Two Montgomery County Public Schools teachers will head to Massachusetts this month to join a team of 13 teachers from around the country that will run in the 122nd annual Boston Marathon on April 16.

Matthew Wells, who teaches math at JoAnn Lelek Elementary School at Broad Acres in Silver Spring, and John Ladesic, a first-grade English as a Second Language teacher at South Lake Elementary School in Gaithersburg, were selected by Hyland’s, the Official Cramp Relief Sponsor of the Boston Marathon, from more than 1,600 applications received from teacher-athletes across the country, according to a release from the company.

The company, which makes a product that relaxes calf and foot cramps, noted the Boston Athletic Association, the marathon sponsor, is celebrating a Year of Service by “honoring those who give back to their country, mission and community.” 

“Hyland’s is proud to have built a team of runners that exemplify that very spirit of giving back to their communities,” the release said.

For Wells, getting the opportunity to run the world-famous marathon is a dream come true. The teacher is a coach for Girls on the Run, a running program with chapters at numerous county schools, and uses running as a motivational tool for his students. 

“Being a part of the all-teacher team going to Boston is inspiring,” Wells said in the release. “It is motivating to hear and see all of the wonderful things that my teammates do as teachers and runners. I find inspiration in how we all balance our professional and personal demands.”


Ladesic, a former NCAA Division One runner, will run the Boston Marathon for the third time. “Sharing this experience with a diverse group of educators who share the same vision is very special to me,” he said in the release. “I am also proud to represent my school and students who speak English as a second language. Running is a sport that speaks all languages and unites the world on Patriot’s Day in Boston.”


Marian Greenblatt Education Fund Honors Five County Teachers


The Marian Greenblatt Education Fund has named five winners of its annual Excellence in Education Awards, including a Somerset Elementary School kindergarten teacher and a Northwood High School physics teacher who were named Rising Star Teachers of the Year.

The ‘Rising Star’ honors, which recognizes teachers with less than five years of experience, were awarded to Erin Crowley, a kindergarten teacher and team leader at Somerset Elementary School in Chevy Chase, and Helene McLaughlin, a physics teacher at Northwood High School in Silver Spring.

The group chose Crowley, a team leader at Somerset, because she “effectively differentiates her instruction to meet the skills and abilities of her diverse class, which includes special needs students, children with physical disabilities, and nonnative English speakers from across a variety of backgrounds,” according to a press release. “She continuously monitors student achievement through anecdotal records, observations, and assessments, and collaborates with her team to share best practices.”


Somerset Principal Kelly Morris said Crowley’s classroom is “a place where children feel free to take intellectual risks, learn from each other, and collaborate with one another, even at such a young age.”

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith along with a foundation representative presented the Rising Star award to Crowley at Somerset on Friday morning.

According to the fund, interest in taking physics has exploded among students since McLaughlin began teaching at Northwood in August 2016, with enrollment in classes increasing by 50 percent. “She engages her students through guest speakers, a ‘punkin chunkin’ contest, and excursions to see physics in action,” the group said. McLaughlin also revived the AP Physics course, created and sponsored a physics club, and took three teams to the 2017 Central Maryland Physics Olympics for the school’s first appearance in more than five years.


The foundation also is honoring three “Master” teachers: math department leader Janet Gallagher of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, math resource specialist Edwina Kollo of Shady Grove Middle School in Gaithersburg, and kindergarten teacher and team leader Kristen Kane of Forest Knolls Elementary School in Silver Spring.

The award winners will be honored at the April 18 Champions for Children celebration at BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown.

Poolesville High students compete in SourceAmerica Design Challenge


Instead of sitting in class next week, a team of three Poolesville High School students will be in Crystal City on Monday through Wednesday competing to win the SourceAmerica Design Challenge with an innovative design for helping disabled workers fill manila envelopes with paper.

Students Alex Carbonell, Ashwini Thirukkonda and Dhruv Maniktala developed the Folder Filler after observing Ricky Day, who has cerebral palsy, grow frustrated as he tried to fill the envelopes as part of his job as an automation clerk at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.

The team’s invention, which allows paper to be stacked in a shallow box and then slid into an envelope, helped Day cut the time it takes for him to fill an envelope from 18 minutes to less than 2, according to a post on the SourceAmerica website.  


Marking Poolesville High’s third trip to the finals, the team is one of five high school teams vying for the top prize in the national competition of STEM skills that’s open to high school and college students. Each year, teams partner with nonprofit organizations, businesses that employ people with disabilities or individuals to design innovations to improve safety and accessibility in the workplace, according to organizers. More than 120 teams entered this year’s competition.

Another Poolesville High team was awarded honorable mention for its invention, The Glue Helper, which helps employees with disabilities assemble cardboard boxes more safely.

The winners will be chosen Wednesday.



Julie Rasicot can be reached at