Four MCPS Teacher of the Year Finalists Have Been Named

Four teachers have been named finalists for the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Teacher of the Year.

They are: Janie Earle, kindergarten teacher at Poolesville Elementary School; Carrie Kraynak, English Language Development teacher at Flower Hill Elementary School; Morgan Patel, social studies teacher at Montgomery Blair High School; and Melissa Porter Parks, English Language Development teacher at Gaithersburg High School. Read more about the finalists:

Janie Earle is a kindergarten teacher and team leader at Poolesville Elementary School. She is in her eighth year of teaching. Like many educators, Earle’s love of teaching started at a young age. She can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else. She tailors her teaching methods to accommodate students’ diverse learning styles and abilities, and instills in them confidence to take on challenges. Her encouragement, positive reinforcement and personalized approach create an environment where every child feels valued and motivated to learn. Her focus on differentiation, hands-on approaches to learning, effective use of supporting staff and even a full-time classroom volunteer, enabling her students to meet expectations. Earle’s classroom is a world where she emphasizes respect, collaboration and kindness, ensuring that her students not only thrive academically, but also develop essential social and emotional skills crucial for their growth. She makes learning fun, breaking up the academic portions of the day with dancing, educational songs and movement to keep the students alert and engaged.

“Her commitment to fostering a culture of high academic expectations is truly commendable and contributes significantly to the success of the kindergarten program at Poolesville Elementary School,” wrote parent Yelebe Amere. 

Carrie Kraynak is an English Language Development teacher and team leader at Flower Hill Elementary School. Nationally Board Certified, Kraynak implemented a targeted reading program for first grade students. She uses a range of strategies to support students’ language development and academic growth, which creates a supportive environment and enhances comprehension and language acquisition. She has also found innovative ways for Emerging Multilingual Learners (EMLs) to contribute to the school culture–by encouraging their participation in using their language skills on the daily morning announcements. Literacy scores among her first grade EML students increased from 42 percent to 62 percent during the 2022-2023 school year. In foundational literacy, Flower Hill’s performance outpaced the district’s by 16 percent, a testament to Kraynak’s influence in setting and achieving high standards. Her classroom was even observed by the U.S. Department of Education, which recognized her exemplary literacy instruction as rigorous.

“Students are excited to work with her each and every day, and they are so proud to show her how much they are learning. She goes above and beyond to support fellow staff members, and is a friend to all,” wrote colleague Shannon Medina. 

Morgan Patel has taught social studies at Montgomery Blair High School for 11 years. A Nationally Certified Board teacher, Patel has taught National, State and Local Government, Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology and Psychology, but has spent the majority of her career teaching AP Human Geography. AP Human Geography is a class that helps students learn about important world issues and devise potential solutions to those issues. After introducing two sections of the course in 2014, so many students began taking it that four more sections were added by 2020. In 2018, Patel started creating presentations on the benefits of taking AP classes, presenting to the school’s Instructional Leadership Team, as well as to student groups, including the Minority Scholars Program, to encourage more minority students to enroll. These efforts have helped; the course has become one of the most popular electives the school offers–and 55 percent of her more than 160 students are minorities.

“Every time I have observed Ms. Patel, I am proud of the diversity of her class, the success of her students, and the deep commitment she has to being a safe space for all high schoolers,” wrote resource teacher Rebecca Hughes. 

Melissa Porter Parks is the English Language Development (ELD) resource teacher at Gaithersburg High School, the largest ELD department in MCPS. She oversees more than 800 Emerging Multilingual Learners (EMLs), including students who have experienced interrupted education. Porter Parks grew up in poverty, received free and reduced price lunches, and worked several jobs while attending high school. She graduated with a 4.0 grade point average, and is a first-generation college graduate. She works diligently for and with her students from their first day of school through graduation, regardless of their backgrounds. Porter Parks’ support and encouragement have made a difference in the graduation rate of EML students since 2018; that rate has increased from 33.3 percent to 60 percent in 2022. More students are also meeting college and career readiness goals, and more students are accessing higher education opportunities. She organizes higher education financial aid information sessions for undocumented students and their families.

“Melissa truly understands the big picture of how her guidance provides a comfortable space for teachers to develop and thrive. This thoughtful leadership is critical in creating a strong department able to provide an exemplary high school experience for our GHS multilingual learners,” wrote a team of ELD teachers and paraeducators. 

The MCPS Teacher of the Year will be announced during an awards ceremony on Wednesday, May 1. The winner will go on to compete for Maryland Teacher of the Year.

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17th Annual Kensington Day of the Book Festival

Now in its 17th year, the Kensington Day of the Book Festival is a family-friendly street festival featuring 150+ renowned authors, poets, and literary organizations. Enjoy live music on five stages, special guest speakers, military veteran writers and comedians, poetry readings, cookbook demos, children's program, and much more.

Admission is free, and attendees will also be able to explore a marketplace of books and food offerings from local vendors.

Not your average book festival! This festival offers something for everyone!

17th Annual Kensington Day of the Book Festival

Sunday, April 21, 2024, 11am-4pm (held rain or shine!)

Howard Avenue, Kensington, MD 20895

Instagram: @kensingtonbookfestival

Contact: Elisenda Sola-Sole, Festival Director

[email protected]

301-949-9416 (text preferred)

FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival

Get ready to experience the vibrant colors, tantalizing flavors, and infectious rhythms of the Caribbean at the FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival! Hosted by RHU LLC, this exciting festival is set to take place on May 18, 2024, at the picturesque 16700 Barnesville Rd in Boyds, MD.

Step into a world where the Caribbean spirit comes alive! From 12:00 PM onwards, immerse yourself in a sensory journey that celebrates the unique culture, cuisine, and music of the Caribbean. Whether you're an African American, a Reggae or Soca music enthusiast, a wine lover, or part of the vibrant Caribbean diaspora, this festival promises to delight and captivate you in every way.

Let the enticing aromas of mouthwatering Caribbean dishes tantalize your taste buds. Feast on traditional delicacies prepared by expert chefs, showcasing the rich and diverse culinary heritage of the Caribbean. Indulge in flavorful jerk chicken, succulent seafood, and delectable plantain dishes that will transport you straight to the islands.

Accompanying the culinary extravaganza is a carefully curated selection of premium wines, ensuring the perfect pairing for your palate. Sip on fine wines from renowned vineyards, each sip a reflection of the Caribbean's vibrant spirit. Discover new flavors, expand your wine knowledge, and savor unforgettable moments with every glass.

As the sun sets, get ready to groove to the infectious rhythms of Caribbean music. Feel the pulsating beats of reggae, soca, dancehall, and calypso, moving your body to the lively melodies. Live performances by talented musicians and performers will keep the energy high, ensuring a night of unforgettable entertainment.

Don't miss this opportunity to embrace the Caribbean spirit and celebrate the arrival of spring in style! Tickets are available on AllEvents, so secure your spot today. Join us at the FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival, where cultures collide and unforgettable memories are made.



2 NIGHT Camping packages available: RV/CAMPER $200 | TENTS $150 Starting on Friday May 17 @ 5pm | 30 RV SPACES | 30+ TENT SPACES



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