Art teacher Claire Smullen won her Milken Award this fall for her efforts at Stuart-Hobson Middle School. (DCPS photo)
Art teacher Claire Smullen won her Milken Award this fall for her efforts at Stuart-Hobson Middle School. (DCPS photo)

Art teacher Claire Smullen has taught students from first grade to 12th, but she loves middle school, a time when “students are trying to figure out how they fit into the world.”

Smullen recently won her Milken Award for her efforts at Stuart-Hobson Middle School. The following is excerpted from Connections/Milken Family Foundation:

Milken Family Foundation: What made you decide to teach?
Claire Smullen: My father was an amazing educator at Derry Area High School in Derry, Pennsylvania, where I graduated in 2004. As a senior I was in my father’s history class and saw firsthand how many students’ lives he touched. He has been retired for many years now, but he still runs into students who greet him with such warmth and love.
I’ve always loved art, but as I started my career in graphic design right out of college, I realized just how much I longed to make meaningful connections with students and develop the relationships that I saw my father foster as a teacher. It was soon after moving to D.C. that I shifted careers and began teaching.
MFF: What memories stand out from your first year in the classroom?
Claire Smullen: My first year was very challenging. I taught in a joint middle/high school that was slated for closure. I was a member of a cohort hired to try to turn the school around.
The middle school was especially challenging. I remember one class where I had tried every tool in my toolbox — although admittedly at the time I didn’t have many — to engage the students and get us back on task, but I felt like I was failing in every regard. I remember thinking “only 10 more minutes” and standing at the front of the room hoping no one would get into too much trouble in that time.

EdFest on Saturday

#EdFest will be held from 11 a.m., to 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14 at the DC Armory.

Stop by to meet representatives from across DCPS and find the right school for your child. Parking and admission is free.

The My School DC lottery application also launches on Monday, Dec. 16. Visit the festival to learn more.

Jeremiah Loves Police Officers

Gianni Childs, an academic intervention Fellow at DC Prep Public Charter School, enjoys creating lesson plans based on her student’s interests. Jeremiah is a student of hers who loves police officers.

Childs, who uses token boards to track Jeremiah’s academic progress and reinforce positive behavior, sets up his token board to catch bad guys. As a result, he receives a police officer for every task he successfully completes.

Jeremiah ends most of his school days with a token board filled with police officers.

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