Some words first graders might use to describe their teacher include “fun,” “nice” and “cool.” Not only did Cynthia Pryor’s first-graders at William A. Diggs Elementary School use those words to talk about her, they also described her as “amazing” and “fabulous.”
Pryor has been teaching first grade at Diggs since 2006. Her colleagues agree with her students. Diggs staff think so highly of Pryor that they submitted her for recognition through the Washington Post’s Teacher of the Year awards program. This week, Pryor was named as the finalist to represent Charles County Public Schools (CCPS).
Pryor learned of her selection as a Teacher of the Year finalist with a surprise visit earlier this week from CCPS Deputy Superintendent Amy Hollstein. “When I found out about my nomination I was actually quite surprised. I feel like there are so many outstanding teachers at my school, I was truly humbled by the honor. From prek to fifth grade I see so many teachers doing amazing things every day and I feel like I’m just one small piece of the puzzle that makes Diggs such a great place to be,” Pryor said.
Each day, Pryor’s students arrive to her class ready to have fun while learning. She is in tune with her students, a process that starts for her on the first day of school. She takes the time to get to know each student and focuses on positive relationship building. This helps Pryor to address not only the instructional needs of her students, but also how she can support their emotional and social growth.
Pryor’s creativity and excitement to teach are evident in all that she does. Her students are eager to make their teacher proud and Pryor rewards them through positive encouragement and praise. Her ability to build and maintain a strong rapport with her students and parents is admirable and she is a role model teacher among her colleagues. Her lessons target multiple learning styles and encourage her students to put forth their best effort.
Diggs Principal Debra Calvert was part of the nominating committee that submitted Pryor for the awards program. Calvert describes Pryor as a lifelong learner who instills a sense of pride to learn in each of her students.
“Students in her classes are always interested and engaged. Their questions show that they want to inquire a deeper understanding of content and lead her in new directions with the class. Being in tune with her students results in a classroom that is both student-friendly and cognitively busy. It is a priority for Ms. Pryor to maintain high expectations for all of her students,” Calvert wrote in a nomination letter.
The love and encouragement Pryor has for her students is apparent in how she runs her classroom. Students are greeted by Pryor with big smiles, high fives and hugs. They are prepared for a day of learning and look forward to the school day. Pryor provides students with opportunities to take ownership in their learning, such as rotating class jobs and allowing peer-to-peer discussion and teamwork. Students work hard to earn one of Pryor’s coveted “shining stars” as a reward for positive behavior and following classroom rules.
Diggs parent Atriece Johnson wrote a letter of recommendation in support of Pryor’s nomination. Pryor was her son, Damari’s, first-grade teacher last school year. The Johnson’s were nervous about their son starting public school and said they were eager to meet Damari’s teacher. Johnson said from the moment she and her husband first met Pryor at orientation, they knew their son was going to be in “safe hands.”
“When my husband and I met Mrs. Pryor for the first time, we left with a relieved confidence in this teacher. She was jovial, embracing, very direct and on a clear mission to ensure that our child was going to be in safe hands. She made it clear that with the parents help, she was going to be teaching her students independence. I could not praise her enough on how she has impacted my son’s learning,” Johnson wrote.
Her students are flourishing in class and are encouraged to try and give their best effort. “She gives me good directions to help me. She lets me kiss my brain when I answer an equation,” said first grader Eden Smith. Davion Mobley, also a current student in Pryor’s class, loves to learn about equations in class. “She tells me don’t give up. She makes we want to come to school each day when I write sentences and math equations,” Mobley said.
Pryor is admired by her colleagues for her dedication to not only her class, but to all students at Diggs. She sponsors an afterschool club called Growing Green in which students learn about the environment and help to maintain a vegetable garden at school. Pryor leads a new teacher mentor program called Sip and Tip in which she provides new teachers with differentiated strategies for use in the classroom. Pryor also launched a Mother’s Day Tea at Diggs in 2006 that has grown in to a memorable event for both students and staff. The tea highlights skills such as writing, speaking and community service as students learn about recognizing the mothers in their lives.
To Pryor, teaching is about doing something she loves. Her mother is a teacher and is a role model for her. “She set an example for me of what an outstanding educator looks like,” Pryor said. She also credits her team for their inspiration, support and for bringing out her best abilities as a teacher. “We are more than co-workers. I feel like they are my family. These ladies share their expertise, support my crazy ideas and bring out the best in me,” Pryor added.
As Charles County’s finalist for the Post Teacher of the Year award, Pryor will be recognized by the Board of Education at its June 12 meeting.
Pryor has been teaching with CCPS since 2001. She taught first and second grades at Mary H. Matula Elementary School for five years before moving to Diggs as a first-grade teacher when the school opened in 2006. She started her career in education with Fairfax County Public Schools. Pryor has a bachelor’s degree in English and master’s degree in teaching from Virginia Commonwealth University.
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 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.