The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


Teacher and Support Staff of the Year Nominees

Eleanor Muse: Minnie Howard Support Staff Member of the Year 

Griffin Harris, Caroline Surratt, Bridgette Adu-Wadier, Abigail St. Jean

Eleanor Muse is the support staff of the year nominee for Minnie Howard. Muse has been the Library Media Assistant at Minnie Howard for eight years but she has been working for ACPS for 13 years, the other 4 years as a librarian at the main campus. 

Muse is very busy at Minnie Howard with the large amount of kids that come during lunch and after school. Muse believes that there is a high amount of freshmen coming to the library because the library is very inviting to students.

The library was not always so welcoming. When Muse first started working in the Minnie Howard library there were only a few chairs and not many students came in to the library. Muse and another librarian, LaGina Gross made the library what it is today by adding couches, games and beanbags to create a more welcoming environment. Muse enjoys showing her creative side when she decorates the library displays which also contributes to the welcoming environment of the Minnie Howard library. 

When Muse found out she was named a nominee,” I was shocked. I really was shocked” Muse knew there was a teacher of the year but didn’t know there was a support staff of the year. She is still finding out what it means for her. The nominee really made her feel appreciated ,”I enjoy helping people and I wasn’t expecting anything in return.”. 

Muse’s favorite part of the job is, “The people. I love talking to people and helping them.” The hardest part of the job for her is, “ Just trying to stay positive when you see kids who are not really trying to stay about.” 

In addition to working at the library Muse has her hands full with her own gift basket  business. She also helps creating all of the props for the drama department. Until last year Muse worked as a coordinator for Princess for a Night, a program that gives high school girls prom dresses to have the prom of their dreams if they can not afford it themselves. 

James Harrison: Support Staff Member of the Year

How does a school a with over 4000 students function? The answer is behind the scenes with the T.C. Building Servicing Supervisor, James Harrison. Harrison has been working at T.C. for thirteen years. Prior to coming to T.C. he had a multitude of different jobs that all involved serving others. He worked for the US postal service and St. John’s Development where he discovered he loved working with kids. He also worked at other ACPS schools such as the old T.C., Jefferson Houston and George Washington before taking on the redone T.C. Williams. 

Today Harrison seems to be doing a little bit of everything to make sure everything in the building is functioning such as making sure doors are unlocked, bathrooms are working and making deliveries around the school. Despite the multitude of work Harrison said “I really look forward to coming to work everyday.” 

Harrison said his favorite part of the job is “working with the kids”. He works with students who need service hours and students with disabilities who would like to have experience in the workforce. The administrative assistant to Mr. Balas, Patty Moran, comments on his character saying “He is a wonderful, positive influence with everyone he meets.”  

Rhea Butler: Minnie Howard Teacher of the Year

Rhea Butler, the Minnie Howard teacher of the year and a nominee for ACPS teacher of the year, has been teaching in Alexandria schools since 2000, when she started at Francis Hammond Middle School as a physical education teacher. Before that, she received a master’s degrees at Ohio State University in Adapted Physical Education. She’s currently working on a Master’s in Education Leadership at George Mason University. 

Since her start in teaching nearly two decades ago, Butler says her goal has always been to produce students like those who were at her door moments earlier. “You’re not going to learn if you don’t even want to be in the classroom,” she said. “I try to get to know my students…[and] to teach them to like learning.”

After eight years at Hammond, Butler spent a year each at the King Street campus and at Jefferson Houston elementary. In 2011, she left physical education and Jefferson Houston for her current position, an AVID teacher and site coordinator at the ninth grade campus. 

AVID–or Advancement Via Individual Determination–is a program that helps students graduate high school and enter college prepared. The class at the ninth grade level is as a mix of counseling–advice on which classes to take, how to balance extracurriculars and academics, and guidance through the college application classes–and tutoring in standard classes. It focuses on helping first-generation college students and those who “need that overall help,” Butler said. 

Butler was briefly interrupted by a pair of students banging at her door. “Ms. Butler, Ms. Butler!” one of them yelled. In the window of the door, she was holding a science fair tri-fold board and waving excitedly. 

“Those girls are sophomores that I had last year,” Butler said. “She came back here just to show me her board. That’s what I like about teaching–that’s what’s important. You know why that matters? Because she cares about her project. She’s excited about learning.” 

Ra Alim Shabazz: Teacher of the Year

“For me, teaching is a passion,” Honors Government Teacher Ra Alim Shabazz said, “Some people get into teaching after doing some other career. For me, this is my life’s work.”

Shabazz poses behind student

TC nominated Shabazz for the Teacher of the Year Award. The New Jersey native taught at Howard University and served in the military before coming to T.C. to teach Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. Government in 2013. 

Shabazz’s passion for education began in high school, when a mentor took interest in his development. This mentor encouraged Shabazz to improve in his academic background and form a pathway to college, a future that Shabazz had not been considering at the time.

His mentor prompted him to join his school’s debate team and Model United Nations club, and get involved with local government and advocacy.

“For the first time, I realized what my talent was,” Shabazz said. “I had the ability to communicate, to advocate and to motivate.”

Shabazz had planned to use these newfound skills to become a lawyer; going into teaching was not a part of the initial plan.

“He [his mentor] had done so much for me that the night of my graduation, I went to him and said, ‘ I want to thank you for everything that you have done’ And he said, ‘If you want to thank me, why don’t you do this for someone else? I do not know if we need another lawyer, but we definitely need another teacher,’” Shabazz explained.

After wavering between the two options, Shabazz decided that he would pursue teaching. 

“If people like me constantly pick other professions, then there is no one to inspire people,” he said. “What we are missing is a real model. A role model is someone playing a role; a real model is someone that you can touch, that you can hear, that you can see. I am a real model of what I want them to aspire to be and someone who loves learning.”

 He felt obligated to enlighten others the way he had been enlightened before, as well as help students realize the wonder in all their capabilities.

 “What motivates me to stay in the profession is seeing the light in his students’ eyes as they realize that they are more capable than they thought they were,” said Shabazz. 

His mission is to instill hope for the future in his students and to pursue happiness through education.“All a man ever needs to be happy is something to look forward to,” he said. 

Shabazz emphasizes a lifelong love of learning when he mentors his students, for he knows it is critical in accessing opportunities. 

“When students say, ‘Oh, well I think I am going to be a teacher,’ I hear some [colleagues] say, ‘Well, maybe you should pick something else,’ which is outrageous,” explained Shabazz. “The teacher is the highest job one can do in a society that is in an advanced technological state.”

This article has been corrected to change Eleanor Muse’s professional title. The original version misidentified her as a librarian at Minnie Howard; she is the Library Media Assistant.

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Teacher and Support Staff of the Year Nominees