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Excellence in Teaching

Award-Winning Teachers

Teachers at all three Cluster campuses—Peabody Primary Campus, Watkins Elementary, and Stuart-Hobson Middle School—consistently and regularly earn recognition for their great classroom skills. We congratulate the teachers listed here on their success!


The dedicated teachers at Peabody Primary Campus are involved in several initiatives to further the spirit of Excellence in Teaching for our young learners at the Cluster.

Gail Murdock, Katie Cushman and Melissa Smith are currently Mentor Teachers with The Phillips Collection.

Gail Murdock is also a Member of the DC Arts and Humanities Collaborative Board of Directors

Katie Cushman is a Teaching In Action Consulting Teacher with DCPS.

Jeri Ogden is a Seminar Instructor for 1st-Year Early Childhood Teachers through The New Teacher Project.

Lauren Tate received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Science. The annual prize goes to outstanding K-12 science and mathematics teachers from across the country.


Third-grade teacher Lisa Jones is featured in a blog by US Department of Education Teacher Liaison Laurie Calvert:
Read Lisa Jones Grows Her Own at Watkins Elementary>>>

Several Watkins teachers are using their expertise in The Common Core to teach workshops to DCPS teachers. Kendra Heffelbower is running workshops for 2nd grade teachers, and Assistant Principal Vanessa Drumm is running workshops for 4th grade teachers across the District.

Several Watkins teachers have undergone the rigorous process, involving intensive study, examinations evaluation, and peer review, to become National Board Certified Teachers: Judy Bowers (1st grade), Kendra Heffelbower (3rd grade), Kristina Kellogg (3rd grade), and Amy Wertheimer (2nd grade). The Washington Post called the certification “the gold standard of teacher credentials.”

Read about Watkins Teachers of the Month>>


Dowan McNair-Lee, 8th grade English Teacher, has been recognized as a Teach Plus education policy fellow for the past year.

Alesandra Sandin and Kathleen Brown (6th and 7th grade Social Studies, respectively) were both recognized through their partnership with BLISS to develop instructional plans for the District that integrate Common Core literacy standards with the Social Studies learning standards.

Doug Creef, 7th grade Science teacher, is facilitating a grant from NASA to send a winning student’s project to the International Space Station.

Victoria Pearson, Read 180 teacher for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, boasted the greatest gains in students’ reading comprehension scores across the District in 2011-2012 school year. Ms. Pearson has also undergone the demanding but rewarding process of becoming National Board Certified Teachers, a prestigious title held only by about 3% of teachers nationwide.

Dedicated Teachers

Whether teaching, tutoring, or volunteering at fundraisers, our teachers show extraordinary commitment. Perhaps the clearest sign of how they value the school is the number who send their own children to the school: About 25 current teachers have sent or are sending their children to the Cluster.

Peabody librarian Sue Bloom sent her children to the Cluster. Bloom recalls, “The Cluster was recommended to us by close friends, and once we started, we knew that we were in the right place. It’s been an amazing community of both committed professionals and committed parents and while, there are always growing pains, we loved the years our two kids were in the Cluster School.”

Asked about her experience as a Cluster teacher and parent, Rachel Houghton said: “Daniel’s three years at Peabody were what every needy mother dreams of. He received a top-notch education from dynamic, skilled teachers while I was right next door making sure that he ate his sandwich before his chips and played nicely on the playground! I was able to dash over to his room to see his Black History presentation or attend his Thanksgiving Feast and then run right back to work without having to take a day of leave.”

As a teacher, Houghton especially enjoyed the insight she had while working with children the same age as her son: “For two of those years,  Daniel was in the grade level I taught. I felt an extra special connection with my students those years, as they were his peers and at his same developmental level. I was able to relate to them so well, from knowing the coolest toys and TV shows to feeling the thrill as they learned to solve problems and read and write new words right alongside Daniel.”