(Washington, DC) - Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser surprised Kelly Harper, a third grade teacher at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School in Ward 6, with the 2019 DC Teacher of the Year Award. The prestigious honor is awarded annually to a public school teacher in the District of Columbia who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to student achievement and comes with cash prize of $7,500. Ms. Harper will now be considered for the National Teacher of the Year Award. Acting Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn, State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang, and Interim DC Public Schools Chancellor Amanda Alexander joined Mayor Bowser for the surprise announcement.
“We are proud to have so many talented and passionate teachers educating and inspiring our students, and, today, we are excited to recognize and celebrate Ms. Harper for all she has done for her students, her school, and our community,” said Mayor Bowser. “Great teachers change lives, and we know that Ms. Harper is working hard to set her students, families, and colleagues up for success. Every day, Ms. Harper is changing lives in Washington, DC.”
Harper, who is a native Washingtonian, has been teaching for seven years. She began her teaching career in Houston, Texas where she led her students to significant gains and was recognized as the 2014 Sue Lehmann Excellence in Teaching Award Houston finalist and national nominee. In 2014, Harper returned to Washington, DC to teach third grade at Amidon-Bowen. In addition to teaching and coaching at Amidon-Bowen, Harper also conducts professional development trainings for DC Public Schools and serves on the school’s Flamboyan Foundation Family Engagement Leadership Team.
During Harper’s time at Amidon-Bowen, the school has seen measured academic improvement. Results from the 2017-2018 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) show that Amidon-Bowen students improved 6.1 percent in English Language Arts and 4.6 percent in mathematics. The school has shown consistent gains in both subjects since the assessment was implemented in the District.
“In her many roles at Amidon-Bowen Elementary, Kelly Harper has provided caring support for her students and her colleagues throughout the District. It is with the leadership and engagement of teachers like Ms. Harper that we will continue to recruit and retain great and talented teachers at schools across the District,” said State Superintendent Kang. “Thank you for your service, Kelly, and congratulations for being named the 2019 DC Teacher of the Year!”
Harper believes that education is a powerful tool for dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline and is a transformative tool for combating injustice. Her students engage in culturally-relevant lessons with a focus on social-emotional learning.
“As a DC area native, I teach to empower my students to become the next leaders and change-agents of their generation,” Harper said in her teacher of the year application. “Ultimately, I envision my students becoming voices for marginalized communities, voices that reverberate throughout the city and the world.”
In addition to the $7,500 award, Harper also received an additional $1,500 to support travel to national conferences, workshops, and other professional development opportunities during her one-year 2019 DC Teacher of the Year term.
“At DCPS, teachers are the backbone of our tireless efforts to ensure every student feels loved, challenged, and prepared to positively influence society and thrive in life,” said Interim DCPS Chancellor Amanda Alexander. “Congratulations to Kelly Harper, a native Washingtonian who embodies our commitment to focusing on every student, in every school, every day.”
Today, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) also awarded $1,500 to 2019 DC Teacher of the Year runner-up Karen Lee, a twelfth-grade social studies teacher at Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School in Ward 8. Lee has taught high school social studies in Southeast DC for the past 14 years. At Thurgood Marshall Academy, she teaches U.S. Government, AP U.S. Government, and Psychology and serves as the Social Studies Department Chair.
OSSE also named two finalists for the 2019 DC Teacher of the Year Award: Caity Schneeman, a high school theater arts teacher at KIPP DC College Preparatory High School in Ward 5, and Jennifer Leehey Coyne, a pre-K3 teacher at Seaton Elementary School in Ward 6.
More information about the DC Teacher of the Year award is available on the OSSE website.