Dogwood’s Attanasio Named FCPS’ Outstanding First-Year Teacher

Christie Attanasio/Credit: Christie Attanasio Christie Attanasio, a first-grade teacher at Reston’s Dogwood Elementary School, has been named Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) 2014 Outstanding First-Year Teacher.

“The Dogwood administration, my co-workers, mentors, and everyone at Dogwood has truly become part of my family and has made this year so wonderful,” said Attanasio. “There hasn’t been a day that I have been in school where I haven’t felt encouraged and supported. I am so grateful and am looking forward to everything that is to come.”

Dogwood administrators say Attanasio comes to school knowing who each child is – individually, culturally, and developmentally.

Dogwood principal Terry Dade says Attanasio begins the day with a morning meeting that allows students to connect with each other and lets Attanasio determine if the students have any problems or issues that need to be addressed.  Student transitions from one lesson to another are seamless, says Dade.

“One of my favorite observations … was the ‘silent dance party’ that she has students perform before they transition to their next center or activity, ” says Dade.

Dade said that Attanasio is able to help her students meet challenges. More than 75 percent of her students receive free or reduced lunch, an indicator of poverty.

“Dogwood students come to school every day with baggage that many other students across the county do not carry,” Dade said. “For the vast majority, poverty is a way of life, English is a second language, and post-secondary education is a mystery.”

One of the strategies Attanasio uses is quality communications with parents, meeting with 100 percent of parents during parent-teacher conferences twice a year and sending home notes to the parents of each student, highlighting something they did well that month.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s in curriculum and instruction from the University of Connecticut, Attanasio came to Dogwood in September 2013. She said she had a “metaphorical backpack” that she felt was full of everything she needed.

But after meeting her class of 16 students and feeling the responsibility of having to meet their social, emotional, and academic needs, Attanasio said that suddenly her backpack felt empty.

“It became clear to me that I would need a much bigger backpack to hold all of the things I wanted to teach my students this year,” she says. “I discovered that I didn’t have to fill my backpack alone. Administrators, colleagues, mentors, parents, and even my students helped me figure out what I needed to get the job done.

“My typical day is filled with small moments of joy and unexpected surprises: a kind note from a parent, two thumbs up from a colleague, or a student who was once reluctant but is now proud to share his writing with his classmates. These are the things that I celebrate and remember — the reasons I can hardly wait to come to school each morning.”

Photo: Courtesy of Christie Attanasio

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