A longtime school-resource officer, a former nuclear-plant designer and a previously shy but now thriving Italian student were among top teachers, students and employees at McLean and Langley high school who were honored May 24 by the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber leaders bestowed the awards during the organization’s 2016 Education Awards Breakfast at J. Gilbert’s Wood-Fired Steaks & Seafood in McLean.
Officer David Poach, who serves as Langley High’s school-resource officer, was honored as the school’s Employee of the Year. Poach, who is retiring after this school year, has worked at Langley High since 1994.
Poach started his law-enforcement career with the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office in 1987, then graduated at the top of his class at the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy. He then worked briefly for the Chesterfield County police and joined the Fairfax County Police Department in 1989.
Poach thanked the police department and Langley High’s administrators and staff for their support over the years. The school administration let him do his job without any interference or bias, he said.
“I never had a bad year,” Poach said. “The job was always fulfilling in many respects. I never had a reason to leave.”
The chamber also honored physics teacher Bob Foley as Langley High’s Teacher of the Year. Foley, who also leads the school’s robotics and physics clubs, previously worked for 30 years as an engineer who designed nuclear power plants and worked in the fields of satellite telecommunications networks and technology analysis.
Foley later obtained his Virginia teaching license and has worked at Langley High for the past six years. He called teaching at the school a “dream” because of the community’s involvement.
“It’s like a nuclear reaction,” he said. “You have to have a critical mass to have a self-sustaining reaction. In our community, we have a critical mass of parents who have inculcated their children with the critical values for success: inquiring minds, a respect for knowledge and education, and an incredibly strong work ethic. When those kids come to us in school, the teachers can do great things.”
Chamber leaders bestowed their annual Langley High School Student of the Year Award on Kitty Ascrizzi, who is president of the school’s Math Honor Society, an orchestra violinist, cross country runner and a coordinator of Langley High’s Case Day program.
Ascrizzi, who plans to study engineering at the University of Michigan, waxed nostalgic as her high-school years began winding down.
“It’s exciting, it’s sad, but it just makes me want to say thank you so many times,” she said, expressing gratitude to her parents, teachers and principal Fred Amico. “Everyone here inspires me to reach farther and someday I hope to come back, after being an engineer and doing cool things, and be a teacher as well.”
The chamber also gave awards to top performers from McLean High School, which alumnus and chamber chairman Marcus Simon called “the greatest high school known to humanity.”
The chamber honored Mark Eggers as McLean High’s Employee of the Year. Eggers joined the school’s staff in 2012 and worked to resolve chronic heating-and-cooling problems that had hampered McLean High’s learning environment. In addition to his standard duties, he has worked on other projects, such as designing displays for the school’s athletic hall of fame.
“McLean is a wonderful school – great faculty, great kids,” Eggers said. “It’s an honor to work there.”
McLean High School band director Christopher Weise received the chamber’s McLean High School Teacher of the Year Award. Weise tries to get to know each of his 200-plus students personally and encourages them to perform at a high level while maintaining a fun and stress-free environment, school officials said.
Weise last year took the band to its fifth Music For All National Concert Band Festival and the National Band Association this year chose the band as a Blue Ribbon Program of Excellence winner in the Southern Division.
“I couldn’t ask for a better school, I couldn’t ask for a better set of students,” said Weise, who in addition thanked McLean High’s parents, PTA and administrators for their support. He also appreciated his wife’s patience with his frequent long hours and weekend work.
This year’s McLean High School Student of the Year Award winner was Sebastian De La Torre, who came to the school from Naples, Italy.
De La Torre “impresses his classmates with his creative thinking and relatable examples during group discussions,” his nominators wrote. Despite a hearing impairment, “he courageously overcomes this obstacle and delivers impeccable oral presentations to his peers,” they added.
De La Torre enjoys learning about business and is enrolled in accounting and marketing classes. He will relocate to Germany with his family this summer to continue his education, Simon said.
De La Torre thanked his teachers and said he was motivated to set a good example for his little brother. He copped to being less than motivated academically when first arriving at the school.
“When I came here, it changed me,” he said. “I learned that you have to get an education to make a path in life.”