Each year, the Rotary Club of Fairfax recognizes two Fairfax City Schools Teachers of the Year. But since the pandemic cancelled the 2020 awards ceremony, those two teachers were also honored, May 15, along with the 2021 winners.
The outdoor ceremony was held in front of the School Board Office. Honored for 2021 were Wendy Forstall, first-grade teacher, Daniels Run Elementary, and Rob Hornfeck, seventh-grade math teacher, Lanier Middle. The 2020 teachers recognized were Alan Borhauer, Advanced Academics resource teacher, Providence Elementary, and Anna Weaver, Social Studies teacher, Fairfax High.
Education and literacy are at the forefront of the Rotary Club’s mission, and its Teacher of the Year Committee carefully reviewed all the nominations submitted by school principals. Each winner received a plaque, plus a cash award, to honor their stellar accomplishments.
“All the teachers nominated were so good that it was really a challenge to choose them,” said committee member Glenn Surabian. “Fairfax City is lucky to have such phenomenal teachers.”
Agreeing, Schools Superintendent Phyllis Pajardo said, “It’s a pleasure to recognize these wonderful teachers today. Each epitomizes the exceptional teachers we have here in the City of Fairfax.”
Providence Elementary Principal Dan Phillips presented Borhauer’s award. “Alan’s such a wonderful force for good and is connected to everything going on in school,” said Phillips. “He’s always doing things to help other people, and he even turned our courtyard into a wonderful, outdoor classroom.”
Borhauer’s role is identifying students needing differentiated instruction and teaching and encouraging them to use critical- and creative-thinking strategies. In his nomination letter, Phillips said Borhauer’s keen observations enable him to open opportunities to a student new to this country, or one living in poverty, who may qualify for the Providence Young Scholars program.
“He sees each student as a capable, important learner,” wrote Phillips. “He also works closely with students identified as gifted learners and who might need an additional challenge to supplement rigorous work in the classroom. He develops creative programs [ranging] from science experiments to strategic games.”
Borhauer was instrumental in implementing a program allowing many of the brightest, most creative students who might opt to go to an Advanced Academic Center school to receive the same services at Providence Elementary. He also helps develop and run the annual STEAM night and is lead instructor and planner of Providence’s summer-school program.
“He also took a large, unused, outdoor area in the center of the building and turned it into a center of collaboration and enjoyment for the Providence students, staff and families,” wrote Phillips. “The courtyard has become an outdoor classroom, pavilion, garden and learning center.”
Anna Weaver couldn’t attend the awards ceremony, but received high praise from students, teachers and colleagues at Fairfax High. One student said, “Mrs. Weaver allows the students to creatively think about what we’re learning. She inspires us to reach new levels and achieve the grades we work for in class.” Other students described how she helps them learn from their mistakes and understands their stress during high school.
Another social studies teacher called Weaver a “phenomenal teacher [who] challenges her students within the subject in many ways. She has her students view history through many different lenses and emphasizes life skills and being culturally aware historians.” This teacher also commended Weaver’s leadership skills as Social Studies department chair.
Another colleague said Weaver advocates for all teachers in the building and helps them improve their practices to benefit all students. She promotes effective teaching and high, student achievement and has become a resource for certain students faced with obstacles.
“Anna’s love for learning transcends every relationship she establishes at Fairfax High,” said a supervisor. “She creates an environment in which students believe they can achieve greatness in academics. She identifies and balances the needs of diverse learners with high levels of success and challenges every social studies teacher to go deeper. And she fosters school spirit and pride in the school’s newest students.”
Teacher John McCaughan called Rob Hornfeck “an amazing teacher who uses music and fun to explain – and get kids to learn and remember – deeper math concepts. He plays bongo drums to connect the rhythmic counts of music to the number patterns of square roots, so students are hooked and love math.”
“Unlike many who petition to work with honors students or teach advanced classes, Rob vies for those students who struggle the most,” said Principal Tammy Hanna. “It’s become his professional mission to help every student become more confident in math and learn to connect with math using music.”
Even before the pandemic, she said, Hornfeck invested countless hours producing YouTube videos on every math topic his students encounter. “Rob knows how to connect with all pupils,” said Hanna. “He volunteers to assist students in other classes if he thinks his methods will help them deepen their understanding. And he finds time to mentor our new teachers to build their capacity and confidence.”
At the ceremony, math teacher Kevin Deans said Hornfeck has the three essential qualities of a great leader – passion, courage and humility. “He engages his students in math,” said Deans. “He asked how I got the results I did with my students and committed to changing his own teaching habits.
“And when I lost my brother and father-in-law to COVID, he let me know he was there for me. He taught me how to be a wonderful human being. He’s secured high esteem among peers and colleagues and has distinguished himself as a master teacher.”
Daniels Run Principal Chris Smith called Wendy Forstall “an absolute rock to our first-grade team, with unbelievable professionalism – especially during the pandemic – advocating for her students’ needs. We had an absence in our P.E. department so, for six weeks, she did that job virtually, and did it well. And she even attended a student’s baseball game. She’s been at Daniels Run 20 years, and we’re lucky to have her.”
In nominating Forstall, Smith said she “demonstrates unwavering dedication to her students, ensuring they have the resources and encouragement to reach their full potential. Wendy learns about her students, knows their interests, and brings learning to life for each of them. She uses a child’s interests to spark learning across the curriculum.”
A parent said Forstall praises her students each day and lets each one be heard. She’s also the first-grade team leader and mentors a student-teacher candidate. She leads the Daniels Run Reading Under the Stars program and assists the Latina Science Girls Club.
Smith said Forstall understands each student’s individual needs, encourages their talents and fosters their self-esteem. “She ensures that each child’s needs are met, academically, socially and emotionally,” he wrote. “She spends countless hours, both inside and outside the classroom, making sure her students receive the best possible educational experience.”