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NEA News

NEA Surprises Maryland Teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week

The teachers received a $5,000 check for their work as educators and advisors to the student publication.
Maryland teachers receive surprise check.
Montgomery Blair High School teachers Maria Eugenia Tanos, Michelle Elie, and Jeremy Stelzner receive Teacher Appreciation Week surprise check.
Published: May 7, 2024

Key Takeaways

  1. NEA President Becky Pringle, PTA President Yvonne Johnson, and Maryland Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller surprised the teachers with the check.
  2. The educators are all advisors to the award-winning student publication.
  3. The publication has a print and digital version and is the only student publication in the district to offer a Spanish version.

On Monday, May 6, NEA teamed up with the National PTA and Lysol to surprise three extraordinary teachers in Maryland. 

NEA President Becky Pringle, PTA President Yvonne Johnson, and Maryland Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller delivered a $5,000 check, provided through a partnership with Lysol, to three unsuspecting teachers at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring. It was all part of NEA's week-long celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week.

Michelle Elie, Jeremy Stelzner, and Maria Eugenia Tanos all gasped when they walked into the media room expecting to lead a normal class but saw a crowd of supporters, flowers, balloons, and the award. Taken completely by surprise, they were greeted with cheers and applause by their colleagues and excited and proud students.

The three educators are journalism and English teachers and are advisors to the award-winning student news publication, Silver Chips, the only school newspaper in the district that features a Spanish language section, La Esquina Latina.  

Maria Eugenia Tanos at the check presentation.
"We are very happy to be recognized," said Maria Eugenia Tanos. "It’s all because of the students and every grown up that believes in us and our dreams. Si se puede!”

“Señora Tanos has been a huge, huge blessing. As the Spanish section of the newspaper, we were definitely a lot smaller, and it’s because of her that we’ve grown into such a big group,” said Giselle Zelaya, a senior.She always makes sure that we’re represented and heard as a smaller group in this big school. As the Latino Achievement Coordinator and the Advisor for the Latinx Leadership Association, she always does so much to make sure we’re getting equal opportunities. She makes us all feel really heard.” 

In the journalism publications courses, students learn and develop school, community, state, and national news stories.   Students write, edit, design, advertise for sponsors / subscribers, and distribute the publications to the community and nationally.  There is a print newspaper and an online publication. 

Michelle Elie
"I just want to thank everyone that’s here to honor us as educators," said Michelle Elie, left. "It's really been an honor to work with the students. I can do it because students really give back. You are the reason why we love what we do. We come into work with smiles, and you uplift us.”

“This year, our staff size has kind of gone down. For Ms. Elie to be recognized for all the work she’s done in trying to get the publication back to its full size, her work definitely deserves recognition,” said Sudish Swain. “I think everything she’s been doing is amazing, keeping the spirit and quality and caliber of Silver Chips online and teaching the students how a publication is supposed to run.” 

Putting together a print and digital publication is a big job with long hours, and the advisors dedicate their time to help the students through it all.

“Mr. Stelzner has done so much for us. We have late nights for our newspaper, from 3:30 to 9 p.m., and he’s there the entire time,” said Rabira Dosho. “He brings so much energy and he makes us think very deeply about what we’re doing. He pushes us to do everything we can and pushes us out of our comfort zones. He deserves this award because he’s done so much for us.”

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The educators plan to put the award money to good use. It will help with printing, along with providing more technology and photography. 

We just want to say thank you to our incredible educators and we want you, their students, to lift them up all week long. We know that you have so much gratitude that you have educators like them in your lives, and I know they are so incredibly honored to call themselves teachers. It is so important in your lives to stop and celebrate blessings. Because in so doing, we are all reminded of what we are called to do, what our purpose, our passion, and our power is,” said NEA President Becky Pringle.

Maryland Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller and NEA President Becky Pringle.
Maryland Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller and NEA President Becky Pringle.

Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller shared that she came to America when she was seven years old, and that educators taught her to dream.

“I just want to say to all three of our educators, thank you so much for teaching our students the importance of journalism and to have an area of our paper that speaks to our Spanish language students,” she said. 

To the students, she said, “The reason why these educators are here is because they’re invested in something so much bigger, and that is every one of you and to build your dreams.” 

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The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.