Mary Jo Heckman MA ’05 was named Teacher of the Year for Harrisonburg City Public Schools, during a ceremony at the Lucy Simms Continuing Education Center on Thursday evening.
Scott Showalter, a special education teacher at John C. Myers Elementary School, was also honored as the Rockingham County Public Schools’ 2020 Teacher of the Year.
Both teachers will continue to the Region 5 competition, which includes teacher-awardees from 13 counties and seven cities. Last year’s Region 5 Teacher of the Year was Fulks Run Elementary School educator Chris Grim ’90.
Heckman and Showalter were selected from teachers nominated from each school in their district. A total of nine of these nominees were EMU alumni.
The 2020 Lucy F. Simms Educator of the Year ceremony is hosted by both the Harrisonburg Education Foundation and the Rockingham Educational Foundation Inc. as a shared initiative to celebrate the teachers in the community who have been named their division’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.
Heckman is a sixth-grade American history teacher at Thomas Harrison Middle School. She has 32 years of teaching experience, 25 of them with Harrisonburg Public Schools.
In her application she said “It is her duty to create an environment where students feel safe enough to risk reaching, safe enough to risk failing, and knowing that in trying again, they will find growth and satisfaction in the act of putting forth effort to learn.”
One of her former students said that Heckman is the best teacher she’s ever had. The student describes her as someone who brought so much joy and enthusiasm to the classroom.
Thomas Harrison Principal Donald Vale said, “More important is that the outstanding academic growth she is able to achieve is her ability to develop relationships with students.”
The award is named in memory of Lucy Francis Simms, a teacher born a slave in 1855 who started teaching at age 17 and taught 56 years in Rockingham County and Harrisonburg City.
As advocates for preserving the legacy of Lucy F. Simms, and excellence in education, the BotkinRose Law Firm and Douglas Guynn underwrites the $1,000 awarded to these two teachers during the ceremony.