Ryan named Va. Teacher of the Year

By Josette Keelor

On Friday, Jaclyn Roller Ryan, agriscience teacher at Signal Knob Middle School in Strasburg, competed in Richmond for Virginia Teacher of the Year.

By the end of the night, Ryan stood alone as Virginia’s 2015 Teacher of the Year.

“I was really excited,” Ryan said after winning the honor Friday night. “This is not only an award for me, this is also for Shenandoah County.”

One of eight regional Teacher of the Year winners from around Virginia, Ryan called from Richmond before the results were announced saying she felt good about her morning interview with a panel of leaders in education and industry. Win or lose, she was proud of how far she’s come.

“I’ve been smiling ever since the interview,” she said.

“I think it was great. I am so relieved that it’s over.”

Still, she added, “It was better than I could have even expected. The panel of judges were very nice and had a great sense of humor.”

After an exciting morning, she said she expected a “high energy” evening.

Ryan was named Shenandoah County Public Schools Division Teacher of the Year last spring and Region 4 winner in September.

There are 19 school divisions in Region 4 — the counties of Arlington, Clarke, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun, Madison, Orange, Page, Prince William, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren, and the cities and towns of Alexandria, Falls Church, Manassas, Manassas Park and Winchester.

A 2005 Virginia Tech graduate, Ryan started teaching agriculture at Admiral Byrd Middle School in Frederick County and in 2007 joined the faculty at Signal Knob.

Led by Ryan, the school’s chapter of the Future Farmers of America recently celebrated its second year as best middle school chapter in Virginia. Last year, the FFA was also named best in the country.

All eight regional winners were told they would be asked identical questions on Friday, according to a press release from Shenandoah County Public Schools.

Each was informed of two areas the 12-panel members would ask about and were invited to bring notes or outlines for reference. Expected questions were “What do you do to strengthen or impact the teaching profession?” and “What should be the basis for accountability in education?”

“I hope these are the hard questions,” Ryan responded for the school’s news release.

She said she hoped to be able to talk about her students and their great strides in agriculture education.

“That is what I love to talk about,” she said. “Just ask me about my students and I will be happy.”

Among the benefits for being named the state’s top teacher, Ryan received $7,500 in total cash awards and a commemorative ring she described as “a Super Bowl ring.” She’ll also have her choice of a trip to China or Peru next summer.

Ryan will be the commonwealth’s nominee in the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year Program.

The 2015 National Teacher of the Year will be announced next spring at a White House ceremony. Two previous Virginia teachers — B. Philip Bigler, the 1998 Virginia Teacher of the Year, and Mary V. Bicouvaris, the 1989 Virginia Teacher of the Year — went on to be named as a National Teacher of the Year.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com