Vienna: Outstanding Teacher

Vienna: Outstanding Teacher

Corey Thornblad of Kilmer Middle School honored by FCPS.

FCPS Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza awards Kilmer Middle School teacher Outstanding Teacher of the Year.

FCPS Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza awards Kilmer Middle School teacher Outstanding Teacher of the Year. Photo contributed

Corey Thornblad, social studies teacher at Kilmer Middle School, has been named the Fairfax County Public Schools 2016 Outstanding Teacher. Thornblad will represent FCPS in Virginia’s Teacher of the Year competition; the winner will be announced in fall 2016.

Thornblad receives a $3,000 prize from FCPS for being named 2016 Outstanding Teacher. She is also a finalist for the Washington Post’s Teacher of the Year Award, which recognizes excellence in teaching, encourages creative and quality instruction, and contributes to improving education in the Washington area.

“Having a rich knowledge of the subject matter is not enough,” says Thornblad. “What counts is how you share that knowledge with students because it isn’t about me, it’s about them.” Thornblad takes this philosophy into the classroom with her honors history students, those who are English language learners, and those with disabilities. Her golden classroom rule—no putdowns—makes her classroom a safe, caring place where everyone feels accepted.

ONE OF THORNBLAD’S GOALS is to ensure her students leave her classroom with a rich understanding of history and the ability to think and write like historians. “More importantly, they leave with a desire to learn more about their past, present, and future. That’s what it’s all about. By making learning fun, I instill in my students a desire to keep learning.”

Helping each student succeed is one of her major goals. Working with her team teacher to help a student struggling to focus in class, Thornblad added a standing table to the back of the room, provided a dedicated space for his items, and had a test read to him instead of making him take it online. After recognizing that many students were struggling with primary and secondary sources and developing a thesis for their writing, she consulted with Kilmer librarian Gretchen Hazlin to develop a ThesisAlive! Workshop, structured to help students understand how to construct a thesis and analyze sources by using Lego stations, iPads and fairy tales. “The workshop was so popular that Corey encouraged her colleagues to use the developed material for other content areas,” adds Compton. “As a result of her advocacy, over 1,000 students at Kilmer were exposed to the workshop, learning in an unconventional way how to write a more detailed narrative essay.” Thornblad and Hazlin then created the Bubble Up Classroom website, an online community offering strategies that promote critical thinking and writing in social studies that includes the ThesisAlive! Workshop and a thesis generator, enabling FCPS colleagues and teachers across the country to access their tools.

“She has made a reputation for herself as a tireless advocate for our special education population and our general education students, going to great lengths to show every student that he or she can succeed, especially in a population of kids that is often underserved and unaware of their own potential as human beings,” says nominator and colleague Rob Paine.

With an understanding that emotional and physical needs also need to be met, Thornblad integrates “brain breaks” into her class every 10 to 15 minutes. Students stand and share, do jumping jacks, or head outdoors for a quick game, returning to class refreshed and refocused.

THORNBLAD served as social studies department chair and civics collaborative team leader at Kilmer. She has taken on the informal role of an instructional leader as well as a technology leader, encouraging other teachers to use technology and developing professional learning opportunities for hands-on experience with Google classroom. She has also served on a FCPS social studies technology cohort to foster the use of technology in social studies classrooms.

Thornblad earned her bachelor of arts in history and theater at the University of the South and her master of arts in education from George Washington University. Prior to joining FCPS in 2004, she worked for two members of the U.S. Congress and at the Environmental Protection Agency.