Board honors CCPS staff for excellence in teaching and learning

Board honors CCPS staff for excellence in teaching and learning


The Board of Education honored five exemplary Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) employees at its Nov. 14 meeting for their dedication and commitment to teaching and learning, and for making a difference in the lives of students.

Honored were James Thompson, science teacher at Berry Elementary School; Jane Murphy, food service manager at Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary School; Natalie Potts, first-grade teacher at Eva Turner Elementary School; Brian Colaizzi, science teacher at Piccowaxen Middle School; and Oksana Mouchyn-Dobbs, special education teacher at La Plata High School. 

Thompson has been teaching science at the elementary-school level with CCPS for the past seven years. He is a certified Project Lead the Way (PLTW) teacher and creates engaging lesson plans for students. He strives to ensure students understand course content and scientific concepts. His lessons include hands-on activities and experiments that students look forward to when they come to his class. Thompson recently launched extracurricular activities for students to explore science, including the environmental club. He also leads a video game club, works with the Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) team and leads the efforts for the annual school talent show. Berry Principal Sandra Taylor said Thompson is an asset to the school team. “Mr. Thompson uses creative musical abilities to engage students and enhance their understanding of lessons. He communicates with families and students beyond the classroom regarding extended science activities,” Taylor wrote in a nomination letter.

Murphy has served as the food service manager at Higdon since 2005 and takes pride in her work. She and her team serve nearly 300 breakfast meals and 145 lunches daily. Because of the efforts of Murphy and her team, Higdon was recognized last year with a most improved breakfast participation award. Her care and commitment is evident in her work ethic and the positive environment she has created among staff. She cross-trains her staff, keeps the kitchen in excellent condition and follows all serving guidelines to ensure students are fed. Higdon Principal Kathleen Morgan said Murphy leads an important role at school. “Every school has members that operate in the background but lead very important roles. Jane is one of those people. She does not seek out the spotlight for her hard work and can often be heard saying, ‘I am just doing my job,’” Morgan wrote in a nomination letter.

Potts is the first-grade team leader at Turner and implements flexible math and guided reading groups daily. She incorporates technology into daily lessons and creates engaging activities for students. Potts is a role model teacher for her peers; she is often observed by teachers new to the school system. She shares classroom management techniques and strategies with her colleagues and models professionalism in all that she does. Potts oversees the K-Kids Club at Turner and produces the first-grade parent monthly newsletter. Turner Principal Ingrid Williams-Horton said Potts is an asset to the school community. “She is always willing to go above and beyond for the staff, her parents and students at Eva Turner. She has high expectations for all children no matter what their academic level and pushes them to achieve greatness,” Williams-Horton wrote in a nomination letter.

Colaizzi is a sixth-grade science teacher at Piccowaxen and chairs the science department. He incorporates hands-on activities into lesson plans, making scientific concepts come alive with technology. He coordinates all school field trips to the James E. Richmond Science Center and helps to write science curriculum. Colaizzi is considered the “go to” person at Piccowaxen when it comes to anything new in science. He also sponsors a running club at Piccowaxen and is part of the Ainsley Angelo Running Group, an organization that promotes inclusion sports for students with disabilities. Prior to taking a teaching position at Piccowaxen, Colaizzi taught biology, Advanced Placement (AP) biology and Earth science classes at Thomas Stone High School. Piccowaxen Principal Wendell Martin said Colaizzi is a valuable asset to the school. “Mr. Colaizzi has outstanding Picco Pride. He has high expectations for himself and his students and is a glowing example of what hard work and high expectations produce,” Martin wrote in a nomination letter.

Mouchyn-Dobbs began teaching at La Plata in 1985 after working with students with disabilities at the F.B. Gwynn Educational Center for seven years. Throughout her teaching career, she has worked with students in the Life Skills program, self-contained classrooms, co-taught in several content areas and currently teaches the Wilson Reading program. Mouchyn-Dobbs has served as the special education department chair at La Plata and class sponsor. She is loved by her students and has helped to build a special education department that functions as a family. Her desire to help students prepare for life after high school is evident in all that she does. La Plata Principal Douglass Dolan said Mouchyn-Dobbs is respected by the entire school community. “She leads by example. There is nothing she asks of the members of her department to do that she would not do herself. She always wants the best for her students and advocates every day to make sure they get what they need,” Dolan wrote in a nomination letter. 

The Board at its monthly meetings recognizes outstanding CCPS students and staff for exemplary accomplishments.

About CCPS

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,900 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.                                                      

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