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2023-24 End-of-Year Student and Staff Recognitions

2023-24 End-of-Year Student and Staff Recognitions

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) students and teachers gave their all during the 2023-24 school year. As this academic year draws to a close, here are some recent accomplishments.

FACE Center’s Krishna Leyva Honored with Prestigious Shanita Burney Award

Congratulations to Krishna Leyva, assistant director of the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Center, on being selected as a recipient of the Shanita Burney Award for District Leadership in Family and Community Engagement. This award is presented to a school division leader who has made significant contributions toward aligning strategies to create a sustainable system for family engagement.

“Ms. Leyva’s care for families has been at the heart of her 20 year career here in the Northern Virginia area and at ACPS,” Assistant Director of School Engagement and Community Partnerships Taneika Taylor Tukan said. “Her commitment to creating, promoting and facilitating authentic family engagement — and now, to building staff capacity to do the same through systemic practices — has positively impacted the lives of countless families and students.”

The award was presented at the National Community Schools and Family Engagement Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 29, 2024.

Congratulations to ACHS College-Sponsored Merit Scholarship Recipient

Alexandria City High School’s Benjamin D. Turney is among the college-sponsored Merit Scholarship recipients announced by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation on June 5, 2024. Turney has been awarded the National Merit Purdue University Scholarship and his plans for the future include a career in aerospace engineering.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced more than 2,900 winners of National Merit Scholarships financed by U.S. colleges and universities. Officials of each sponsor college selected their scholarship winners from among the finalists in the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program who plan to attend their institution. These awards provide between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution financing the scholarship.

George Washington Music Department’s Spectacular Spring Competition Results

George Washington Middle School (GW) got rave reviews for their music competitions held this spring. The GW Symphonic and Jazz Bands competed in the Music in the Parks Festival in Williamsburg, Virginia, on May 3, 2024. The Symphonic Band took second place. The Jazz Band won first place in the middle school division and Best Overall Jazz Ensemble. Sam Gunter, who plays alto sax, won best middle school soloist.

GW Bands

The Sixth Grade Beginning Band competed in the Showcase Music Festival on May 10, 2024, in Doswell, Virginia, and earned a superior rating and first place trophy. The group also won the awards for Best Percussion Section and Best Overall Instrumental Group.

At the Chantilly Jazz Invitational held on May 10, 2024, the GW Jazz Band took top honors. The band won first place in the middle school division, and three students received scholarships to the Shenandoah Jazz Camp this summer:

  • Tori Kuem: $350
  • Axel Kotuby: $700
  • Damani Kim-Senior: $700

“These competitions encourage students to perform tunes at a high level. In a jazz competition, students are being adjudicated on improvisation—the ability to compose a solo on the spot,” Band Director Richard Seracino said.

He also noted that competitions help students improve their musicianship, confidence, motivation and self-esteem.

GW Orchestras

The GW Orchestras, under the direction of Orchestra Director Jonathan Jones, competed in the Showcase Music Festival on May 10, 2024, in Doswell, Virginia.

The orchestras received the following awards:

  • The GW Philharmonic Orchestra earned a superior rating, first place, Best Overall Instrumental Ensemble.
  • The GW Sixth Grade Symphonic Orchestra received an excellent rating, second place.
  • The GW Prelude Orchestra received an excellent rating, first place.
  • Georgia Vogel and Samuel Thulson were named outstanding soloists, and Scarlett Yang was named outstanding accompanist.

GW Choirs

The GW Choirs under the direction of Choral Director Jessica Sayler competed in the Showcase Music Festival on May 10, 2024, in Doswell, Virginia, and won the award for the Best Overall Choir. The Concert Choir received superior ratings and a first place trophy and the Advanced Choir received superior ratings and a first place trophy. Adrian Lawlor, June Gunter and Sadie Szamosfalvi were named outstanding student accompanists.

ACHS JROTC Drill Team Competes at Nationals

The Alexandria City High School (ACHS) Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) Armageddon Drill Team competed in Daytona Beach, Florida, last month. Over the course of three days, the team competed in the Army National Drill Team Championships (Army Nationals) and the National High School All Services Drill Team Championships (National All Services). 

The drill team placed seventh in Inspection, ranking them 20th in the nation for the Army Nationals. They placed second for Color Guard, and fifth for Inspection in the National All Services competition. The team placed fourth overall in the nation in their division. The last time the JROTC Armageddon Drill Team drill team placed at nationals was in 2013.

“The drill team persevered with determination and commitment. They demonstrated skills, superior self-discipline, commitment to teamwork and practiced long hours, which resulted in an impressive showing on and off the drill floor,” Army Instructor JROTC Sergeant Felisa Holden stated. “They competed against the finest drill teams in the world. There was a bittersweet atmosphere among the seniors as the awards were being called. While they were proud of their achievements and grateful for the opportunity to represent their school one last time, there was also a sense of sadness knowing that their time with the Drill Team had come to an end.”

The commanders of the events were Cadet Major Ryan Cunha and Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Rhea-Lee Thompson.

Cappies Put the Spotlight on High School Theatre

Alexandria City High School (ACHS) earned nominations in The Cappies, the D.C. region's Tony Awards of high school theatre. The musical “Bring It On” received two nominations. Jayden Benitez was named a nominee in the Featured Actor in a Female Role in a Musical category. Ariana Singleton was nominated for Dancer in a Female Role.

The play’s Executive Producer Hope Bachman and ACHS Theatre Teacher Leslie Jones thanked the school’s students, staff and community members for their role in making “Bring It On” a success.

The Cappies award winners were announced at its gala at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on June 10, 2024. The Cappies acknowledge the accomplishments of high school theatre and the student critics who review high school theatre productions. 

