The Montgomery County Board of Education recently honored 11 individuals and organizations during its annual Distinguished Service Awards ceremony. The Board established the awards to recognize and show appreciation for exemplary contributions to public education and to MCPS by members of the community, businesses, MCPS staff and school volunteers.
Read a little more about this year’s recipients:
Mr. Clarence McNeary serves as a youth development specialist at the Watkins Mill High School Wellness Center. Mr. McNeary has strived to provide positive youth development and services to more than 100 students each year, focusing on African American males. Mr. McNeary implemented curriculum-based programs such as goal setting, leadership, sexual health and Black male empowerment. He played a vital part in the student ambassador program that provided stipends for students to take a leadership role in food insecurity and vaccination clinic outreach.
Ms. Catherine “Cate” Navarrete, a junior at Walt Whitman High School, founded the Body Positive Alliance. This organization grew from a handful of friends and classmates to a regional nonprofit with 13 chapters in public and private schools in the Washington, D.C. area. Ms. Navarette leads rich discussions and interactive lessons, arranges for guest speakers, and established a social media presence. She does this while maintaining a rigorous course load and extracurricular activities. Ms. Navarette has turned her own eating disorder recovery into a body-positive movement.
Ms. Alexandra Robbins, an MCPS graduate, has devoted herself to supporting MCPS staff and public education during the pandemic. In early 2021, when vaccine appointments were hard to find, she started hunting for and booking appointments for MCPS teachers and school staff. The need was so great that she founded Adopt-a-Vax, a group that worked to “adopt” people and book vaccine appointments for them, first for MCPS educators and staff and their families, then for low-income, Black, Latino and non-native English-speaking community members in Montgomery County.
The Foundation for Hospitality and Restaurant Management
In 2018, The Foundation for Hospitality and Restaurant Management (FHRM) was a newly created foundation within MCPS. Dedicated hospitality leaders joined ranks with representatives from educational entities and established a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization. With a mission of creating opportunities within the hospitality and restaurant management industry, the goal of FHRM has been to attract future hospitality leaders and entrepreneurs, and to reduce and eliminate disparities in student learning.
Paisano’s Rockville, managed by Mr. Manny Chavez, holds several fundraisers each school year for elementary, middle and high schools in Rockville. The restaurant is always looking for new and innovative ways to serve its community. The restaurant is in tune with the climate in the county; Mr. Chavez is there when teachers need support or to give special thanks with goodies or discounts and to encourage students to be involved in their community. It is little wonder that Mr. Chavez and Paisano’s Rockville was nominated by four different individuals for this award.
Sharon Asro Faber
When ESOL and theater teacher Mrs. Sharon Asro Faber began teaching at Watkins Mill High School in 2016, she created the first theater course designed for new immigrants—a user-friendly, full-year arts elective curriculum that students could take as their elective credit(s) toward graduation. The program grew from one section to three sections in its first year. As part of the school’s ESOL student pathway toward graduation, counselors are encouraged to place ESOL 9th and 10th grade students into her theater course for the social-emotional skills it provides. Imagination Stage says that Mrs. Faber is their “Number 1 Partner” in the greater Washington, D.C. area, because she collaborates with them to bring weekly bilingual drama workshops with professional actors and teaching artists, making real-life theater even more accessible to her emergent multilingual learners.
Dr. Cara Grant, supervisor for Pre-K–12 Health and Physical Education, has more than 20 years of service supporting students, families and community across numerous work groups, including Pride Alliance; Montgomery County Appointed ex-officio member of the Commission on Health, Montgomery County Government Human Trafficking Committee; the Maryland State Department of Education Health Professional Learning Network; the MSDE PE Professional Learning Network; and the MSDE Adapted Physical Education Professional Network. She has also been pivotal in shaping countywide initiatives, including Be Well 365 and the innovative schools’ wellness component, linking organizations and fostering cross-office work within central office, as well as with outside government agencies and businesses.
Mrs. Marney Jacobs, the administrative secretary at Ashburton Elementary School, is the gold standard for administrative secretaries in MCPS. She leads quietly, often in the background, but very much running the show. Mrs. Jacobs has been an incredible partner to the staff at Ashburton and has scaled her impact to other organizations within MCPS. She attends community events at Ashburton and Walter Johnson; she is a fixture in the Ashburton neighborhood and has served as a PTA president at Ashburton. She has fostered strong relationships between Montgomery County Board of Education members and the school community and has represented the voices of PTA, SEIU and MCPS with clarity, passion and a commitment to students.
Mr. Matthew Kamins has dedicated more than 30 years of service to MCPS, as a school psychologist and as the supervisor of psychological services. His combination of content knowledge and commitment to students is unparalleled. Mr. Kamins has a positive, collaborative, problem-solving mindset with students, parents and guardians, staff members and administrators. He has an exceptional way of communicating and easing parental concerns. He motivates his staff and other service professionals to take on new roles as consultants, mental health practitioners, and academic and behavioral intervention specialists.
Ms. Kristin Secan is a strong, passionate and child-centered leader who leads the charge for elevating autism services within MCPS. She has been instrumental in expanding services for students with autism from one classroom serving students who were significantly impacted by autism into a large, countywide spectrum of services. Ms. Secan keeps students at the center of all decision-making and advocates for high-quality educational experiences for all students. Under her leadership, autism services in Montgomery County have become internationally recognized and respected.
Retired MCPS teacher Mr. Daniel Evans has provided outstanding service and leadership to students for 33 years, the last eight of which followed Mr. Evans’ retirement in 2014. He served as coach and moderator for the Richard Montgomery High School Mock Trial Team each year, and the team has been consistently successful at a highly competitive level. Mr. Evans would be the first to proudly highlight his team members’ love of competition, along with developing an appreciation of the American judicial system.