The Aegis
Harford County

Harford Academy educator named Eastern District’s Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year

Jessica Willson, an adapted physical education teacher at Harford Academy, was named an Eastern District 2023 Teacher of the Year by the Society of Health and Physical Educators.

“Being named SHAPE America’s Eastern District Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year for 2023 has me at a loss for words,” Willson said. “I am very grateful for this honor. This wouldn’t have been possible without those who have helped and continue to help me along the way. I must express a sincere thank you to each one.”


Willson has worked at Harford Academy, previously known as John Archer School, for 12 years.

Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) America announced on Dec. 15 its 2023 District Teacher of the Year award recipients. They are being recognized for their work in physical education, adapted physical education, health education and dance education.


“It is wonderful to see Ms. Willson honored as the SHAPE Eastern District Physical Education Teacher of the Year 2023,” Harford County Public Schools Superintendent Sean Bulson said. “Ms. Willson is a valued teacher at Harford Academy and brings so much to her students and the staff at her school. We are very proud of her accomplishments!”

These educators were previously recognized as state teachers of the year, and are now representing one of SHAPE America’s five districts: Central, Eastern, Midwest, Southern and Western.

“These incredible teachers epitomize what the Teacher of the Year program is all about — recognizing those who motivate and lead their students to participate in a lifetime of physical activity,” Stephanie Morris, SHAPE America’s CEO, said in a news release.

Last year, Willson was named SHAPE’s Maryland Teacher of the Year. . After winning that honor, she entered the district competition and earned SHAPE America’s Eastern District Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year for 2023.

Although Willson said she is proud of her accomplishment, she is motivated to get all of her students — ages 3 to 21 — to enjoy being active and understanding the concepts of different physical activities. Adapted physical education is designed instruction for students with disabilities or who are unable to participate in a regular physical education class. Willson credited the team around her for her success.

“What I do is not necessarily about the award or recognition,” she said. “To me, it’s all about collaboration. I feel like I can’t be as successful as I am without the collaborations, friendships and the relationships I have built.”

Sponsored by the teacher of the year partner network, which includes SPARK (which creates and implements physical education programs), Wellness Training Specialists, GOPHER (a supplier of physical education equipment) and Goodheart-Willcox Publisher, SHAPE America will honor Willson and the other district teacher of the year winners at the 2023 SHAPE America National Convention and Expo in Seattle from March 28 to April 1.

During the convention’s closing general session on March 31, SHAPE America will announce the district winner in each of the five categories who has been named national teacher of the year for that category. The five categories are adapted physical education, health education, elementary physical education, middle school physical education and high school physical education.


For more information about the 2023 SHAPE America National Convention and Expo, visit the website at