State and local officials joined students and teachers at C.D. Hylton High School Thursday for what they thought would be an assembly celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Dale City school.
Hyton High was built in 1991. But as it turned out, the anniversary assembly was just a convenient ruse.
The gathering was really a surprise celebration for math teacher Lauren Anne Wilson, who was honored with what has been called the “Oscars” of teaching: the $25,000 Milken Educator Award.
Fittingly enough, Wilson is also someone with a long history at Hylton. In addition to being a 15-year teacher there, she is also a former student and a member of the Class of 1997.
“I am extremely honored, of course, and a little emotional. This has been quite a week for my family,” Wilson said, after being presented the award. “I love my job, I love Hylton, I’ve loved every minute I’ve had in this building since 1993 and I’m lucky that I get to do what I love every day.”
For Wilson, 36, the award comes amid an already emotional week. On Wednesday, the Prince William County School Board voted unanimously to name a new elementary school for her brother-in-law, Kyle Wilson, a county firefighter who was killed while fighting a Woodbridge house fire in 2007.
Wilson said she was still “feeling the warmth of the community,” in the wake of the decision to name the school for her husband’s brother.
“People have been emailing me about the new school and that’s just consuming my mind and my heart,” she said. “This is really just a bonus.”
Wilson was joined at the ceremony by her husband, Chris Wilson, and their two daughters, 8-month-old Kara and 2-and-a-half-year-old Kyla, who is named for her brother-in-law.
Wilson teaches two of the most advanced high-school math classes -- Advanced Placement Calculus BC and Functions and Analytic Geometry -- as well as Algebra I, which is taken by all students.
Altogether, Wilson has about 90 students on her classroom rolls, which includes those in all four grade levels. She said she loves teaching students at both ends of the high school math spectrum.
“I could not give up teaching either one of those levels,” Wilson said. “I just love making sure they know that even though math is tough, we’ll get through it. That even though there might be a lot going on in [their] lives, [they’re] still going to pass this class.”
Disani Jones, a 10th grader who had Mrs. Wilson for Algebra I last year, said Wilson is “honestly, my favorite teacher I’ve ever had.”
Jones, 16, said she’s always liked math, “but likes it even more” after having Wilson as her teacher.
“She teaches differently from everyone else. She takes the time to really make sure you know it,” Jones said. “I learn slower than a lot of people, and Mrs. Wilson just broke it down. I just know she really cared.”
It was Wilson’s students’ of rate success on the AP Calculus exams that made nomination stand out.
She began teaching AP Calculus BC – the highest-level high school math course – in 2005 with just 13 students. Within a year, the number who achieved scores qualifying them for college credit surged from 35 to 85 percent. By 2014, enrollment in the class had more than doubled, with 100 percent of her class achieving at the college level on the exam, according to a Virginia Department of Education press release.
Nominations for the award are submitted anonymously and evaluated by a team of judges. The scores on Wilson’s package were said to be especially high, “off the charts,” said Prince William County Spokesman Phil Kavits.
Both Prince William Superintendent Steven Walts and Virginia Superintendent Steven Staples lauded Wilson for her exceptional teaching ability and her dedication to her students.
“Ms. Wilson’s talent and determination are delivering great returns for the students and staff at Hylton,” Walts said. “We are tremendously proud of what she’s accomplished.”
Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Virginia and a Master of Education from the University of Mary Washington.
She is the seventh Prince William County teacher to receive the award. Buckland Mills Elementary School teacher Angie Michelle Wytovich was presented it last year.