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Fairfax County educator named Virginia’s teacher of the year

A Fairfax County first-grade teacher, best known for her dedication to her students in and out of the classroom, was named the 2014 Virginia teacher of the year on Friday night.

Melissa Porfirio, 39, of Springfield’s Crestwood Elementary was one of eight teachers from across the state up for the honor.

Porfirio was stunned when the state superintendent for public instruction, Patricia I. Wright, made the announcement during a ceremony in Richmond.

“This is a group of dynamic and outstanding teachers,” Porfirio said in a statement. “I was so surprised when my name was called. It is such an honor to represent Virginia’s teachers.”

Colleagues describe Porfirio as a mentor to new teachers and someone whose model leadership in the classroom has been featured in training videos for Fairfax schools. She was the 2013 Fairfax County schools teacher of the year and was one of 20 recipients of The Washington Post’s Agnes Meyer outstanding teacher awards the same year.

Melissa A. Porfirio, a first-grade teacher at Crestwood Elementary School in Fairfax County, is the 2014 Virginia Teacher of the Year. (Courtesy of Virginia Department of Education/Courtesy of Virginia Department of Education)

“Melissa is an exceptional teacher and we are very proud that she has been named the . . . Virginia Teacher of the Year,” Fairfax County School Superintendent Karen Garza said in a statement. “Melissa is a gifted educator who instills in her students a love of learning. She is an inspiration to her students and to so many others. . . . She is a wonderful example of the importance and the value of exceptional classroom teachers.”

Timothy Kasik, the principal at Crestwood, said that before Porfirio joined Fairfax schools, she worked as a social worker for about five years.

In keeping with that experience, Porfirio is known for dedicating time outside school to building relationships with students and their families. For example, she attends parent-teacher association events and after-school activities that her students are involved in.

A Crestwood teacher since 2005, Porfirio helped organize the school's first international night, where families and teachers learned about the community’s diverse cultures through food, music and dancing.

“She is visible in the community,” Kasik said. “From sporting events to ballet recitals, you name it, she’s there.”

A graduate of Catholic University, Porfirio has a master’s degree in education from George Mason University. In September, she was chosen by the state as Northern Virginia’s teacher of the year. In Richmond on Friday, Porfirio received $7,500 in awards and other gifts for her selection as Virginia’s teacher of the of year.

Meanwhile, in Baltimore on Friday night, a Baltimore County high school English teacher won Maryland’s top honor.

Surrounded by educators and elected officials, Sean McCombs accepted the award from Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery during the annual gala. McCombs, who teaches at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts, was one of seven teachers selected as finalists.

“Sean personifies the cutting edge Maryland educator,” Lowery said in a statement. “He is an energetic instructor, making certain his students set goals, commit to those targets, succeed, and move forward toward college or career. His passionate work reflects well on our state’s education system.”

As a result of their wins, Porfirio and McCombs are nominees for the national teacher of the year, which will be announced this spring at the White House.

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.
Ovetta Wiggins covers Maryland state politics in Annapolis.

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