STEM Middle School Science Teacher Honored

APS Selects Teacher of the Year
Posted on 05/19/2022
Image of Christine JustissAt its 31st annual Teacher of the Year Awards, Akron Public Schools (APS) selected its top teacher from a field of eight finalists. Four represent elementary schools in APS, and four come from secondary schools.

The selection process began during the winter as the district started awarding school-building-level teachers of the year. That list was then reduced to the top eight in the entire district. On this night, hundreds of teachers gathered at downtown Akron's John S. Knight Center for dinner, recognition and the final announcement for Teacher of the Year. This year's ceremony was co-hosted by the APS Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, Karen Gegick, and the General Manager of 91.3 The Summit, Tommy Bruno.

This year, the district selected Christine Justiss, a veteran science teacher at National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM Middle School. Justiss has been with APS for 22 years and at the STEM school downtown for the past 13. Prior to that, she was a teacher at Innes Middle School.

She graduated from Akron Public Schools, and after completing her bachelor’s degree from The University of Akron, she returned to her district to teach. Christine earned her master’s degree from The University of Akron and was on staff when the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM Middle School first opened.

In her submission to the selection committee, Justiss said, "My goal as an educator is to inspire all of my learners of diverse backgrounds to succeed. I believe teaching is the greatest calling and that we have the responsibility to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs that may not even exist today.”

She added that she is keenly aware of some of the changes that need to be made in education in America, saying, "I have done my best in my classroom to be that change. I start every year with my learners working in groups. It doesn't matter what the subject or model, we work in teams."

Teachers faced myriad challenges during COVID, so Christine Justiss kept her students focused in two main areas. "I have been focusing on our school’s core values and habits of mind … to ensure our learners persist and never give up no matter how much adversity they might face."

Superintendent Christine Fowler Mack congratulated Justiss and all of the candidates, from the beginning of the long selection process to the final decision, as being “the best of the best,” saying, “We really can never thank teachers enough for the difference they make to our scholars, their families and the very future of this community.”

“Teachers,” Fowler Mack said, “have learned new technology, have become gifted at delivering their lessons in varying formats and have done it all with grace and efficiency. May we never take their dedication to educating our children for granted.”

APS School Board President N.J. Akbar, Ph.D., also addressed the gathering, referring to the virtual learning experiences students and families have had, saying, ”Now, more than ever, we have families who are saying they certainly appreciate the teachers and what they do. I am sure the rest of the board welcomes me in saying we would really like to thank and acknowledge all the teachers and the work they do."

APS congratulates Christine Justiss, its 2022 Teacher of the Year.

The other finalists for APS Teacher of the Year are:

Elementary Division Teachers of the Year Finalists
Allonna Stefanik, Helen Arnold CLC
Monique Swain, I PROMISE School
Christy Uhren, Voris CLC
Lori Whipple, King CLC

Secondary Division Teachers of the Year Finalists
Megan Houk, Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts
Lucrecia Rogers, Firestone CLC
Christopher Sims, Kenmore-Garfield High School

Also recognized during the evening:

The APS Marilyn Parks Achievement Award for teachers making a significant difference in the lives of their students was bestowed upon a trio of teachers: Claudia Grimes (King CLC), Brian Johnson (Findley CLC) and Jill Regenos (Firestone CLC).

It is specified in the award that it be given to a “life-long learner and one who stays connected to students and contributes to the wider community of educators.”

Finally, APS recognized Ellet CLC’s Hannah Couch with the David W. James Award. The award is presented to a teacher within the first years of his/her career. To be considered for the award, a teacher must:
  • have taught for the district for fewer than 18 months,
  • be an advocate for excellence through equity,
  • use data effectively,
  • monitor and adjust learning conditions,
  • demonstrate culturally responsive teaching practices, and
  • be respected by students.
Image of Christine Justicc Image of Hannah Couch 
 Christine Justiss, Teacher of the Year 2022 Hannah Couch, David W. James Award

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