Charles Sabatier, a physics teacher at Mount Vernon High School, has been named the Fairfax County Public Schools 2012 Teacher of the Year. Sabatier will represent FCPS in Virginia’s Teacher of the Year competition; the winner will be announced in fall 2012.
Sabatier, who serves as the science department chair at Mount Vernon, has also won the Washington Post Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award for educational excellence, which is presented annually to a teacher from each school division in the Washington metropolitan area. The goals of the Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Awards are to recognize excellence in teaching, to encourage creative and quality instruction, and to contribute in a substantive way to improving education in the Washington area. The award includes a $3,000 prize, which Sabatier will receive at a recognition ceremony in April.
“Be Respectful, Be Honest, and Be Incredible” read the rules posted on Sabatier’s desk. The 2012 Teacher of the Year says he realized early in his career that he was “a really good ‘edutainer’” and quickly learned to focus the fun on learning. He began to incorporate flying pigs and spinning buckets of water over his head into lessons when appropriate, and encouraged students to use new technologies like video analysis and wikis as part of their learning. Mount Vernon student E.J. Coleman, who is the current student representative to the Fairfax County School Board, says that when teaching students the game Whizz, Bang, Chazzum, “Mr. Sabatier always put emphasis on working together as a unit as opposed to just a random group of students…Under his direction, it always felt like a community and all of the students were neighbors.” During a project-based learning unit on sound, Sabatier had students build musical instruments and perform as part of a band before the Acoustical Society of America national conference in an effort to build self-esteem among members of the class.
It’s the dedication he shows to the students, both in and out of class, that makes an impression on his colleagues: “Charley Sabatier is an inspirational teacher who challenges both students and colleagues to want to learn more and deepen understanding. His love of learning is infectious,” says one. A former student adds, “There is rarely a dull moment and between labs and experiments, Mr. Sabatier shares the passion that is all too often lost among teachers of crazy high school students.”
English teacher Melinda Bloomquist explains that Sabatier created and organized the schoolwide Major Time Cup Competition to encourage school spirit and unity, foster team building and bonding between students and teachers, and improve the Mount Vernon experience. Major Time is a special period devoted to sustained silent reading activity and enrichment or remediation with classroom teachers. “His vision of a competition between Major Time classes and the work that he has done to make it reality has literally changed the culture at MVHS,” she states. “Students feel supported, teachers enjoy building meaningful relationships with their students, and everyone enjoys the break from academics.”
Sabatier currently serves as a co-sponsor of the engineering and robotics club, sponsor of the Student Government Association, and member of the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) committee. In his spare time, he works with a member of the community to study an osprey that has a nest atop one of the lights in the Mount Vernon High stadium, and is part of an International Baccalaureate (IB) physics collaborative learning team with three other IB physics teachers in Northern Virginia, funded by a grant he received from the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation.
“I have never worked with or observed any teacher who excels in the classroom the way Mr. Sabatier does,” says Mount Vernon principal Nardos King, who points to his dynamic communication skills, leadership qualities, innovativeness, and work ethic as his major strengths. She adds, “Well known for his achievements and professionalism, he has won the respect of educators throughout Fairfax County Public Schools.
“Charles is a team player who always has the best interests of the students and school at large in mind,” states Bloomquist. “I believe he exemplifies the model educator and shows that with dedication and a passion to make a difference, teachers can make a difference in the success of a student’s life.”
Sabatier earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi and his master’s in curriculum and instruction from George Mason University. He has been employed by FCPS since 2003, when he was hired to teach physics at Mount Vernon High. He earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in 2009, and has made presentations at state and national conferences.
Finalists for the 2012 FCPS Teacher of the Year were Caryn Engel of Cameron Alternative Learning Center, Linda Martin of Dogwood Elementary School, Thomas Harlow of Falls Church High School, Meredith Corsino of Herndon High School, and Jeffrey Lonnett of Mosby Woods Elementary School.