By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]

Caption: District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang, Interim DCPS Chancellor Amanda Alexander and Acting Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn surprised third grade teacher Kelly Harper with the 2019 D.C. Teacher of the Year Award. (Courtesy Photo)

A teacher in Ward 6 had a surprise guest in the classroom roster on Monday- Mayor Muriel Bowser- who surprised third grade teacher Kelly Harper with the 2019 D.C. Teacher of the Year Award.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang, Interim DCPS Chancellor Amanda Alexander and Acting Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn surprised third grade teacher Kelly Harper with the 2019 D.C. Teacher of the Year Award. (Courtesy Photo)

With this honor, Harper a teacher at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, will receive a $7,500 cash prize, $1,500 for travel to conferences and other forms of professional development and is now in the running for the National Teacher of the Year Award.

The award is given to a District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) teacher who has “demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to student achievement,” according to a press release.

Acting Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn, State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang and Interim DCPS Chancellor Amanda Alexander were also present for the surprise in Harper’s classroom.

“We are proud to have so many talented and passionate teachers educating and inspiring our students, and, today, we are excited to recognize and celebrate Ms. Harper for all she has done for her students, her school and our community,” Bowser said. “Great teachers change lives, and we know that Ms. Harper is working hard to set her students, families and colleagues up for success. Every day, Ms. Harper is changing lives in Washington, D.C.”

As a Washingtonian making a difference in the lives of District students is major for Harper.

“As a D.C. area native, I teach to empower my students to become the next leaders and change-agents of their generation,” Harper wrote in her teacher of the year application. “Ultimately, I envision my students becoming voices for marginalized communities, voices that reverberate throughout the city and the world.”

During Harper’s time at Amidon-Bowen, the school’s academic rates have improved growing 6.1 percent in English and 4.6 percent in mathematics, according to the release from the mayor’s office.

“In her many roles at Amidon-Bowen Elementary, Kelly Harper has provided caring support for her students and her colleagues throughout the District. It is with the leadership and engagement of teachers like Ms. Harper that we will continue to recruit and retain great and talented teachers at schools across the District,” said Kang.

Harper wasn’t the only teacher recognized on Nov. 5.

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) also awarded the 2019 D.C. Teacher of the Year runner-up award to Karen Lee, a 12th grade social studies teacher and social studies department chair at Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School in Ward 8.  Lee has taught social studies in Southeast for 14 years.

In addition, OSSE named two finalists for the 2019 D.C. Teacher of the Year Award, Caity Schneeman, a high school theater teacher at Kipp DC College Preparatory High School in Ward 5, and pre-K3 teacher Jennifer Leehey Coyne, who works at Seaton Elementary School in Ward 6.