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Roll Call in Northern Virginia – School Names From the Neighborhood

We at Walker Heating and Air-Conditioning are super educated when it comes to AC Tune-Ups and all things HVAC. But we know there’s always more to learn. For instance, as many kids are heading back to school, it occurred to us that while we’re familiar with the names of the many great public schools in our area, we don’t know as much as we could about the actual people for whom these schools are named. So, in the spirit of education, we decided to educate ourselves, and pass our findings on to you.
Don’t worry! It won’t be on the test.

Christa McAuliffe Elementary

If you were over the age of 7 or 8 in the ’80s, you probably remember that tragic voyage of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. Sharon Christa McAuliffe was an American teacher and astronaut from Concord, New Hampshire, who was killed on that mission, where she was serving as a payload specialist and was a social studies teacher at Concord High School in New Hampshire. In 1985, McAuliffe was selected from more than 11,000 applicants to the NASA Teacher in Space Project and was scheduled to become the first teacher to fly in space. She was planning to conduct experiments and teach two lessons from Challenger. On January 28, 1986, the shuttle broke apart 1 minute 13 seconds after launch, resulting in the loss of all onboard. After her death, several schools were named in her honor, and she was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 2004.

Kyle R. Wilson Elementary

Kyle R. Wilson Elementary’s namesake is also emotional. Kyle Wilson is a fallen firefighter of Prince William County who was courageous and kind, with a wonderful sense of humor. On the morning of April 16‚ 2007‚ Kyle followed the truck officer into a house to help the occupants flee a fire. He utilized his training and fought to the end, but sacrificed his life saving the lives of others. Kyle’s sacrifice on that April morning will never be forgotten. A wonderful tribute to Kyle can be found on the school’s website.

Fannie W. Fitzgerald Elementary

Fannie W. Fitzgerald said, ”Children are children. It doesn’t matter what color they are.” Born in Amelia County in 1930, Mrs. Fitzgerald always wanted to be a teacher. She received a BA in Elementary Education from Virginia Union University and her first teaching position was as head teacher in Amelia. It was a two-room school, with no cafeteria, indoor plumbing, or central heating. After teaching there for three years, she was offered a job in Prince William County. Seeking to deepen her education, Mrs. Fitzgerald headed to New York to attend Columbia University and after began teaching at Jennie Dean School in Manassas, Virginia. In 1964, she was appointed, along with three other African-American teachers, to integrate the all-white schools in Prince William County.  Schools were fully integrated by September 1965. In the 1964-65 school year, Mrs. Fitzgerald became the first African-American to teach at Manassas Park Elementary School, and in 1968, Mrs. Fitzgerald was selected to be the first elementary supervisor of the integrated schools in Prince William County. She taught at Dale City Elementary School from 1971-1988, as a fourth-grade teacher and a learning disabilities specialist. After she retired in 1988, she continued to volunteer and serve the children of Prince William County in many ways. The school board voted to name an elementary school for her, which is located on Benita Fitzgerald Drive, a street named for her oldest daughter, an Olympic gold medalist.

Alexander Henderson Elementary

Henderson Elementary is named after Alexander Henderson (1738 – 1815) a Revolutionary War patriot who owned farmland on which the Montclair subdivision now sits. Henderson was a merchant and politician in the British colony and the American state of Virginia. He moved to Dumfries, Virginia in 1787, where his home, Henderson House still stands. (We’re thinking “field trip”!) He opened a store there, with additional outlets eventually opening in Colchester, Occoquan, and Alexandria and he’s often referred to as the “father of the American chain store.”


So, give a nod the next time you pass one of our institutions of learning. We’re grateful for the luminaries of yesterday as they inspire the young citizens of tomorrow. Thank you, educators!