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Prince George's County Winners

Elementary School

Allison Waite
4th Grade Teacher
Berwyn Heights Elementary School

“The reason that I teach is very simple,” says Allison Waite. “Nothing makes me happier than seeing a child smile because of something that I helped them understand or learn for the first time.” Now in her fourth year of teaching, Waite holds a M.S. in elementary education from the University of Maryland, College Park. If she weren't a teacher, Waite would have a televised cooking show. “I love to cook and I would love to have a fancy kitchen like you see on TV!”

Her favorite moment as a teacher is “when a student has that ‘light bulb’ go off in his head. It is very gratifying to see a student grasp a concept and be proud of himself for reaching an academic goal.”

The best advice Waite has been given as a teacher “is to always put students first and always welcome students with a smile each and every day!” She tells prospective teachers not to get “too wrapped up in the amount of papers that need to be graded or data that needs to be tracked - that will all get done somehow. Focus on the needs of your students and make learning fun and engaging for them every day!”

When it comes to the teacher who most influenced Waite, she had “a very special third grade teacher, Mrs. Daubert. She is the reason I am a teacher today because of her enthusiastic personality. Whenever she smiled at you it made you feel like you were on top of the world.”

It is her parents who Waite most admires “for the core values that they have instilled in me which have made me the person who I am today. They continue to work hard to support my family and I will never be able to thank them enough for that.”

“First Day Jitters” by Julie Dannenberg is Waite’s favorite book. “I read it to my students each year on the first day of school so they know that I am just as nervous to meet them as they are to meet me!”

Antoine Jacks | Nomination essay

High School

W. Mario Williams, Jr.
Business Education Teacher
Fairmont Heights High School

“The reason I teach is because I have been blessed with the gift of motivating others,” says W. Mario Williams Jr. “Furthermore, there is no greater gratification or no power more awesome than inspiring the mind of child and watching that child develop into a highly productive citizen to society who is also a lifelong learner.”

An 18-year classroom veteran, Williams teaches business education at Fairmont Heights High School in Capitol Heights. He holds a B.S. in business education from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and M.S. in adult education with a specialization in administration and supervision. If he weren’t a teacher, Williams would be “a failed stand-up comedian. I grew up watching comics such as Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence, and have always had admiration for those who possessed the wit, charisma, and comedic timing to be successful at comedy. It has always been my dream to give comedy a try; however, with a wife and kids, it was more practical to possess a stable career such as teaching. Besides, I get to perform my comedy every day when I present my lesson plans to my students, although they say I’m more corny than funny.”

When it comes to his favorite moment as a teacher, Williams notes that “after teaching nearly two decades, I have run into several former students who have claimed that I have had a significant impact on their lives (academically, socially, professionally, etc.). In a profession where you often question your career choice, it is these constant reminders from former students that provide you with the motivation and gratification to continue. However, my favorite moment as a teacher occurred in 2010 when one of my 12th-grade students, Rhonda Roach, complained to me about a scholarship that she did not want to apply for simply because she thought she had no chance of winning. After some encouragement, she wrote the essay and completed the scholarship application. A few months later, Rhonda rushed to my room to inform me that she had received one of the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarships, the very scholarship for which she did not want to apply. The story was covered in The Gazette by Natalie McGill on 06-10-2010. Over the years, I have encouraged many students to tap into their potential, however, the conversation I had with Rhonda that day in January has had the greatest return on my verbal investment, as Rhonda’s college education will be funded all the way through her doctoral degree.”

The best piece of advice he’s been given as a teacher was during his first year when “Sallie Craft, my business education supervisor, told me, ‘Always leave your door open if you are in your classroom alone with a female student.’ Her rationale for telling me this was that even in my innocence, the false accusation from a female student could be enough to ruin my career. This piece of advice has always resonated with me and I still follow it to this very day.” Williams’ advice to someone thinking of becoming a teacher is that “you can be an expert of your subject matter, but unless you can find a way to relate to your students, your teaching will fall on deaf ears.”

The teacher who most influenced Williams was his 10th-grade art teacher, Mrs. Rebecca Lewis. “During my freshman year, my mother suddenly died as a result of a brain tumor. It was Mrs. Lewis who saw my pain and, for reasons still unknown to me to this very day, chose to fill the motherly void in my life by lifting my spirits and comforting when I needed it the most. Furthermore, she pushed me towards greatness when all I wanted to be is mediocre. She exposed me to the truth when my ignorance was bliss. She ignited a curiosity in me that has converted me into a lifetime learner. It has been her influence that has led me down that career path of education, simply so I can inspire at least one student the way that she has inspired me.”

