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Reston Teacher Named 2014 FCPS Outstanding First-Year Teacher

Christie Attanasio is a first-grade teacher at Dogwood Elementary School in Reston.

Dogwood Elementary School in Reston; Patch archive photo
Dogwood Elementary School in Reston; Patch archive photo
Christie Attanasio, a first-grade teacher at Dogwood Elementary School in Reston, has been named Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) 2014 Outstanding First-Year Teacher, FCPS announced Thursday in a news release. 

The announcement was made by FCPS Superintendent Karen K. Garza at FCPS Honors, a ceremony that recognizes the winners of FCPS employee awards. 

“Knowing the children we teach—individually, culturally, and developmentally—is as important as knowing the content we teach,” said Attanasio, who employs the Responsive Classroom approach, in the news release issued Thursday by FCPS.

She begins the day with a morning meeting that allows students to connect with each other and Attanasio, to determine if the students have any problems or issues that need to be addressed. 

Student transitions from one lesson to another are seamless, says Dogwood principal Terry Dade, who adds: “One of my favorite observations …was the ‘silent dance party’ that she has students perform before they transition to their next center or activity.”         

Dade says that Attanasio is a master at delivering targeted instruction to small groups of students without interruption due to her ability to ensure that students know the expectations and work well together. 

One student teacher who observed her class said, “She keeps her class in order, children are challenged and busy, and her tolerance, patience, and love for her students is a beautiful thing to watch….She has a very strong bond with her students and encourages them to succeed throughout the day in all the activities that she plans for them.”         

“Dogwood students come to school every day with baggage that many other students across the county do not carry,” says Dade. 

“For the vast majority, poverty is a way of life, English is a second language, and post-secondary education is a mystery….With over 75 percent of her students receiving free and reduced lunch, the challenges are immense in her classroom,” says Dade. 

One of the strategies Attanasio uses is exceptional 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.         

Attanasio says she came to Dogwood in September 2013 with 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, “Suddenly, my backpack felt empty.” 

With a new motto—preparation is everything—she learned to think and plan ahead.  “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 said. "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.”          

“There is an absolute sense of awe and wonder, and a joy of learning that is present on the faces of these students each and every day,” states Dade. “Ms. Attanasio proves the assertion that great teaching has less to do with our knowledge and skills and more to do with our attitude toward our students, our content, and our work.”         

Attanasio earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and her master’s in curriculum and instruction from the University of Connecticut. 

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