And the Winner is…JOEL BLOCK, Super Teacher!
This morning at 8:00 a.m., Joel Block, a math teacher at George Mason High School, was surprised by the Virginia Lottery Prize Patrol. He had been selected as the Region I Virginia Lottery “Super Teacher” Award. The award, sponsored by the Virginia Lottery, the Virginia PTA and Virginia-based The Supply Room Companies, is awarded annually to eight K-12 public school teachers from eight different regions in Virginia. Joel was selected from more than 1,200 nominations submitted by the public, winning a cash prize of $2,000 and an additional $2,000 classroom credit from The Supply Room Companies.
Winners were selected by a panel of distinguished educators and community leaders, including:
- Dr. Billy Cannaday, Jr., Dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at UVA, former State Superintendent for Public Instruction
- Dr. Jo Lynne DeMary, Director, Center for School Improvement, VCU School of Education, former State Superintendent for Public Instruction
- Jim Dyke, Partner, McGuire Woods, former Virginia Secretary of Education
- Melissa Nehrbass, President, Virginia PTA
- Ruby W. Rogers, former member, Virginia Board of Education
- Richard E. Williams, Jr., Deputy Director, Virginia Lottery
The judges selected the eight winners based on the strength of the nominations. Each nomination included a short essay, discussing teachers with passion and commitment to the teaching profession, innovation and creativity in the classroom and parental involvement. Cecily Shea, a George Mason High School parent, nominated Joel with her essay below:
Mr. Joel Block makes math “fun” for many students. Fun is not a word normally used to describe math, but it is when he is teaching. Block understands that students can go into a slump during third quarter. He deals with it head on with “RoPaSci.” Students may remain potential members of his society (based on the rock/paper/scissors game) as long as they turn in every single homework assignment during third quarter and maintain their grade. Those who do are eligible to be a part of the RoPaSci competition. The winner of this Rock/Paper/Scissors game wins a ride home in a limo with a stop at the winner’s favorite fast food restaurant.
Block cares about each and every student and makes sure that everyone understands what he is teaching. If a student needs additional help, he is available before or after school and during lunch. He makes math understandable not only for students but for parents. He designed, coordinated and taught “Algebra for Parents.”
Block leaves unique lesson plans for substitutes. If he knows in advance that he will be absent, he videotapes himself teaching the class and leaves the corresponding handouts for the substitute so that the day is not a lost instructional day. He has even been known to call in and have the substitute put him on speakerphone for the students to be able to ask him specific questions.
Block continues to support students even when they are no longer in his class. Students feel comfortable going to him for math assistance even when he isn’t their math teacher. He is more than willing to assist these and other students who are not currently in one of his classes. He also supports his students by attending sporting events, theater and music performances.
As Cecily explained during her remarks during the award presentation this morning, the 300-word limited restricted her tremendously when writing about Joel and his influence at George Mason High School. The Falls Church Times welcome others in the community to share their stories of Mr. Block by commenting to this article. Congratulations, Joel Block, Super Teacher!
By Annette Hennessey
May 11, 2009