The person Williams most admires is President Barack Obama. “To become our nation’s first African-American president is monumental in its own right. However, I most admire him not for being the President, but for the path in which he took to become the President. In a country where traditional has reigned supreme for years, he proved that with education anything is possible. Furthermore, he has given hope to present and future generations understanding that they never have to believe that just because they are a minority doesn’t mean that they have to be the minority.”

“The Autobiography of Malcolm X” is Williams’ favorite book, “for a couple of reasons. First, because it was such an excellent read; it was the first book I ever read cover to cover. Secondly, Malcolm X’s story was one of overcoming obstacles. He had to overcome poverty, abandonment, racism, drug abuse, and prison, to name a few. However, with education Malcolm X proved that obstacles are only obstacles in the mind of an ignorant man.”

Graciela Celada | Nomination essay

Middle School

Jelani K. Lattimore
English Teacher
Isaac J. Gourdine Middle School

“My story as to why I became an educator is one that revolves around me growing into a consciousness that perceives the necessities of society to be more important than even my own adolescent dreams,” says Jelani K. Lattimore, a reading and language arts teacher at Isaac J. Gourdine Middle School in Fort Washington. “I once was a student in college pursuing a career as a professional football player. One school year, during one of my college health courses, my classmates and I were obligated to go and teach health facts to elementary students. The school was Mt. Rainier Elementary School, and we had to inspire a class of 6th graders to want to eat healthy and exercise. I originally treated the assignment as another college group project, but once I began to connect with the 6th graders, I knew that reaching young people was one of my callings. The confirmation was when the principal of Mt. Rainier later asked if I wanted to become a teacher at his school. He felt I had a natural presence with children and a gift for teaching. Later that year I changed my major to education.”

Now in his 10th year of teaching, Lattimore earned a B.S. in education from the University of Maryland, College Park. He is a native of Prince George’s County and attended Allenwood Elementary School; the former Roger B. Taney Middle School, now Thurgood Marshall Middle School; and Crossland High School. “I have enjoyed giving back to the community that raised me.”

Since college, Lattimore has made “the educational and social advancement and awareness of youth and children my mission. I have worked all through this county in jobs such as the YMCA, Foster Care home-schooling centers and mentoring programs trying to reach young people. Educating children is my passion. If I weren't operating in this passion, I would be trying to inspire the youth of America through my pastime passion. This passion is music. The reason I would use music is because music has been the only art form of expression that has, through generations, consistently influenced the young. My favorite moments as a teacher have been when I am using teen popular music to allow students to learn and comprehend difficult concepts. Recently, I took Wiz Khalifa’s instrumental version of the song, ‘Work Hard Play Hard,’ to teach them the literary differences in the concepts of mood and tone though rap.

Lattimore believes that “anyone can teach, but few can educate. I refer to myself as an educator, because of the extra levels of effort I bring to every school year, to every class, and every student. I educate because I choose to teach values, as well as curriculum, regardless of the obstacles. Sometimes great effort is not always supported by those in administration. And sometimes the desire to reach your students in a phenomenal way can be crippled by the lack of resources available to a school. This can make a teacher not want to be creative and therefore lose heart and become bitter.”

This, according to Lattimore, is when advice from those who have been in the profession for decades “is priceless.” It was a veteran teacher, with some 20-plus years in the classroom, who told Lattimore, “Don’t always eat in the teacher’s lounge,” the rationale being “that sometimes teachers use the lounge to only murmur about how negative many students are. This usually influences your views on the ones you are trying to reach. As an educator, I try not to allow other teachers’ negative preconceived notions hinder my view of a student.”

To this day, Lattimore enjoys “eating with my students when possible. I learn how to reach them more effectively this way. So, this is the advice I would give another teacher: Always allow room for you and the students to connect in a positive appropriate way. Dr. William Speight, a professor from the University of Maryland, gave me this advice. He also influenced me to make teaching enjoyable and inspirational. Now I always say, ‘Building a rapport is the bridge to transcending educational mediocrity.’”

The person Lattimore admires most is a fellow educator, who “inspired me to become who I am today. This man is my father, Professor Walter Lattimore. He enjoyed educating on the college level for 33 years. At the University of the District of Columbia, his elite career as a professor inspired me to become the kind of teacher who is approachable and understanding, yet always raising the standard of education. I would be honored to one day establish the rapport and professional excellence he has consistently acquired for over than 30 years.”

Dakota Lowery | Nomination essay

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