Students celebrate Pontifex as 2018 VBCPS Citywide Teacher of the Year

The message on Shelton Park Elementary’s marquee Friday, May 5, reminded students, staff and passersby to make today even better than yesterday.

That might be a challenge for fifth-grade teacher Amanda Pontifex. Yesterday was pretty awesome.

On Thursday, May 4, Pontifex was named the 2018 Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) Citywide Teacher of the Year at a dinner the division hosted with the Virginia Beach Education Foundation (VBEF).

In accepting the award, she told dinner guests that her students asked her to do two things if she won. “Their two requests were that I dab, which I will spare you, and that I drop the mic, but I told them it would be mounted to something and I probably wouldn’t be able to do that.”

However, at school the next day, Pontifex and her students could dab, drop the mic and celebrate together which is what made Friday more awesome than the day before for the citywide winner.

“I was talking to my kids and I said, ‘I can’t imagine going to work with all adults,’” said Pontifex in her Teacher of the Year finalist video. “They started laughing and they said, ‘But you do!’ I said, ‘But the ones I get to interact with the most and the ones that bring the most joy are you guys.’ They really enjoyed hearing that.”

They also really enjoyed the May 5 visit to their class by VBCPS Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence. He was joined by Dr. Lesley Hughes, executive director for elementary teaching and learning; Dr. Nicole DeVries, administrator coordinator in the Department of Teaching and Learning; and Frank Malbon, VBEF president.

“We just wanted to make it a little more exciting,” Spence told Pontifex’s students. “We wanted to come over and we wanted to officially recognize your teacher as our 2018 Teacher of the Year. Give her a big round of applause.”

Spence presented Pontifex with an engraved crystal award and a $1,000 check from the Department of Teaching and Learning for classroom supplies.

“And we also brought something for you guys. We brought cookies!” Spence announced, prompting another enthusiastic round of applause.

“We just want to know from you guys. Is she really good?” asked Spence.

“Yes! Definitely!” cheered the students.

“Does she deserve to be the 2018 Citywide Teacher of the Year?” he asked.

“YEEESSS!” shouted the students together.

For Pontifex, celebrating with her students is what made the day so awesome that yesterday got jealous, as the school marquee encouraged.

“[I] feel gracious and thankful for the opportunity to serve, what a great school division, in this capacity,” she said. “It was also really great that my students got to be a part of it also. I’m just thankful for the opportunity to do this and to have this honor and share it with my students and families because they really are the stars of the show.”

In their eyes, however, Pontifex is the bright, shining, smiling star in their lives.

“My favorite thing about my teacher is how encouraging she is and how kind she is when we’re having trouble with something,” said fifth-grader Ariah Smith.

Classmate Carina Phillips agreed. “I think my teacher deserved this award because she is an amazing and encouraging woman and she always helps me.”

The teacher who says she was “born to do this” wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I really can’t imagine doing anything else,” said Pontifex.

View the video below to see more of the classroom celebration at Shelton Park.

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