Shared Excellence, and a Singular Honor

Nora R. Facchiano, a second-grade teacher at St. Mark the Evangelist School in the Hyattsville area,
Nora R. Facchiano, a second-grade teacher at St. Mark the Evangelist School in the Hyattsville area, "is really trying to meet each kid's needs," said the school's principal, Joan Griffin McCabe. (Mark Gail - Twp)
By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 11, 2006

After 43 years as an elementary teacher in Roman Catholic schools, Nora R. Facchiano said she remained motivated by the belief that she would face extra scrutiny on Judgment Day.

"God has given us a very special job of forming these minds and these hearts," Facchiano said one recent morning at St. Mark the Evangelist School in the Hyattsville area. "We're helping to mold these children. He's going to ask me if I did my best."

After 23 years as an elementary teacher and mathematics specialist in Prince George's County public schools, Shari Beth Sternberg continues to find new ways to prod children to think about numbers, through scavenger hunts, morning announcements, a school supply vending cart and even a T-shirt she wears that lists the numbers 1 through 10.

"They're seeing the math connections in their lives," Sternberg said that same morning at Hyattsville Elementary School. Her shirt proclaimed: "If you can count this, thank a math teacher."

Facchiano and Sternberg are fixtures at schools less than three miles apart. Both were born in northern New Jersey, in towns about 15 miles apart -- Facchiano in Teaneck, Sternberg in Jersey City. Another connection: Facchiano taught the children of Sternberg's boss.

But what joins them this year is more than geographic and professional coincidence. They have been recognized as two of the Washington area's best teachers.

Last week, Facchiano and Sternberg were honored during a reception at The Washington Post's downtown office as winners of the Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award.

Facchiano was selected by private school leaders from a regional pool of nominees. Sternberg was chosen by Prince George's school officials from among roughly 9,000 teachers in the area's third-largest system (after Fairfax and Montgomery counties). The prize, named for a matriarch in the family that has led The Post since the 1930s, came with a $3,000 check and a Tiffany crystal apple.

A glimpse of the two teachers at work showed why they stood out.

Facchiano teaches second grade in Room 3 of the 470-student church school on Adelphi Road. Principal Joan Griffin McCabe described the 68-year-old teacher and former nun as a lifelong learner. "She has a can-do attitude and commits to every kid in the classroom and is really trying to meet each kid's needs," McCabe said.

In one lesson, Facchiano drilled students on ones, tens and hundreds, using tan blocks, orange rods and blue squares to show how three-digit numbers are formed and manipulated. "It's very important that you keep everything in the right place," Facchiano told her class, "because then you don't get confused."

To make her point, she talked about pennies, dimes and dollars. She also showed the students shoes in infant, child and adult sizes. "What does expanded form mean?" she asked the class.

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