Former MCPS Student Earns Division's Teacher of the Year Recognition
November 30, 2022 - Jennie Dean Elementary pre-K teacher Diana Reyes Prudencio now teaches within the walls of a school where she was once a student. From pre-K until her graduation, Reyes Prudencio attended Manassas City Public Schools. She graduated from Osbourn knowing she’d return to work for the school division that shaped her love of learning. Now she enters her former school with the goal of inspiring the division’s youngest students to achieve great things. Her impact far extends the walls of her classroom which is why Reyes Prudencio has been named the division winner for the Mary V. Bicouvaris Teacher of the Year award.
She was surprised with the news on Monday when her principals, Superintendent Dr. Kevin Newman, School Board Chair Suzanne Seaberg and other MCPS leaders visited her classroom. Reyes Prudencio was presented flowers and a banner which will hang outside Jennie Dean Elementary for the next year.
“We are so grateful, proud and fortunate to have Mrs. Prudencio impact student lives daily at Jennie Dean,” said Principal Brian Coleman. “She is an amazing and hardworking teacher who wants the best for all her students. Her infectious personality and her love for our students inspire all of our stakeholders at Jennie Dean.”
“As a former Dean and Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) student, being awarded the Mary V. Bicouvaris Teacher of the Year is a validation that I am meant to be a teacher in Manassas City Public Schools,” Reyes Prudencio said.
Each year, the division nominates a staff member for the Virginia Department of Education sponsored award. Mary V. Bicouvaris Teacher of the Year nominees are individuals who inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn; have the admiration of students, parents, and colleagues; play an active role in fostering community; create a culture of respect and success, and demonstrate leadership and innovation in and outside of the classroom.
Her nominators believe Reyes Prudencio checks all those boxes, plus many more.
After graduating from Osbourn High School, she continued her education at George Mason University. Unsure whether she wanted to go into school counseling or become a teacher, her time as an instructional aide for Manassas City Public Schools helped ease the decision.
“[Jennie] Dean’s kindergarten team and English Learners of Second Languages (ESOL) team leader positively influenced and inspired me on what being a teacher is all about: supporting our students’ learning in developmentally-appropriate practices for our young diverse learners,” Reyes Prudencio said. “Later on, I was introduced to the world of pre-K and I fell in love with the VPI program.”
According to the Virginia Department of Education, the VPI program provides high-quality preschool for at-risk 4-year-olds with the purpose of reducing disparities among children entering kindergarten and reducing or eliminating the risk factors that may lead to early academic failure.
“Thankfully, my mom made sure that I attended VPI which led to the best early learning experiences that prepared me for kindergarten and beyond. Because of the VPI program, I experienced effective early childhood education,” explained Reyes Prudencio. “Not only did Manassas City Public Schools provide me with an effective early learning experience, they also provided me with the best teachers, who are now my mentors. I am forever thankful to my former teachers that are willing to ‘teach’ and guide me so I can deliver the best educational practices for my students.”
Her peers describe Reyes Prudencio as an active leader who empowers her students, supports their families and cares about the community.
“She is a fierce advocate for students and their families, not only in her pre-K classroom but for the entire district of Manassas City,” explained fellow pre-K teacher Danielle Miller. “Within the classroom, Mrs. Prudencio works tirelessly to provide a developmentally-appropriate and engaging classroom for our youngest learners. With the philosophy of ‘child first,’ Mrs. Prudencio continually provides a classroom where all students are celebrated for their uniqueness and individuality.”
Miller said it is easy for Reyes Prudencio to put herself in her student’s shoes because she once was.
“When my students walk into their classroom they are welcomed with opportunities for empowerment, achievement, acknowledging, valuing, advocating, and cultural diversity in all aspects of their educational process,” she said. “As a VPI teacher, I am proud to say that my students can mirror themselves with me and know that ‘Sí, se puede. (Yes, we can).’”
Sheyma Bautista is MCPS’ VPI Early Learning Coordinator and oversees the pre-K program. She describes Reyes Prudencio as driven, someone who puts her students first and who gives 110% to everything she does.
“Each student is encouraged daily to reach their abilities and to be successful,” Bautista said. “Walking into her classroom is always a celebration of the rich culture her students and families bring.”
Reyes Prudencio is a proponent of family engagement and encourages parents to advocate for their children.
In addition to creating differentiated lesson plans to ensure each of her students’ needs are met, Prudencio actively participates in school-sponsored activities and community service. She assists with the Parents as Educational Partners program and with curriculum planning. She has volunteered in the Georgetown South community and was part of a team that presented The Latino Literacy Project to Jennie Dean families.
“Having families involved in their child’s learning builds a partnership with them as their child’s first teacher,” Reyes Prudencio said.
While she is still early in her teaching career, Prudencio’s input has proven valuable to both school and division leaders. She has served on the Manassas City Public School’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force, as well as the Strategic Planning Action Team. She currently serves as the division’s Virginia Preschool Initiative lead teacher, which allows her to mentor other pre-K teachers and advocate for the program.
“She openly shares her perspective with colleagues, administrators, and even local government officials to best meet the needs of the whole child and their families,” Miller said.
“While Mrs. Prudencio is an engaging speaker, among her greatest talents is her ability to listen to those around her and value their experiences as an important part of the shaping of education in our schools,” added Rachel McDonald, an early childhood special education teacher at Jennie Dean Elementary.
The Virginia Teacher of the Year award honors teachers (pre-Kindergarten through grade 12), including school librarians and school counselors who represent the best in teaching in the state and nation. The award is named in honor of Dr. Mary V. Bicouvaris, the 1989 Virginia and National Teacher of the Year.
Reyes Prudencio and other nominees representing each school will be recognized during a school board meeting on December 13.