent for making extremely challenging content accessible to her students in fun and engaging ways. Having students initiate the process of nominating Ms. Simons, a process typically undertaken by colleagues and parents, is a testament to how valued she is by those she has impacted the most," said Interim Superintendent Lois F. Berlin.
 
Simons is a lead member of the science department and a lead for the physics professional learning community who actively promotes a love of science in teaching and learning communities. She established "Nerdy T-shirt Thursday," where she and her colleagues wear physics or science-themed t-shirts to promote content. She is also a liaison for the Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which helps to prepare typically under-represented students for four-year college eligibility.
 
Her contagious passion for science makes her a highly sought after physics teacher.
 
"Ms. Simons is the most understanding teacher I've ever had. She knows how to cater the material to her students and never fails to give us support. She lets us know that it's okay to make mistakes. Ms. Simons 100 percent deserves this award. Her dedication to teaching and her compassion for her students makes her the best. She has definitely made me a better student and more prepared for college," said senior Ellie Bernstein.

Jesse Mazur, 2018 Principal of the Year (courtesy photo)

Principal of the Year Jesse Mazur joined ACPS as the principal of George Washington Middle School in 2014. Using a collaborative and data-driven approach Mazur has focused on building community, promoting professional learning communities and closing the achievement gap.
 
"Mr. Mazur is a hands-on instructional leader who creates an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust where teachers are supported, involved and appreciated. He is a distinguished educator who is willing to go above and beyond and has a true passion for student success," said Interim Superintendent Lois F. Berlin.
 
Mazur has built a cohesive school community for staff and students by implementing programs such as the Where Everyone Belongs (WEB) transition program in which eighth grade students mentor incoming sixth grade students; the Kicking off an Excellent Year (KEY) middle school transition program designed for students receiving special education services; and the Guided Learning Acquisition Design (GLAD) program, a highly structured framework to support English learning students and Restorative Practices for student conflict resolution. During his tenure, GW's counseling program became the first RAMP certified school in the division.
 
"He's one of those rare principals who is always prepared to engage staff, parents and the community in conversation about effective research-based educational practices, and he does so while being completely approachable," said Director of School Counseling Gregory Forbes.
 
Mazur said he was truly humbled to be selected.
 
"I've seen who our past Principals of the Year are and I'm really excited to be in their company. I'm also so proud of our team. This is a team effort and not a principal effort. They work so hard every day. We complement each other," said Mazur.