Amidon-Bowen students Simone Shelton and Zoe Shelton with Teacher of the Year, Ms. Kelly Harper; Photo: Rose Shelton

Once again, Amidon-Bowen Elementary School is in the spotlight for another great achievement. On Monday, Nov. 5, Mayor Muriel Bowser presented the 2019 DC Teacher of the Year Award to Amidon-Bowen’s own 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Kelly Harper. Ms. Harper has been a teacher at Amidon-Bowen for six years, teaching her students with passion, integrity and intention. She is known for always going the extra mile and building up the whole child. She never forgets why she is doing the hard work of educating and the impact education has on the life of every child she encounters. As Mayor Bowser stated on the day she presented the award to Ms. Harper at Amidon-Bowen, “Everyday, Ms. Harper is changing lives in Washington, DC.”

Since this recognition, the entire city is singing the praises of Ms. Harper and the Amidon-Bowen team. I recently interviewed Ms. Harper to get her view on her experience at Amidon-Bowen and how she feels about winning this distinguished honor.

What does it mean to you to be teacher of the year? 

As someone born right here in Washington, D.C., this honor is truly humbling. The unforgettable students, fantastic staff and supportive Amidon-Bowen community that I have had the pleasure of serving with has been the backbone of this amazing honor. Our team works together to ensure that each child receives an excellent education, and I am elated that more folks in the District and in the world are able to see more of our great work.

This award is important to me, but it is equally as important to my family—I’m also glad that my parents and grandmother are proud of me! I’m very family-oriented, and it means so much that my 88-year-old grandmother gets to see her granddaughter “bring honor to the family.”

What advice do you have for new teachers just entering the profession?

Always remember why you were drawn to the profession. Keep a memento at your desk, on your phone, or somewhere in your classroom that reminds you of why you are inspired to do this work. You will have challenging days (sometimes weeks!), but always remember that you are needed for this work.

Our students are eager for a relationship with their teachers; be intentional about getting to know your students and their families on a deeper level.

Pursue excellence, but also remember that you will never finish all of your teacher to-do list! Decide on what is the most pressing and important, and learn to prioritize your work. The work that we do as teachers and educators is never easy; it is easy to fall into the trap of placing unreasonable pressure on yourself in the midst of your pursuit of excellence.

What’s your favorite part about teaching?

I love seeing students blossom over the course of the academic school year. Whether it is academically, socially, or both, I love watching students grow into their passion, purpose, and power.

I also LOVE watching students develop a voracious appetite for reading! It makes my teacher heart smile when students ask, “Can we please read for five more minutes?”

Were you surprised? How did you feel at the moment you found out you won?

Yes, I thought it was for an assembly. However, I did think it was a bit odd that Mayor Bowser was coming to do an assembly the day before Election Day!

I felt overwhelmed and it is the most surreal feeling that I’ve ever experienced in my life. It still feels surreal.

What are some of the best things about Amidon-Bowen?

One of my favorite parts about coming to work at Amidon-Bowen is the melodic sound of students’ laughter and joy throughout the day. Whether it’s during the Pre-Kindergarten’s educational songs sung throughout the hallway, or during partner work analyzing complex texts in the upper grades, our students are experiencing rigorous learning infused with joy.

Amidon-Bowen is like a family; many of our students’ parents have actually matriculated through Amidon’s doors as students themselves.

I’m super excited about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics), which is a burgeoning area of excellence at our school! Our students have competed in citywide math and GeoPlunge competitions.

Our choir, led by Ms. Perry, is requested to sing at events all over the city, including for Mayor Bowser. Our sports program, led by Coach Briscoe and Coach Shelton and Coach Goode, have produced #1 DC City Champions for Track and Cheerleading!

Amidon-Bowen is a melting pot of cultures, ethnicities, races, socio-economic backgrounds, religions, and overall life experiences. Our students are able to form relationships with their peers that I hope will become lifelong bonds.

Over the next five years, what would you like to see for the Amidon-Bowen community?

Over the next five years, I would like to see the Amidon-Bowen school community blossom into an even more vibrant, connected, and thriving community. We are definitely on the rise; our school/staff culture, parent engagement, and academic gains are steadily increasing. In five years, I hope that our school ascends to the very top of the school ratings list, which reflects the great work that the folks in the building are already doing.

I’m also eager to have increased authentic STEAM experiences for our students to participate in from the moment that they enter Amidon-Bowen’s doors. Ideally, our students would also have 1:1 ratio for technology.

Additionally, I hope that our school could have increased partnerships with local Southwest businesses and establishments. We currently have several critical partnerships, and as the development of the Southwest area continues, I hope that our school can forge strong partnerships that allow our students’ academic and personal school experiences to flourish.

By Rose Shelton

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