Great teachers affect not only their students; they inspire their communities to support efforts that lead to a better world. Osbourn Park High School teacher Lydia Stewart was honored on January 19 by the Prince William County Human Rights Commission for the work she does to advance the cause of equality for all people.
Stewart, a special education teacher and educator for nearly 25 years, has spent much of her career advocating for and serving students with profound disabilities. She created a club at Osbourn Park High School, Ordinary People Doing Outstanding Things Together, to allow intellectually disabled students to participate in important school activities and showcase their successes. From field trips to assisting office staff, from science projects to inviting staff to a Thanksgiving celebration, the club creates opportunities for students to have the most complete high school experience possible.
She identifies the interests and abilities of each student in her class and makes a significant effort to match the students with meaningful work in the community, involving them in community-based instruction. As a result, her students gain valuable work experience, and their self-esteem grows and they see more possibilities for their lives. They are routinely invited to return to job sites. When employers observe her students’ performance at work sites it positively impacts the way the community sees students with disabilities.
Stewart is also the president of the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation-Prince William County Chapter; she serves as the director for both the A&E Youth Choir and the Senior Choir at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. In recognition of her commitment to the community and youth, she was Volunteer of the Year in 2011 for the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation¬-Prince William County Chapter; and Potomac Mills Mall “Role Model” Award Recipient in 2011. Stewart was named the Prince William County Teacher of the Year in 2011-12, received the prestigious Washington Post Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award for 2012, and was named the Region IV Virginia Teacher of the Year, a highly competitive award for a region that spans 14 counties and six cities.