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Melissa Porfirio, who was named Fairfax County Public Schools’ 2013 Teacher of the Year in September and the 2014 Virginia Teacher of the Year in October, is one of four finalists for the 2014 National Teacher of the Year award.

“Oh my, I cannot even believe this is happening!” she said in response to the news Wednesday.

Porfirio, a first-grade teacher at Crestwood Elementary School in Springfield, is known for being involved in her students’ lives, for making the extra effort to get to know them as people, and for building relationships with them and their families. Principal Timothy Kasik praised Porfirio for the efficient way she runs her classroom and for developing routines and systems that allow her students to transition from lesson to lesson with a minimum of downtime. He also noted that Porfirio has a way of making learning fun for students.

“Her students love coming to school, and each one of them always has a smile on his or her face,” he said.

Porfirio also connects with students in activities outside the classroom. She assembled a team of parents and teachers to plan Crestwood’s first International Night, which brought together the culturally diverse community for music, dance, food and information. She is a buddy runner in the school’s Girls on the Run program, works on the Crestwood Partners in Print program, attends dance recitals and sports competitions where students are participants, and visits homes to build relationships with families.

Porfirio has taught at Crestwood since 2005 and received the school’s Human Relations Award in 2008. She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from the Catholic University of America and her master’s degree in education with a focus on curriculum and instruction from George Mason University.

The 2014 National Teacher of the Year will be announced in April at a White House ceremony.

Children’s Science Center gets new leadership

The Children’s Science Center in Herndon is kicking off the brand-new year with the appointment of a new executive director and election of new leadership for its board of directors.

Nene Spivy of Vienna is the organization’s new executive director. Tanya La Force of McLean is board chair, and Amy Burke of Chantilly is board vice chair.

Spivy, the center’s immediate past board chair, is an engineer and MBA who has worked in management for 25 years. She also has more than a decade of experience with children’s museums.

Under Spivy’s leadership, the Children’s Science Center was able to hire its first education team and open a new base of operations at the Center for Innovative Technology campus in Herndon. Those steps allowed the organization to grow its Mobile Labs offerings by 150 percent, serve 14,400 visitors in seven school districts and launch the new Early Childhood Hands On Science preschool program.

La Force, who served as development chair and led efforts to raise more than $1 million in seed funds for the museum, is excited for another year of organizational growth, she said.

“The board is pleased that Nene has taken the executive director position,” La Force said. “She is the right leader as the organization begins this next phase.”

Burke has extensive expertise with STEM education and research policy issues, and a decade of experience in the semiconductor industry. She chairs the Children’s Science Center’s STEM Advisory Council and previously chaired the Grants Committee.

The center’s ultimate goal — to build a full-scale, state-of-the-art children’s science museum — remains the organization’s top priority as it continues to expand STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programming and activities in the region.

“This is an exciting time for our organization as we assemble the team needed to take this project to the next level and bring our vision to reality,” Spivy said.

For more, visit

United Community Ministries elects new board

United Community Ministries in Alexandria, an organization that connects people in need with people committed to helping them thrive, elected new officers and five new directors at its annual meeting in December.

Officers elected for 2014 are Christiane Gigi Hyland, president; Charles King, vice president; Joseph Conti, treasurer; and Bruce Engelmann, secretary.

Joining the UCM Board are Moira Flanders, Janet Heddesheimer, Matthew Lopez, Andrew Reinsdorf and Leah Tenorio.

Hyland has been a board member since December 2012. She is currently executive director at National Credit Union Foundation. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, Hyland earned her J.D. from George Mason University School of Law and an Advanced Diploma in International Law from McGeorge School of Law.

New directors for McLean chamber

The Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce is welcoming its new board of directors for 2014.

John Brough, Chain Bridge Bank, is chairman of the board. First vice chair is Marcus Simon, EKKO Title LLC. Karen Briscoe, HBC Realty Group, Keller Williams Realty, is secretary. Treasurer is Monish Banga of Ross, Langan & McKendree L.L.P.

Merritt Green, General Counsel P.C., is the immediate past chair.

Board members are Gita Bhandari, M&T Bank; Ryan Cash, Capital One Bank; Bailey Hopple, The JBG Cos.; Rick Makely, Giant McLean; Joe Mastaler, PB Mares LLP; Raj Mehra, Middleburg Bank; George Sachs, McLean Community Center; Dane Scott, Seasons 52; Karen Sherwood, Nourish Market; Jon Wilkins, Bank of Georgetown; and Marcia Twomey, president.

New board members will be installed Feb. 6 at the chamber’s winter gala at Gannett Headquarters.

Chantilly hotel merits distinction

Staybridge Suites Chantilly/Fairfax hotel received the IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) 2013 Quality Excellence Award, given to hotels achieving distinction in all aspects of their operations.

The Staybridge Suites Chantilly/Fairfax is one of 94 properties selected from the company’s more than 4,600 hotels in recognition of overall quality excellence. The hotel was recognized during the 2013 IHG Americas Investors & Leadership Conference in Las Vegas in October.

“I am pleased to honor the Staybridge Suites Chantilly/Fairfax with the Quality Excellence Award,” said Kirk Kinsell, president of the Americas at IHG. “Winners in this category demonstrate the highest standards in product quality, hotel operation and customer satisfaction embodying great brands. We’re very proud Staybridge Suites Chantilly/Fairfax is part of the IHG family.”

The Staybridge Suites Chantilly/Fairfax is an upscale hotel five miles from Dulles International Airport. The 142-suite hotel carries the highest rating on and is one of only five Washington-area hotels to do so.

Calling all foodies

Mrs. Green’s Natural Market, a one-stop purveyor of natural and organic foods, opens Jan. 23 at 12995 Fair Lakes Shopping Center in Fairfax. A grand opening preview party is scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The event will include tastings and samplings, giveaways, live music and children’s activities. For more, visit or call 914-472-7900.