Two men who work in two of the county’s most diverse elementary schools have been named Loudoun’s top educators of the year.
John Tuck, a fifth grade teacher at Rolling Ridge Elementary in Sterling, won the Washington Post’s Agnes Meyer Award, which doubles as Loudoun County Public Schools’ 2016 Teacher of the Year Award. Evergreen Mill Elementary Principal Michael Pellegrino received the Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leader Award, which also serves as Loudoun’s 2016 Principal of the Year Award.
The awards were announced at a School Board meeting Tuesday.
In a video played at the board meeting, Rolling Ridge Principal Lottie Spurlock credited Tuck for helping students make big gains on standardized state exams. “Often times people only think of the challenges, but when we can rise above those that’s powerful,” she said.
Tuck said that he has only worked in schools with a high population of students from low-income families. But he’s seen it as an opportunity to make a difference in kids’ lives. “A lot of our students don’t get as much support from home. … So what they get at school is really meaningful to them.”
Pellegrino, who’s served as principal of Evergreen Mill Elementary in Leesburg for five years, was credited for being open to out-of-the-box ideas to give students everything they need to learn. He was one of the first principals to usher in the Backpack Buddies program, which now sends weekend meals home with 155 students. He also embraced a parent’s idea to launch a mentor and tutoring program called Study Buddies.
Pellegrino became principal of Evergreen Mill Elementary in Leesburg in 2011 after the death of Laurie McDonald, the 2000 Principal of the Year. His nomination packet noted that more than 50 percent of the school’s staff had followed McDonald from her previous schools, leading to some nervousness about her replacement.
“The odds were definitely stacked against him. However, he accepted the position and took on the challenge,” the nomination noted. “He did so with dignity, empathy and thoughtfulness, earning him the respect of staff, students and community members. This helped to foster the building block of strong management, trust.”
Pellegrino called the award icing on the cake. The cake, he explained, was the nomination that the school’s staff and parents volunteering put together. “It’s great to win the award, but to know that you have people who support you and what you’re doing is really the honor,” he said.