Two Westlake High School teachers have been nominated for the National 2017-18 LifeChanger of the Year Award. The recognition, sponsored by the National Life Group Foundation, honors and awards educators who work with kindergarten through 12th-grade students and who are making a difference in the lives of children.
Stephen Warner, a world history teacher, and Jackson Long, a theater arts teacher, were nominated for the award by their students.
“Mr. Warner is a pleasure to have as a teacher,” Shalom Eze, a rising senior who nominated him, said. “He never breaks any school rules, and he works diligently every day to ensure his students are given the best assistance they need in order to succeed.” Eze said Warner is a “blessing” to his students. “He gets them excited for history,” she said. “[He] encouraged a lot of students to have the confidence to take the Advanced Placement (AP) test, despite their fears.”
Warner wanted to be a world history teacher since his junior year of high school. Inspired by a teacher to think critically and strive to understand the world from multiple perspectives, Warner wants the same for his students. “I believe that the ability to understand another person’s perspective, consume information critically, and then reach and express a well-reasoned conclusion are some of the most important skills we can pass on to students,” Warner said.
Long, who was recognized by the Board of Education at its May meeting for being an outstanding employee, was nominated by Darienne Savoy, an incoming senior. She has been in Long’s class for two years and in an afterschool drama club led by Long for three years. “Mr. Long shows on a daily basis that he truly does care for his students. If his students are upset, he will do whatever is in his power to make sure they feel better by the time they leave his class,” Savoy said. “He will make sure they get their work done, but in a way that doesn’t seem forceful.”
Long comes from of a family of educators. “As I grew up, I got to see my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins dedicate their lives to bettering the lives of students,” he said. “I knew from a very early age that educating was what I wanted to do as well. I wanted to be the difference in the life of kids, and I knew teaching would be the best way to do it.” Long has been teaching for six years with five being with Charles County Public Schools and at Westlake.
The LifeChanger of the Year Award is given to educators who make a positive impact in the lives of students. The National Life Group Foundation was founded in 2006 to support nonprofit and education organizations. According to information from the organization, LifeChanger nominees enhance their school or district’s atmosphere, culture and pride; demonstrate leadership at the school and district level; possess a proven record of professional excellence; show commitment to building a nurturing environment that supports learning; and adhere to the highest moral and ethical standards.
Winners of the awards — there are five categories — receive monetary gifts to be shared with their school systems. Educators from around the country are nominated, and winners are announced during a surprise ceremony held at their schools. Grand prize finalists are invited to a celebration in Bermuda, where the grand prize winner is announced. A selection committee made up of former award winners and education professionals chooses the winners.
Warner and Long don’t teach for awards. They do it to help students realize their potential.
“To me, the most rewarding aspect of teaching is the personal connection you make with your students,” Warner said. “Working with students, learning who they are as individual people and helping them succeed is what gets me out of bed and into the classroom every morning.”
Being a theater teacher, Long has worked with some of his students for years. “I spend countless hours upon hours teaching, learning and working with a lot of students,” he said. “To witness their growth as learners and overall human beings is truly amazing.”
At Westlake, the students consider Warner and Long life changers. “He always has time for his students,” Eze said of Warner. “And they know they can always come to him if they need anything.” Savoy said Long knows the potential his students have. It. “Mr. Long treats his students like family,” Savoy said. “That’s why he’s a life changer in his community. In today’s society, we need more people like Mr. Long.”
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,400 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 Pamela K. Murphy, 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.