“I want to congratulate Wilson for being selected as this year’s APS Teacher of the Year,” said Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy. “Wilson works to make sure every student is successful and creates an environment where all students can thrive and feel safe. He draws on his experiences growing up in South America to bring a unique cultural perspective into the classroom and has an energy and enthusiasm for teaching that is contagious.” He continued, “Wilson is making a lasting impact on the lives of his students.”
Ramirez has been an educator for 25 years in the United States and Spain, as well as his home country of Colombia. He has been a teacher at Washington-Lee for four years. Previously, he taught Spanish at Woodson High School in Fairfax. Ramirez has also taught in Illinois and Maryland.
“It is a humbling honor and a responsibility to represent the talented teachers of Arlington Public Schools. Para mi es un honor y una responsabilidad representar a todos los excelentes maestros de Las Escuelas Públicas de Arlington,” said Ramirez.
Ramirez holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Saint Thomas University as well as a Master of Arts in Education and Human Development from Xavierian University in Colombia. He also holds certificates from Pamplona University, Barcelona University and George Mason University.
“Wilson has been an instrumental part of our teaching staff, as well as an asset to the administrative and instructional teams,” said Washington-Lee Principal Dr. Gregg Robertson. “Wilson’s positive attitude and dedication to his colleagues is phenomenal, and his fellow teachers view Wilson as a leader and frequently depend on him for support and guidance.”
Spanish teacher Lilliana Maldonado-Mendez, who nominated Ramirez, noted his willingness and dedication to support others and called him a “once-in-a-lifetime teacher.”
“During his first year teaching in our high school, one of our teachers was not able to come back due to illness, and there were two Spanish for Fluent Speakers classes without a teacher,” said Maldonado-Mendez. “Mr. Ramirez gracefully agreed to teach the two extra classes, which meant no planning period for him and no free time during the day, and a lot of extra work.”
Students have also expressed their gratitude for Ramirez. “He instilled a sense of comfort and respect in every classroom and in every one of his students from day one. Three years later, my peers and I still draw on those principles, and it has helped us enjoy and excel in not only Spanish class, but in other subjects as well,” said junior Anna Harpel.
“Spanish is a difficult subject, both to learn and to teach. There are lots of frustrations that can come with a language barrier, which Sr. Ramirez has always handled very well. On our first day of freshman year, he took each student outside and asked what they wanted to get out of his class. This approach not only gave his students a personal connection to him but also allowed him to gear his teaching style towards what we wanted out of the class,” said senior Colin Harrison.
During Ramirez’ brief tenure as Spanish teacher, there have been tangible improvements to the World Languages program at Washington-Lee. His attention to recruiting and retaining not just Hispanic students, but all students in the Spanish language, resulted in a 50 percent increase in the number of students enrolled in the IB Spanish Language and Literature (native speakers) course for the 2017-18 school year, and the upward trend continues. Last year, Ramirez was named the 2018 Victoria D. de Sanchez Northern Virginia Hispanic Teacher of the Year by the Hispanic Youth Foundation of Northern Virginia.
Ramirez will serve as Arlington’s nominee for the 2020 Virginia Teacher of the Year Award, and is one of 19 metropolitan area teachers who have been recognized as a finalist for The Washington Post 2019 Teacher Award.
On Tuesday, May 14, the School Board, staff and the APS community will recognize Ramirez and the 34 other APS teachers who have been named Teacher of the Year for their individual schools. The celebration will be held at Washington-Lee High School, and will also recognize this year’s APS Principal of the Year and the Support Employees of the Year. The reception will be at 5:30 p.m. and the program will begin at 6:30 p.m.
This year’s APS Teacher of the Year school-based honorees include:
Abingdon Elementary School – Jordan Louis Kivitz
Arlington Career Center – Geraldine Maskelony
Arlington Community High School – Dr. Natalia L. Salazar
Arlington Science Focus – Katherine M. Pickett
Arlington Traditional School – Allison Nowak
Ashlawn Elementary School – Keith Knott
Barcroft Elementary School – Joel Phillips
Barrett Elementary School – Andrea J. Donovan
Campbell Elementary School – Patricia Oviedo
Carlin Springs Elementary School – Dennis J. Clark
Claremont Elementary School – Jason Cash
Discovery Elementary School – Robert Timke
Drew Model School – Angela Morgan
Glebe Elementary School – Heather Morgan
Gunston Middle School – Christopher Paterno
H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program – Deborah Seto
Henry Elementary School – Helana “Catie” Bales
Hoffman-Boston Elementary School – Kelly Barrett
Jamestown Elementary School – Laurie Jeanette Clark
Jefferson Middle School – Caitlin Rotchford
Kenmore Middle School – Andrew Paparella
Key Elementary School – Jennifer Contreras
Long Branch Elementary School – Ghadir Al-Khatib
McKinley Elementary School – Kirsten Walleck
Nottingham Elementary School – Danielle Mascioli
Oakridge Elementary School – Rachael Fine
Randolph Elementary School – Marjorie Dwyer
Stratford Program – Valerie Budney
Swanson Middle School – Kelly Flaherty
Taylor Elementary School – Eleyna Vernon
Tuckahoe Elementary School – Jessica Everett
Wakefield High School – Deborah Pettit
Williamsburg Middle School – Kristie Board
Yorktown High School – Deborah Waldron