The award is named in honor of Dr. Marian Greenblatt. An educator throughout her professional life, Dr. Greenblatt taught at a wide variety of educational institutions. After earning a B.A. degree in History at Barnard College in New York, she taught Social Studies at Tottenville High School in Staten Island, NY. Later, she was a history instructor and taught teaching techniques at Hampton Institute, a historically black college in Virginia. During her tenure at Hampton Institute, Dr. Greenblatt ran a program to train African-American teachers at rural Southern schools in modern teaching techniques. She went on to teach history at the University of Maryland where she earned a Ph.D in Secondary Education. Her doctoral studies focused on teaching critical reading and thinking in Social Studies. She developed and validated techniques to improve students’ comprehension of Social Studies concepts, especially for students with poor reading skills.
In 1976, Dr. Greenblatt was elected a member of the Montgomery County, MD, Board of Education in her first try for office. She was chosen President of the Board from 1978 to 1979. She was re-elected to the Board for another term in 1980, achieving the highest vote total ever for the office, and retired in 1984. As a Board member, Dr. Greenblatt worked hard to raise academic standards for students, eliminate frivolous courses, decrease class sizes, increase the budget allocated to the classroom, teachers and books, and eliminate truancy. She was a strong proponent of the Advanced Placement Program and sponsored the rule giving extra credit in the grade point average to students who took more difficult courses. In all disciplines she wished to add rigor to the curriculum, such as by mandating homework.
In 1985, the Montgomery County Federation of Teachers awarded Dr. Greenblatt its John Dewey Award. This award recognized Dr. Greenblatt’s “courage, integrity, commitment to excel and a real concern for teacher morale and student achievement during her tenure on the Montgomery County Board of Education.” In September 1985, U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett presented his department’s International Youth Year Award to Dr. Greenblatt “in recognition of outstanding character and citizenship.” After she retired from the Board in 1984, President Ronald Reagan appointed her Director of the Presidential Academic Fitness Award Program. She served as Director of that program until she passed away in 1988. At a ceremony at the White House on April 14, 1988, President Reagan honored the PAFA Program and Dr. Greenblatt for her efforts.