RICHMOND, Va. -- A teacher at John B. Cary Elementary School in Richmond was surprised Monday morning by Governor Ralph Northam and Mayor Levar Stoney after being named Richmond Public Schools (RPS) teacher of the year.
Ashley Bland thought she was going to be giving Northam and Stoney a tour of the school's Eco Garden, but these leaders were actually there to announce her as the Region 1 Teacher of the Year.
Bland is an instructional resource technology teacher at John B. Cary, and helped teachers and students in the transition to virtual learning all last year. She began her career at RPS as a substitute teacher in 2014 and spent her first years in the district as a middle school math teacher.
Her background is actually in engineering, but she said her middle school math teacher inspired her to want to teach and help the next generation see that women who look like her can excel in math and science.
“I hope that I leave the same legacy that he left, oh my God, I'm getting choked up," Bland tearfully explained. "I hope leave the same legacy he left, and I hope that I inspire the next generation. And even if I don't feel it right now, to know that it can come full circle like this to see my scholars just achieve."
Some of Bland's students were there for the surprise and cheered as Northam made the announcement. The governor told the crowd that this past year has been extremely difficult for teachers, and said teachers are heroes.
"They've made sure our children continue to have access to a world class education, so today to be able to honor Ms. Bland, this is just a way of saying thank you to all the great educators across the commonwealth," said Northam. "They've done a great job."
Now that Bland is one of eight regional teachers of the year, she will move forward in the process and could potentially be selected as the Virginia Teacher of the Year. That announcement will be made in the coming weeks.