Garden Ribbon Cutting at Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School

The beauty of nature was in the forefront at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new community garden at Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School (Tucker) on May 14, 2024. Superintendent Dr. Melanie Kay-Wyatt, Tucker Principal Adaarema Kelly, students, staff and community members came together for this garden dedication event.

This garden space provides students with the practical application of their classroom learning. Students immediately enjoyed the garden’s benefits at the ceremony, adding ladybugs to pollinator beds. Fruits and vegetables planted include a blueberry bush, purple peas and lettuce.

The school garden is on land shared with the City of Alexandria. The garden was made possible due to efforts by the city and community members. Through its partnership with Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS), Microsoft volunteers played an invaluable role, as did Lancaster Landscapes through its donation of garden beds.

The vision of the ACPS School Gardens Program is to cultivate a community of lifelong scholars who are empowered to actively engage in academic and environmental learning.

Capstone Presentations Highlight ACPS Data-Driven Accomplishments

Capstone presentations made by two Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) employees highlighted work that is underway within the school division. Shashank Bharadwaj and Nicolas Dussaillant work within the Office of School Improvement as continuous improvement evaluation analysts. Their presentations were part of their participation in the Strategic Data Project (SDP), which is part of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University. 

Dussaillant’s presentation addressed how ACPS can better align its efforts in data usage for sustainable and organic growth as a data-driven organization. “Nicolas' extensive expertise and passion for ensuring data integrity and establishing a strong data governance architecture have cultivated critical insights to guide ACPS' immediate and future data analytic efforts,” Executive Director of School Improvement Dr. Anthony Sims said. “Nicholas has been instrumental in integrating technology tools to optimize continuous improvement innovations and monitoring activities. He has helped to lead division-wide efforts to re-imagine processes and tools to collect and analyze classroom instruction observation data for central office teams.” 

Bharadwaj's work examined how effectively ACPS is accelerating learning and closing gaps for economically disadvantaged students and students of color. “Shashank has led a core planning team of multiple central offices and departments in a collaborative process to design and implement a division-wide, integrated progress monitoring system that utilizes available instructional, assessment, intervention and behavioral data to identify students who are in need of targeted support to successfully attain crucial educational milestones,” Sims added. “Shashank exemplifies the value of data strategists who can transform data work into ‘people work’ by creating enriching and collaborative learning environments for various audiences to engage in data analysis and strategic planning.”

Over the past 10 years, the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University has developed a distinctive approach to fulfilling its mission to transform education through the power of quality research and evidence. The SDP Data Fellowship is a two-year program that develops PreK-12 and higher education data leaders to strengthen the capacity of the field to use data for improvement. SDP finds and trains fellows to advance strategic initiatives, uncover valuable insights and build a strong data culture in partner organizations.

Teachers Excel Through Professional Learning Cohorts

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) teachers participated in professional learning cohorts this year that were designed and led by Technology Integration Specialists (TIS). In addition, during the 2023-24 school year, ACPS held its first Alexandria City Digital Certification Cohort (ACDC). As the year draws to a close, we honor the educators taking part in these professional learning experiences.

Teacher Leadership Project

Teacher Leadership Project (TLP) is a year-long cohort that gives teachers the chance to collaborate with other teachers and leaders across the division, enhance their technology integration practice and develop their leadership skills through a series of in-person and asynchronous learning opportunities.

Seventeen educators participated in the first post-pandemic cohort. All grade levels were represented. TLP met every other month to learn about integrating advanced features from the extensive number of instructional technology resources available in ACPS. Some topics that the cohort explored include piloting new WeVideo features, experimenting with artificial intelligence (AI) in Canva and diving deeper into lesser known Google tools. Additionally, TLP was redesigned to include asynchronous work where participants created walkthrough videos for some of their favorite tools to share their learning with their school communities.

As the cohort concluded, participants designed and presented professional learning focused on the tools they are integrating into their classes to division technology leaders. 

Congratulations to:

  • Delicia Adewusi.
  • Angela Allen.
  • Alison Briestansky.
  • Kristin Butler.
  • Sara Bycura.
  • Richard Clemmons.
  • Carolina Cordova Cordero.
  • Cari del Fratte.
  • Veronica Gutierrez.
  • Kendal Hines.
  • Nadia King.
  • Jana Lamontagne.
  • Lismari Lugo August.
  • Avery Phillips.
  • Natalia Poulin.
  • Melanie Roberts.
  • Taylor Welch.

Alexandria City Digital Certification Cohort

The Alexandria City Digital Certification (ACDC) Cohort provided an opportunity for teachers to earn certifications in Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) approved resources and tools to impact student learning through improved technology integration. K-12 teachers were invited to apply to participate in the cohort and were charged with completing required expectations to earn digital certifications or badges from at least two out of six ACPS approved resources. The six resources and tools are BrainPop, Common Sense Media, Discovery Learning, Flocabulary, Nearpod and SeeSaw. Throughout the year, teachers worked independently and received support through monthly ACPS professional development sessions. Teachers earned 12 recertification points per certification or badge.

Congratulations to:

  • Parris Elliott-Thompson, BrainPOP 101, Common Sense (Teaching Digital Citizenship).
  • Shani Foster, Nearpod Certified Educator.
  • Karl Pederson, Discovery Learning (Social Studies Techbook & DEN Connect), Flocabulary Certified Educator.
  • Angela Snead, BrainPop Certified Educator, Flocabulary Certified Educator, Nearpod Certified Educator.
  • Stacey Swickert, BrainPOP 101, Common Sense Educator.
  • Johnny Tolliver, BrainPop Certified Educator, Flocabulary Certified Educator.

If you are interested in learning more about the ACDC cohort or other instructional technology professional learning, please reach out to your school’s Technology Integration Specialist.

  • 2023-24
  • Student and Staff Recognitions