Three of 10 individuals honored with 2019 statewide awards from the Virginia Association for the Gifted are from Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS). This is the most of any school division in the Commonwealth. VBCPS honorees are:
- Sandy Beale-Berry, whose children attend Old Donation School (ODS) and Kempsville High School, was honored as 2019 Parent of the Year;
- Vivian Barber, ODS sixth grade teacher, was named the association’s 2019 Region II Teacher of the Year; and
- Robin Schumaker, VBCPS gifted education coordinator, was selected as the 2019 Leader of the Year.
“I was very humbled because I like to work in the background,” Beale-Berry stated. “I represent all children, not just my own. I didn’t expect it. It was a shock.” This longtime volunteer started in her children’s elementary school classrooms and quickly became involved on Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) of multiple schools. She also volunteers on numerous school subcommittees. Beale-Berry earned a doctorate degree in gifted education and has become a contributing member in the school division’s Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for gifted education, including serving as chairperson for the past two years. She pays her own way to attend state and national conferences to learn more about gifted education. “If you don’t get involved, you don’t know,” she said. “I’m not one of those parents who just makes the squeaky wheel louder. You come with ‘here is a possible solution; here is what I can bring to the table.’ That’s how I got more involved.”
ODS student Dylan Mach described Barber’s math class as engaging and filled with school spirit and good humor. He especially enjoys Barber’s ‘whiteboard problems,’ where students compete in solving math problems as quickly as they can on their own individual dry erase boards. He said this keeps “students more motivated to get the answer correct while strengthening problem-solving skills. She is a great teacher and catalyst for the success of all gifted students.” ODS principal Dr. Kelly Hedrick agreed, emphasizing that Barber “exemplifies all that we hope for in a teacher of the gifted. She does not even realize how amazing it all is to witness.” Outside of the classroom, Barber coaches her school’s MathCounts team, tutors students, mentors new teachers, serves as a team leader and engages parents in supporting students in mathematics.
Schumaker’s contributions to VBCPS have resulted in many improvements for gifted student experiences. She’s been at the forefront of developing innovative, research-based professional learning opportunities, one of which recently was designed by gifted resource teachers (GRTs) and students with the focus of amplifying student voice. She has led significant work with GRTs in developing conceptually-based curriculum to enhance the level of rigor and depth in gifted education curricular areas. Schumaker provides support to elementary, middle and high schools through coaching, feedback and guidance for GRTs and administrators. Colleagues shared that what makes her an exceptional leader is her “sincere love for all gifted students.” They added that whether organizing citywide parent conferences, facilitating professional development sessions or coaching and working with new gifted teachers, Schumaker “never fails to let others know that she is there to unequivocally support their endeavors.”
Honorees will be recognized at the association’s annual conference Oct. 17-19 in Richmond, Virginia.