Frederick Parents Nominate their Teacher of the Year

A teacher wearing a lanyard holds up a gold star in front of a bulletin board.
Lis Cutshaw | Provided Photo

But teachers do not only have an effect on their students—they can change a parent’s life as well, giving them a new perspective on how to care for their child and helping them support their child’s passions.

In this issue, we’re celebrating the teachers who have made a difference. We asked Frederick County parents to nominate their “teacher of the year.” Here are a few that stood out for their commitment to education, their students and helping others be the best they can be.

Lis Cutshaw

Pre-K 2s
Celebree School of Frederick
As Kristin Sigler, both a parent to one of Cutshaw’s students and the Celebree School of Frederick director, sees it, Cutshaw stands out among staff for the way she approaches the school experience.

“Lis is truly driven to treat each and every child in her care like her own personal child and will go to any lengths to make sure they are not just meeting milestones but they also are having fun and being nurtured,” says Sigler.

Originally from Ecuador, Cutshaw moved to the United States to pursue work in early childhood education after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in her home country. Her credits did not transfer to the State of Maryland, but undeterred, she enrolled back into college, all while working to gain her citizenship, getting married and having a son.

“Her perseverance is also unmatched in this field. She never allows tough situations to dampen her positivity, and never gives up,” Sigler says.

Cutshaw also had a personal impact on Sigler.

“She has touched so many students in the past six years, but I was lucky enough to have her as my son Bennett’s teacher. When he graduated to the 3s classroom, he went there singing and speaking Spanish, which Lis taught to all her students,” Sigler recalls. “Bennett felt safe and loved by Ms. Lis, and she remains one of his favorite people in the world. I am so fortunate to know her on so many levels and that she was able to touch Bennett’s heart.”

Check out these books to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Month.

Ashley Naill

Kindergarten
Green Valley Elementary School
The Seidenberg family faced many uncertainties when their daughter, Caroline, was entering kindergarten. Caroline’s parents suspected that she might be autistic, and were looking into testing. They wondered if she might need to transfer to special education classes.

But Caroline is thriving in kindergarten thanks to her teacher, Ashley Naill.

“Her teacher has gone above and beyond for her, and she’s not even a special ed teacher,” says Jennifer Seidenberg, Caroline’s mother. “She messages us every day to tell us about Caroline’s strengths for the day, the positive progress she’s made. I’m almost sad that she won’t have her as a teacher next year in first grade.”

In addition to her individualized work with students, Seidenberg adds that she finds Naill to be very approachable and very involved in her students’ lives and personal development.
She recalls a time when the teacher sent her a video showcasing Caroline’s progress in reading.

“Every time Caroline would get something correct, she would cheer for her and make a big deal about it. Caroline was all smiles,” she notes. “She just wanted to show us how far [Caroline] had come, which I thought was awesome.”

Dayna Martin

Pre-K for Inclusion
Whittier Elementary School
As new educational programs are created, a need arises for teachers who are ready to dive headfirst into uncharted territory. When public schools in Maryland started offering an inclusive Pre-K program for low-income families and children with learning disabilities, they needed teachers who were understanding and compassionate.

A 15-year teaching veteran, Dayna Martin returned to Whittier Elementary School for the school’s implementation of the Pre-K for Inclusion program.

“She’s, like, the most selfless person on the planet,” says Paige Bollinger, a Frederick resident who first met Martin through an online group for moms. “Teaching the youngest kids in our community is challenging, especially when they need a lot of support and care due to a learning or developmental disability. She took her 15 years of teaching experience and married that to her general compassion and care for these children.”

One example Bollinger recalls was when Martin advocated for a student who was acting out and getting hurt. She helped secure safety equipment like soft helmets to ensure the classroom was a safe space.

The Pre-K for Inclusion program has a challenging training process, and many new teachers have come to Martin for support because of her experience. She has led many efforts through the local teachers’ union and department of education to ensure that teachers are properly supported.

Bollinger says her compassion also extends to her students’ parents.

“She is someone who goes out of her way to help [parents] understand how their students are progressing, especially in this new program where there’s no precedent for it,” she notes.

Currently, Martin is pursuing courses for educating children with autism.

Read about a local substitute teacher who made a difference here.