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Ashburn Elementary Teacher Surprised with the September presentation of the Year of the Educator Prize

It was after lunch when Meghan Alice Smith, an early childhood special education teacher at Ashburn Elementary, received a surprise visit. Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Superintendent Dr. Scott Ziegler, accompanied by Danielle Nadler, executive director of the Loudoun Education Foundation (LEF), announced to Smith that she was the first winner of the Year of the Educator initiative. As Ziegler gave Smith a gift basket festooned with balloons, one of Smith’s young students exclaimed, “It’s your birthday!” While it wasn’t Smith’s birthday, being selected as the September Year of the Educator winner did come with a very special prize: two Southwest Airline tickets, donated by the airline. 

The Year of the Educator initiative was created by LCPS’ administrative team in coordination with LEF. The goal of this initiative is, each month during the 2022-23 school year, to surprise a randomly selected LCPS teacher and support staff with a visit from the superintendent, who will present a prize, valued at $500 or more. LEF is securing the Year of the Educator prizes as in-kind donations or cash donations, which will be used to purchase the prizes, and joining the superintendent in presenting the prizes.  

In making the prize presentation to Smith, Ziegler said, “We are delighted to come here today to present this very special prize to one of our excellent educators. We, along with Loudoun Education Foundation, have declared this year to be the Year of the Educator. We are coming out to schools and surprising randomly-selected staff members. Meghan, your name was selected from all the teachers and staff of LCPS, that is nearly 11,000 staff members. You might want to go and buy a lottery ticket, because that makes you very lucky.” 

In addition to the airline tickets, Smith received a gift basket that was filled with travel-themed items, including a neck pillow, portable phone charger, plush airplane toy, passport holder and travel snacks.   

“I’m just speechless. I was not expecting this at all. When Michelle [Walthour, principal of Ashburn Elementary] said she was coming by this afternoon, I wondered to myself, ‘Why is she coming by?’ This is just wonderful and it’s very exciting for my students too. I’m just thrilled,” said Smith, who has been teaching in LCPS for 10 years. 

“The Loudoun Education Foundation is delighted to be part of this project,” said Nadler. “When we learned the name of the randomly selected staff member, there was a feeling of palpable excitement among my team because we just knew we were going to make someone’s day. And we get to do this each month this school year. It is such an exciting initiative to be part of, and it aligns so perfectly with LEF’s mission of supporting the well-being of LCPS’ teachers and staff.”

When asked if she had any immediate thoughts about how she will use the airline tickets, Smith said that she might use the tickets to attend a family wedding in Mexico. 

Year of the Educator prizes will be presented to a randomly-selected LCPS teacher or staff member each month during the 2022-23 school year. If your business is interested in donating to this initiative, please contact Nadler at LEF via email.

Published September 8, 2022