Margaret Shepherd Teaching Award

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2016 Margaret Shepherd Teaching Award!

The nomination DEADLINE is February 19, 2016 at 12:00 PM.

Please scroll down this page to submit a nomination via the embedded form!


The Margaret Shepherd award annually recognizes a teacher who works with students with special needs and is employed by a school, which is a member of VAISEF. Directors of schools may nominate someone from their facility who demonstrates a level of excellence and commitment consistent with the teaching career of Margaret Shepherd.

A nominee should be a teacher who:

  • Possesses a commitment to children which will not allow failure
  • Shows flexibility in teaching; is willing to try anything to enable a child to be successful
  • Holds high expectations with respect to academic and social behavior; teaches children to be good citizens, as well as good students
  • Shows an openness to collaborating with other teachers and professionals, and to trying new ideas
  • Is committed to influencing children to behave through praise and encouragement, rather than punishment
  • Realizes the importance of children having fun and enjoying learning

About Margaret Shepherd

Margaret Shepherd was born August 14, 1899 in Salem, Illinois.  She attended Pomona College in Claremont, California for one year, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University in 1921.  The same year she was offered the job of teacher and Assistant Principal of the high school in Palmyra, Virginia.  While there she taught history, Latin and French.

At that time teachers were required to be single, so upon her marriage, in 1922, she resigned.  In February, 1934, she received an M.A. in Education from George Washington University.  She taught briefly in an elementary school in Alexandria in 1942, and then founded the Rosemont Child Center, a pre-school, first, and second grade, which she continued until 1950.

In 1947 her first husband, James Armstrong, died.  In 1948, she took two more courses from George Washington University.  And in 1950 she married again, moved to Oakland Farm, and started a summer camp.  She was then 50 years old.  Oakland was begun as a year round boarding school in 1967.  In 1980 Mrs. Shepherd wrote and published Phonetic and Structural Analysis — The Oakland Way.  She remained a learner throughout her life and continued to take courses through the University of Virginia to maintain her certificate as a teacher.  She renewed her certification, through coursework, when she was eighty-nine.

Mrs. Shepherd’s specialty was helping students who, despite years of effort, had been unable to learn to read.  At Oakland children are assigned teachers who can best fit their special needs.  She always took the “hopeless cases,” those who had been unable to master even the bare rudiments of decoding.  Teaching academic skills was very important to Mrs. Shepherd, but she remained centered on the belief that her students needed to know about life in general, and that the development of a sense of pride in themselves was essential to their future success.  Thus, while there was time for teaching, there was also time for personal sharing which communicated respect for the child.

In an interview just before her 90th birthday celebration, she said, “I’m doing the only thing that really matters to me.  Oakland, this school, these children — they’re all I really want to do.  I wouldn’t have any life at all, were it not for teaching.”

Prior Award Recipients

2015 – Gabrielle Pickover, The Oberle Academy
2014 – Melissa Shuler, Rivermont School – Fredericksburg
2013 – Christine Bounds, The Oberle Academy
2012 – Mary P. Oefelein, HopeTree Academy
2011 – Lydia Green, Oak Valley Center
2010 – Roger Styron, Grafton School – Richmond
2009 – Chanon Juhl, Little Keswick School
2008 – Frances Shirey, The Kellar School of Inova Kellar Center
2007 – Elaine David, The Dominion School
2006 – Michael Lee Bigby, Metropolitan Day School
2005 – Elizabeth Whiley, New Dominion School
2004 – Cathy Wray, Phillips School ~ Annandale
2003 – Donna Wells, Oakland School

Nomination Guidelines

  • Teachers may be nominated by any employee of a school, but the school’s program director (CEO, Head of School, Executive Director, Principal, or equivalent supervisor) MUST authorize the nomination before submission.  Letters of support from parents, students and staff other than the person nominating will not be considered in the selection process.
  • Nominees must have a current license to teach in Virginia.
  • Please refrain from using the name of the teacher or name of your school anywhere in the answers to the nomination questions, as they are judged in a blind process. Only VAISEF staff will know the name of the teacher and school until a selection is made.
  • Only one nomination per school.  (If more than one nomination is submitted from a single school, VAISEF staff will determine which one is sent to the judges.)
  • The deadline for nomination submissions is February 19, 2016 at 12:00 PM.

The following questions are asked on the nomination form. Each question’s response may be NO LONGER than 200 words.

  1. How does the candidate demonstrate commitment to children that will not allow failure?
  2. What are the exceptional instructional strategies used to teach children which promotes academic and emotional growth?
  3. How does the candidate demonstrate leadership and contributions to team success?
  4. Open-ended response in support of the nomination.


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