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Weems Teacher Nominated for State Award

April 25, 2022 – The week started with a not-so typical Monday for Weems Elementary teacher Danielle Harcup. While in her classroom, she was surprised when Superintendent Dr. Kevin Newman and Executive Director of Student Achievement Craig Gfeller brought her flowers and the news that she was the division’s nominee for 2023 Mary V. Bicouvaris Virginia Teacher of the Year award.

Each year, the division nominates a staff member for the Virginia Department of Education sponsored award. 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.

Harcup teaches third grade English as a Second Language (ESOL) at Weems Elementary School. She has also taught second and first grade. Harcup has over 10 years of teaching experience with stints teaching in Hopewell, Virginia, and Columbus, Georgia.

Administrators at Weems have described Harcup as a devoted educator whose goal is to best serve her peers, students and their families. Harcup is selfless, thoughtful and knowledgeable, her peers added.

“During her time at Weems Elementary, Mrs. Harcup has distinguished herself as an expert and a resource for quality instruction for students,” said Weems administrators. “Mrs. Harcup offers valuable insight to her team to help them deliver quality instruction that is geared toward expanding the language domain capabilities for English language learners.”

Harcup’s dedication to her students goes beyond the classroom. She is devoted to family engagement, having served as the leader of the Parents as Educational Partners (PEP) and co-leader for the Latino Family Literacy Project programs at Weems. Both programs are geared toward supporting and educating parents so they can further participate in their children’s education.

The Latino Family Literacy Project was a 10-week family literacy program aimed at engaging parents and helping them establish a family reading routine. Harcup said helping lead the program at Weems was one of the most meaningful moments in her teaching career because “this generally underserved parent population felt empowered to truly be involved in their students’ education.”

“As all educators know, if you empower parents, you also empower students,” Harcup said of her experience with the Latino Family Literacy Project.  “I am humbled to be the person who helped Weems’ families find their voices.”

Fellow teacher Erica Rangel summarized Harcup by saying “She is an advocate for all Weems Wildcats, a support system for parents and a teacher of teachers.”

“She plans and prepares meaningful and engaging lessons which expand the linguistic abilities of English learners without sacrificing the grade-level academic content each child is expected to master,” Randel added.

Harcup currently serves on the division’s Strategic Planning Committee. She has previously served as a mentor teacher and an ESOL representative on a professional learning committee.

Laura Perez-Ruiz, who serves as the K-12 ESOL Specialist for MCPS, said Harcup puts her students’ needs first when making instructional decisions.

“As I have watched her work with others, the positive energy that she exudes facilitates collaborative decision-making, negotiation and consensus building,” said Perez-Ruiz. “These are critical dispositions in helping teaching teams focus on the needs of our English learner students and families.”

Harcup received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

As the division’s nominee, Harcup will compete with other teachers in Region 4, which includes Prince William County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County and Manassas Park City Schools, before going on to compete with additional regional winners in the state for the distinguished title. A banner recognizing the award will hang outside Weems Elementary for the next year.

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.