2020 Teacher of the Year Finalist!

Justin Lopez-Cardoze

7th Grade Science Teacher, Justin Lopez-Cardoze, is a finalist for the Washington, DC 2020 Teacher of the Year!

Justin is one of only three finalists selected for this prestigious honor recognizing high-quality teacher leaders in the District. Read this press release from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to learn more.


Justin joined Capital City in 2016 with five years of teaching experience. He is "compassionate, relatable, collaborative, focused, data-driven, and engaging," says our Middle School Principal Laina Cox. His ability to build deep relationships with students and deliver culturally-competent, differentiated instruction pushes all students to excel academically while also developing their character. See what some of his 7th graders have to say! 

Justin Lopez-Cardoze and students; Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

"Mr. Lopez-Cardoze is like my best friend—my teacher best friend. He’s the one person I go to with all my problems and he actually listens, always gives me advice, and makes me feel better about the situation and myself."

"Mr. Lopez-Cardoze won’t let me not succeed. When I try to give up on myself he won’t let me. He has this way of talking to you that makes you want to be a better person."

"Mr. Lopez Cardoze pushes us and always tells us we can do it. I didn’t like Science before but he makes it interesting. He’s funny and keeps us learning."

His dedication to ensuring all students have an equitable education is evident in the many leadership positions he assumes at Capital City including Science Department Chair, 7th Grade-Level Team Lead, and the middle school representative on our Equity Core Committee. "Justin is a phenomenal department chair, and an absolutely inspiring coworker," shared 8th Grade Science Teacher Chavala Hardy. "On a daily basis he encourages those around him to raise the bar, and happily provides them with the tools to do so. Kids do not just believe they can be scientists; they embody the best scientific practices because of Justin’s example and unwavering high standards."

Mr. Lopez-Cardoze and 7th grader speaking with West Virginia legislators

Justin’s commitment to teaching and learning has no boundaries. In addition to mentoring aspiring teachers through Urban Teachers and Teach for America, he lends his voice, and supports his students in lending their voices, to have an impact. Recently, for example, Justin and 7th grader Jacqueline spoke with State Board members and legislators in West Virginia to share their perspectives working and learning in a public charter school.