McLean Chamber honors best from local schools

Cynthia Hawkins, Renee Yates and Anna Nguyen of McLean High School and Jordyn Callaghan, Jorge Sanchez and Jasna Koceva of Langley High School pose May 30 after being given education awards by the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce. (Photo by Brian Trompeter)

Top-performing students, employees and teachers whose efforts have enhanced Langley and McLean high schools accepted honors May 30 at the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce’s annual Education Awards ceremony.

Honorees received award plaques, gift bags and recognition for their outstanding work.

This year’s winners from McLean High were:

Renee Yates, honored as Employee of the Year for her work in the school’s front office. Yates counsels students on the importance of arriving at school on time, in preparation for the work world ahead. Seeing the need for improvement, Yates once took charge of organizing the trip to Hershey, Pa., made by the school’s senior class. Because of the good results, she has been handed those responsibilities for the duration of her time at McLean High.

“She never misses a deadline and seeks ways to help make the school much more efficient,” school officials said in their nominating statement.

Cynthia Hawkins, who received the Teacher of the Year Award for her efforts as an Advanced Placement psychology teacher and as the school’s Advanced Academic Programs coordinator.

“If only you could clone her,” one student’s parent remarked in a letter of appreciation to the school’s principal. “She motivates students, treats students like young adults and holds them accountable. She is organized, makes learning challenging and interesting, keeps parents informed, is caring and is fun. She’s the real deal and reflects well on the teaching profession.”

Anna Nguyen, who was named Student of the Year after being nominated by her computer-science teacher. Nguyen has been active in the school’s chapter of Girls Who Code, creating a Web site for the group and e-mailing members about events.

“What I really like about Anna is that she is flexible and resilient,” the teacher wrote. “She is extremely mature and unassuming in her ways. Anna always has a smile on her face and she is very positive. Anna is the type of young lady that reminds me why I wanted to be a teacher in the first place.”

Langley High’s winners were:

Jorge Sanchez, who received the Employee of the Year Award for his efforts at keeping the school clean and handling the daily event schedule. His duties range from responding to teacher requests and handling deliveries to cleaning up spills, plowing snow, and fixing hardware and locker issues.

“Jorge responds to all requests, no matter how trivial and no matter from whom, with a professional ‘can-do’ attitude,” his nominators wrote. “He treats the building like it is his own house.”

Jasna Koceva, who won the Teacher of the Year Award for her work with the Best Buddies program and efforts to improve opportunities for special-needs students.

“She takes great pride in seeing all of her students and colleagues succeed,” officials wrote in support of her award nomination. “Her positive energy, drive to do the best she can for her students every day, and ambitious attitude to always seek to improve makes her an amazing teacher and colleague.”

Jordyn Callaghan, honored as Student of the Year for her academic prowess, especially at analyzing literature, and efforts at helping her classmates become better writers.

“Jordyn embodies the qualities of a natural leader, an informed critical thinker and an adept writer, all while not showcasing herself but raising the performance of everyone around her.”

The event, held at J. Gilbert’s Wood-Fired Steaks and Seafood restaurant in McLean, drew plenty of prominent officials, including U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-10th), Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48th), Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville), School Board Chairman Jane Strauss (Dranesville District), Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent John Brabrand and Douglas Tyson, assistant superintendent of Region 1.

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