‘Great Teachers’ recognized at 8 schools

Teachers in eight schools were surprised with recognitions from the Great Dreams Need Great Teachers campaign during the week of Nov. 27 through Dec. 1.

Andrea Larson was just beginning the morning with her second-grade class at Glenwood Elementary when Chief Schools Officer Rashard Wright entered with a special recognition.

The parent’s email to the Great Dreams Need Great Teachers campaign read, in part: “Mrs. Larson goes beyond the basic classroom teaching and makes learning interesting and fun. My son came home one day really excited to tell me about how Mrs. Larson brought a crock pot from home to do experiments with the class when she was teaching them about the different states of matter. I could see his eyes light up in excitement, and I knew from that point on that she was going to be a teacher who was going to change his view on going to school and a teacher who would make a difference.”

Stephanie Marshall was also surprised in her Glenwood Elementary classroom. Of the third-grade teacher, a parent wrote: “Thanks to her, my son is learning and loving the third grade. I am so thankful to her for keeping my mind at ease every day, knowing that my son is in good hands. I would like to nominate Ms. Marshall for going the extra mile and taking on the job of helping my son reach his full potential. She is truly special.”

Tallwood High Math teacher Nacita Croy welcomed her second block students to class and moments later welcomed visitors there to surprise her with a Great Dreams Need Great Teachers recognition.

The parent of a former student wrote in her email to GreatTeachers@vbschools.com: “Mrs. Croy was the best counselor, teacher and friend my daughter has had ever had. She has gone above and beyond my expectations as a parent. She has helped my daughter learn to believe in herself again, to set goals and believe she was smart enough to reach them. Mrs. Croy sees each student as an individual and she is capable of making them desire to give their very best.”

At Kellam High, one parent praised both Craig Powers, history teacher, and Amee Johnson, physics teacher, for going “above and beyond the call of duty.”  The parent’s email continued: “Their doors are always open for extra help before or after school, and they make learning relevant and fun! They take a personal interest in their students, and they are truly loved in return. As a retired teacher, it does my heart good to hear my daughter come home from school and share the outstanding, creative experiences she has in both of these classes.”

Tom Stahl, fifth-grade teacher at Alanton, made a positive first impression on one parent and she continues to be impressed. She wrote: “First, it is important to know Mr. Stahl has been teaching at Alanton since 1979! That is amazing by itself. However, I was shocked at Open House to meet him; his enthusiasm for teaching was that of someone brand new to the profession. He was so excited talking about what the kids would learn this year. You would have thought it was his first time teaching Virginia history or working with the Lynnhaven River Oyster restoration project, but I am aware he has been teaching about it for years.”

“The most impactful thing for our family has been the awareness of others that Mrs. Piron has demonstrated to the children,” wrote a parent about the work of Stephanie Piron, Trantwood Elementary kindergarten teacher. “She is teaching so many life skills, including empathy and compassion, that can’t be taught on a worksheet or from a book. She is teaching these children to care about others, to care about the environment, to care about the imprint we make on the world.”

For one mother and her son, now a senior in high school, Christine Hayes, has made all the difference. “Because of her investment and the relationship they have, my son feels confident and accomplished,” wrote the parent of the Birdneck Elementary special education teacher. “We are proud and excited that he has emerged from a non-verbal preschooler to a high school graduate this June. She truly has made a difference in our lives. Every time I mention her name, some student or parent raves about the work she does. Birdneck Elementary School and VBCPS are lucky to have her!”

During a surprise presentation in front of all third-grade classes at Birdneck Elementary, PE teacher Josh White, was recognized. “Mr. White is the happiest man I know,” read the letter submitted by a colleague. “He is contagiously happy. He LOVES his job. He LOVES to play and teach kids how to play. He just loves kids in general. Our school has countless tales of goofy Mr. White coming to the rescue. The important thing is he makes the kids laugh and want to come back to school every day no matter what’s happening at home. He is adored by the kids, the staff and the parents.”

Seatack Elementary An Achievable Dream Academy teacher Kimberley Bostick-Spencer returned from the school’s holiday program with her fifth-grade class to find her principal, two colleagues, her husband and three guests waiting in the room to surprise her as part of the Great Dreams Need Great Teachers campaign.

The parent’s letter read: “Mrs. Bostick-Spencer’s love for teaching, dedication to her students and work ethic show in the care and attention she gives to our son. In her class, my stepson is part of his own success; he has a new sense of pride in himself and his work; he is encouraged to do his best and his efforts are rewarded. With Mrs. Bostick-Spencer’s help, we have been able to prove to our stepson he is able to learn, he can and should expect more of and from himself. While he may not realize it yet, she will be the standard to which he measures other educators.”

John B. Dey students and staff participated in Pajama Day Dec. 1, which is why Heather Elman greeted her surprise guests in purple pajamas and a purple bathrobe.

A father wrote in his letter about his son’s former special education teacher: “I am the father of a special needs child who had varying degrees of success and failure throughout elementary school. He struggled with self-esteem, poor behavior and inconsistent grades. This all changed for the better when Heather Elman resumed her work as his IEP teacher. He has continued this momentum and is becoming an honor student at Great Neck Middle School. I cannot believe this is the only student she has impacted. We cannot thank Heather Elman enough and she truly deserves recognition as a ‘SUPER GREAT TEACHER!'”

Thanks to donations from various campaign sponsors, including the Virginia Aquarium, Pinboy’s at the Beach and Baker’s Crust, each teacher received a token of appreciation from the Great Dreams Need Great Teachers campaign.

Visit the Great Dreams Need Great Teachers website to read more positive stories about the division’s teachers.

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