Foxcroft School history teacher John C. Scharfenberg, a former Capitol Hill staffer who carries a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his pocket and does his best to make sure his students understand it, was presented with the Mary Louise Leipheimer Excellence in Teaching Award by Cathy McGehee, Head of School, on Thursday (May 23) at the School’s annual Awards Assembly.
“Since 2012 (when he joined the Foxcroft faculty), John Scharfenberg has done more than make sure his students have a strong understanding of U.S. history and government,” said McGehee at the Engelhard Gymnasium presentation attended by students, faculty, families, and friends. “He makes sure that they read closely and hone critical thinking skills, that they write clearly, and that they convey an argument persuasively. Most importantly, he makes sure his students become engaged citizens.”
Scharfenberg served on the Senior Professional Staff for the Committee on Banking and Finance for the U.S. House of Representatives for five years, and as a Program Manager for the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration before returning to teaching fulltime in 2007. A Virginia native who grew up in New Orleans holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MBA from Tulane University and has lived in the Middleburg area since 1996. His daughters, Charlotte, and Pia both graduated from Foxcroft.
Beloved by students for his Bowtie Fridays, pie-making skills, and earnest desire to help them succeed, Scharfenberg has taught U.S. History, Advanced Placement U.S. History, and World History, as well as electives in Government, Constitutional Law, and Revolutions, at Foxcroft. He was a Master Teacher at the National History Academy last summer and was selected to attend a National Endowment for the Humanities workshop on the American Revolution in 2012.
McGehee quoted several of Scharfenberg’s students in her presentation. “What makes Mr. Scharfenberg an amazing teacher is that he sets high expectations for his students and never stops pushing us to be the best that we can be,” one sophomore wrote. “He creates an atmosphere in his class from day one where it’s more than okay to ask questions and to ask for help. His passion for helping us improve as historians, writers, and people is so obvious and genuine. He also makes delicious apple pie which is a giant plus.”
Sharing his pie-making skills with students is just one way that Scharfenberg supports students outside of the classroom. He also serves as Sophomore Class advisor and assistant cross-country coach. He has led two Wintermission service trips, to Houston in 2018 and Washington, D.C., this past winter.
“He helps girls roll up their sleeves and lend a hand to make communities stronger,” noted McGehee. “Whenever I ask for volunteers for roadside clean up, John always pitches in. Now that’s a role model for civic engagement.”
The Mary Louise Leipheimer Excellence in Teaching Award was established in 2014 by Foxcroft’s Board of Trustees to honor the retiring Head of School who spent 40+ years at the School as a teacher and administrator. The award annually recognizes a classroom teacher with a tenure of at least three years who connects with and challenges each student to develop her analytical ability, critical and independent thinking, communication skills, and personal integrity. Previous recipients are Maria Evans, Ph.D., Susan Erba, Steven McCarty, and Stephanie Young ‘00.