A crowd of students, teachers and administrators gathered at the front entrance for a surprise announcement on Feb. 17. Nervous jitters and excited chatter filled the air. As Principal Teresa Johnson walked to the front of the crowd, she was presented with the FCPS Region 5 Principal of the Year award.
“I’m very honored; I have to say I was very speechless [when I got the award],” Johnson said. “It was a nice surprise. I usually don’t do well with surprises, but I’m very honored, and my goal is to represent my community and students well.”
Region 5 includes Chantilly, Westfield, Fairfax and Woodson, in addition to many elementary and middle schools. Since Johnson earned this honor, she is now in the running for FCPS Outstanding Principal of the Year. All region finalists will be interviewed before the outcome of the county-wide award is decided.
The presentation of the FCPS Region 5 Principal of the Year award was a surprise for Johnson, which only added to the joy felt by those present.
“It is always one of the best parts of my job to recognize and honor people who are doing outstanding work, especially if we can pull it off as a surprise, and it appears that we were able to have done that,” Region 5 Assistant Superintendent Frances Ivey said.
Initially reluctant to apply for the award, Johnson was encouraged by the administration and other staff members.
“Her humility is one of her greatest traits. She doesn’t look for [or] expect [anything]. It was hard to get her to even agree to be in the pool,” Director of Student Services Robyn Lady said. “We, as an admin team and as a faculty, said this is not about you for a change; it’s about the people who you serve that want you to be recognized.”
Many believe that Johnson is well-deserving of this award because of her admirable personality traits and commitment to her staff and community.
“I’ve worked in Fairfax County over 27 years, and I’ve loved all of my principals, but I have to say [Johnson] embodies the personification of Principal of the Year,” Career Center Specialist Iris Rivera said. “[She is exceptional in] the quiet way in which she leads by example. I’m not surprised [she won], because she was so deserving of it.”
Throughout her tenure as principal, Johnson has challenged herself and the rest of the staff to initiate new programs, most recently FCPSOn.
“She’s always so student-focused, she’s always looking at what’s next, she’s very visionary,” Ivey said. “She has the courage to try new things. She is just so resourceful in finding ways to support new initiatives.”
Colleagues and students alike agree that Johnson’s positive attitude creates a healthy environment that allows for students and staff to grow.
“She listens, she makes changes, she has high expectations, she’s visible, she goes to [events], she cares about every kid no matter where they are in the building, she cares about faculty [and] she cares about the community,” Lady said.
Johnson is an active leader of the Charger family, always making time to attend school events and to recognize outstanding students and groups. This is a trait that stood out to those who selected her for the award and a characteristic that those who work with her recognize and appreciate.
“Most people don’t know anything else if you’ve only been here under her tenure, but there are lots of principals who you never even see,” Lady said. “Some kids [at other schools] don’t even know what [their principals] look like in the building.”
Although the award was presented to Johnson herself, she immediately credited her success to her team, faculty and students. Her selflessness is one of the qualities that her colleagues admire the most.
“It’s not so much about me,” Johnson said. “I just want to make my students and community proud.”
Many believe this award is a well-deserved recognition and are pleased that it celebrates Johnson’s accomplishments, and those of Chantilly as a whole.
“I am absolutely delighted that the region got it right,” Lady said. “No question, she is by far the most outstanding principal in the county for a variety of reasons.”