Wednesday, April 16, 2014 4:35 AM
Published on: Wednesday, August 21, 2013
By Alexis A. Goring
The 2013 Prince George’s County Teacher of the Year was recently honored by entertainer Steve Harvey in Las Vegas.
Albert Lewis, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Walker Mill Middle School, was named “Best Teacher” in Harvey’s nationwide contest — the 2013 Steve Harvey Neighborhood Awards.
“Mr. Lewis is a prime example of an outstanding educator,” PGCPS Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell said.
Lewis said he feels honored to have been recognized by Harvey, a best-selling author and multifaceted entertainer.
“It’s an honor because I want to say, with this competition, the award came down to vote by community,” he said. “And so, to have won says a lot to me in regards to how people feel about the impact I’m having at my school and in my classroom.”
Lewis, who has taught language arts since 2007, said he tries to create an “engaging environment” in his classroom and to make a positive impact on all of his students each day.
“I try to present myself in a professional manner to give my students someone that they can emulate and they can look at and say, ‘I don’t have to just look to LeBron James as a role model but a role model can be a teacher as well,’” he said.
As a former student at Walker Mill, returning to his old school eight years ago as a teacher felt “weird.”
“When I was a child, Walker Mill was one of my favorite places to learn,” Lewis said. “It was two great years of instruction. I had a lot of great teachers, some of whom I’m still in contact with to this day. And being the teacher now, not being the student, I just try to replicate some of those experiences.”
A church member was the first to make Lewis aware of the contest. Once Lewis agreed to enter, they created a campaign to get his name out there.
“It was a grassroots effort and also word of mouth,” Lewis said. “My friend from church, myself and people on the committee just kind of put the word out there through Facebook and Twitter. We were able to collect enough votes to move on to the next round.”
The awards ceremony was at the MGM Grand, where they rolled out a blue carpet and had media cover the event. “We were kind of given the five-star treatment,” Lewis said.
“It was kind of surreal,” Lewis said. “I felt anxious and nervous because you didn’t know which way the vote was going to go. I had a chance to meet the other nominees, and we kind of built a relationship.
“And having been selected out of the four of us, having been the one who was chosen, it’s humbling because it really could have gone either way — and to me, that’s very special.”
The star-studded event featured performances by American Idol winner Fantasia and gospel music duo Mary Mary. Dr. Phil and his wife, Robin, presented the award to Lewis.
Monday marked the start of Lewis’s eighth year teaching. He has accomplished more than he ever dreamed of when he was studying to become a broadcast journalist.
“In college, I pursued a journalism career. But I went on a church retreat and the voice of God told me to go into education, and once I decided to be obedient and make that career change, I figured out I would be teaching.
“I really didn’t go into the profession to win awards. It has allowed me to kind of move up in the local education community and to be recognized for the work I’ve done in seven years. If seven years ago you asked me if this would be a reality, it wasn’t something that was even on my radar.”
Lewis is working toward his master’s degree in educational administration at Trinity University, but being a principal is not yet on his radar.
“I really don’t know what doors will open within the next year or two as a result of going through the ‘Teacher of the Year’ process,” Lewis said. “But I do have mentors who are principals. I think I would make a great transition into that role, but I can’t confidently say right now that that’s something that I’ll do.”