DC physical education teacher a finalist for National Teacher of the Year

Jermar “Coach” Rountree, has already been named D.C.’s “Teacher of the Year.” Now, he’s one of five teachers in the running for the 2023 National Teacher of the year, the country’s top teaching honor.

The pre-K to eighth grade health and physical education teacher at Center City Public Charter School’s Brightwood campus told WTOP that he is incredibly humbled and honored to be among a group of such distinguished educators.

“The biggest thing that gets me up in the morning is that I love my job,” Rountree said.

Rountree said his approach to the classroom is to create a space for students to blow off steam through physical activity, as well as to allow them to let go of any emotional weight they are carrying.

“Nine times out of 10, when students come into my classroom, they’re having a rough day,” Rountree said, adding that he tries to instill social emotional peace and give kids the opportunity to share their voice. “I’ve been opening up class with, ‘How do you feel today? What’s going on?'”

D.C. Teacher of the Year Jermar “Coach” Rountree.  (Courtesy D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education)

“We are so lucky to have Jermar as a teacher here,” said Rachel Tommelleo, principal at Center City PCS-Brightwood. “He goes above and beyond for our students, his colleagues, and our community members every single day. He wants everyone to be successful and feel supported. He is a huge part of why our students are excited to come to school every day. We are who we are because of dedicated teachers like Coach Rountree.”

Rountree’s work goes beyond the classroom. Over the years, he has hosted health-focused events for the school community, including cooking clubs and family boot camps. He has also launched a swimming program for middle school students, and helped streamline Center City PCS-Brightwood’s before- and after-school clubs program.

While he acknowledges that being a teacher isn’t always easy, he said seeing kids grow and change is worth the struggle.

“Being able to do that for more than one person or more than one child is amazing,” he said.

The 2023 National Teacher of the Year will be announced in the spring.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein and Luke Garrett contributed to this report.

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin is an anchor/reporter for WTOP. She started her career in New York City as a local TV reporter and has since covered foreign affairs and national politics as a Washington correspondent. She also anchored a nightly news show for an international network.

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