The Loudoun County school administration building in Ashburn was full of fresh flowers Wednesday night when the School Board elected an interim Potomac District representative and honored the county's teacher of the year.
John Stevens, a software developer, was chosen to fill the board seat vacated in January by John A. Andrews II. The flowers were for Sue Ann Gleason, a first-grade teacher at Cedar Lane Elementary School in Ashburn who received the annual Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award for Loudoun County.
By a 6 to 3 vote, the board chose Stevens over longtime school volunteer Kathy Lague to serve the remaining months of Andrews's term. All the School Board seats will be up for election in November.
Stevens said his priorities would be full funding of the school budget, technology issues and affordable housing for the school system's workforce.
"I'm very concerned that teachers can't afford to live in the county," he said.
Stevens, 36, founder of Dragonslayer Applications, is vice chairman of the Loudoun County social services board and a member of Loudoun's housing advisory board, though he said he would resign from those posts to focus on his new position. He has two children and three stepchildren between the ages of 5 and 12.
After he took the vacant brown leather seat on the dais, his first official act as a School Board member was to honor the district's top teacher. The Agnes Meyer Award, which is given by The Washington Post, rewards teachers for creativity and excellence.
When Gleason's name was announced, she was greeted with a standing ovation. Several children, one still wearing the white uniform from his martial arts class, came with their families to support her.
Gleason, a 28-year teaching veteran, worked at elementary schools in Manassas and Haymarket before coming to Cedar Lane in 2001.
She was recognized Wednesday night for her innovative methods, such as showing children dance steps -- the Charleston and the jitterbug, for example -- during history lessons, and for reaching out to parents to help them understand how their children learn.
It was a group of parents that nominated her for the award. Many former students and co-workers also contributed to her nomination packet, parts of which were read to the audience Wednesday.
One former student wrote that Gleason helped to build self-esteem: "She always told us how wonderful we were. She had a talent for making everyone feel very important."
Another wrote: "She encouraged creativity in all forms. I would often doodle on my papers, and she recognized my artistic talent and worked with me to incorporate art into various class projects."
Cedar Lane's principal, Jean Hall, said in an interview: "Her service to children is just legendary. She works 12 to 16 hours a day, works on weekends, and not just for students. . . . She is such a natural teacher-leader."
One of Gleason's colleagues at Cedar Lane, first-grade teacher Alex Walker, echoed this tribute. "After school," she wrote in her nomination for Gleason, "a long parade of teachers seeking advice, support and friendship start streaming through her classroom door."
When Gleason finally took the microphone, she said, "I'm blessed to have a job that I love."
She will receive a $3,000 award and, along with winning teachers from other Washington area schools, will be honored at a ceremony at The Post in April.
A committee of Loudoun teachers and administrators chose Gleason after considering 21 nominees and selecting five finalists.
The other finalists were Martha Akers, a photojournalism teacher at Loudoun Valley High School; Kathryn Chrisman, who teaches business and marketing at Potomac Falls High School; Jeffrey Jacobson, a fifth-grade teacher at Evergreen Mill Elementary; and John Wells, a drama teacher at Loudoun County High School.