Stefanie Virgen, gifted and language arts teacher at Washington Middle School, is the recipient of the Emerson Electric Excellence in Teaching Award.

The Emerson Excellence in Teaching Awards program annually recognizes more than 100 educators in the St. Louis metropolitan area — from kindergarten teachers to college professors — who are examples of excellence in their field.

Recipients are selected by the chief administrators of their school districts or educational institutions.

“I was stunned to receive this award and feel greatly humbled,” Virgen said. “The bright professionals I work with reflect their light on everyone around them, and I’m the recipient of that shared vision and enthusiasm.

“It’s all the more poignant that this is my hometown, my own school district, the place where I received so much from the teachers and staff members who nurtured me so long ago,” she added. “I look out my classroom window at the woods and the creek that I crossed when my own path as a young student carried me from Washington Junior High and on to Washington High School, and I’m struck by the circular nature of that life metaphor.”

Virgen has been in education for 10 years. She began her career with the Spokane/Highlandville District in Missouri to teach and administrate their gifted program — elementary through high school.

“Teaching so many varied grades on different days of the week gave me great perspective of the diverse work each teacher does, and my appreciation for them all deepened,” she said.

Virgen has been with the Washington School District for seven years. She was hired at Washington Middle School to teach English and the gifted program — the same gifted program in which she was once a student. She currently teaches seventh-grade English, eighth-grade college/career explo, eighth-grade gifted, and seventh-grade gifted.

Virgen’s other roles in the district include Environmental Club sponsor, Honor Society co-sponsor, PBS Leadership team chairperson, WMS Building Level Team, District Strategic Planning committee, Cohort workshop facilitator, PLC facilitator, Pathways for Teachers, District Grammar committee​, and District English Language Arts curriculum committee.

Virgen was recognized at the awards program Sunday, Nov. 12, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in St. Louis.

“Stefanie is one of the most dynamic teachers I have had the pleasure of working with in my 28 years with the Washington School District,” said Middle School Principal Ron Millheiser.

“She does nothing halfway. Her lessons are always well thought out and engaging to our kids. She takes her passion for what she is teaching and often will make the learning experiences come alive in her classroom,” Millheiser said. “She has been known to turn her classroom into a wilderness setting, veterinary learning center, courtroom, photography studio or whatever the topic she may be teaching within her gifted, exploratory or language arts classes.

“Stefanie is a well-respected leader among her professional peers,” he added. “She often leads breakout sessions for district staff on professional development days and is also one of the building leaders on the WMS PBS leadership team. Additionally, she sponsors both the environmental club and the honor society at WMS.”