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Supporting Great Dreams

We want to hear from you. Tell us about the great teachers and staff members who made a difference in your life or in the life of your child and how they have helped support your great dreams. Email us with your story at and we will post them here.

Nancy Robinson is ‘patient, kind and does not give up on her students’

Nancy Robinson

I would love for you to recognize Mrs. Robinson of Corporate Landing Elementary. She was a fifth-grade teacher last year but she is presently teaching kindergarten.

Mrs. Robinson loves her job! It is evident in the way she utilizes every avenue to get her students to learn. She is patient, kind to her students and she does not give up on them.

Mrs. Robinson is the type of educator who will go to any lengths to get her students to learn the material. She utilizes all media for assignments and practice work, and she responds to their online questions at all times, even late at night or on the weekends. She will let us know early on if her students are not rising to their potential. This allows us both to implement strategies for better future outcomes before it affects their final grades.

My daughter excelled in her class and managed to acquire advanced/proficient in the SOLs for science and math, the two subjects Mrs. Robinson taught her. Fifth grade is truly missing one of its greatest educators, but as luck would have it, my 5-year-old is a student in her kindergarten class this year and I am ecstatic.

- Nikki Sharp

Robinson received a Starbucks gift card donated to the campaign by an individual who wished to remain anonymous.

Erika Connolly ‘is the quintessential history teacher’

Erika Connolly

When I was asked to write about a teacher who I think is great, Mrs. Connolly immediately came to mind. The only problem was I could not think of one particular thing I could write about – Mrs. Connolly is the quintessential history teacher.

Every day she seemed energized and motivated to teach. Every question we asked she answered thoroughly, as if it were some in-depth historical analysis. She always made us feel as though our presence was truly wanted and appreciated. She always managed to keep the class extremely informative and fun. She often cracked jokes that always gave the class a good laugh.

Mrs. Connolly is one of the, if not the, best teachers I have ever had at Ocean Lakes High School and I cannot recommend a teacher for a Great Dreams Need Great Teachers recognition more than her.

- Lukas Kowalski-Cook

Connolly received a Starbucks gift card donated to the campaign by an individual who wished to remain anonymous.

Danielle Dow ‘is always positive, motivating and approachable’

Danielle Dow

I would like to recognize Ms. Danielle Dow at Corporate Landing Elementary School. Her first year there she was my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. My daughter is now in fifth grade, and I have been lucky enough that my other two sons have had her as well. My son is currently in her class for the 2017-2018 school year.

Ms. Dow has taken time out of her summer to tutor my child, who was not even in her class at the time. She is always at school functions to support her students and participates in extracurricular activities like Girls on the Run and Gardening Club. She is always positive and motivating toward her students and always approachable.

It is refreshing to see a young woman such as Ms. Dow teaching and being a positive influence in the school. My family is grateful for her, and I have one more child that yet to have Ms. Dow in the upcoming years. We would love to see her get recognized for her hard work, even though I feel she does it because she enjoys it.

- Ramona Weber

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza, Dow received pizza discount coupons.

Helen Dondero gives students ‘confidence, knowledge and love’

Helen Dondero

“Great Teachers,” what does this mean to me? I was 13 years old when math started getting difficult for me. It was like a mental block. I could write a research paper, a creative story, read a 400-page novel, but math – UGH! It just wasn’t my thing. So, my mother did what she thought was best and called a tutor. I never knew calling that tutor would change my life forever.

Helen Dondero was my math tutor from the ages of 13 to 18. She watched me grow from a young girl into a young lady. Within these past years, I have watched her tutor many students and when I say many…countless. At times, she tutored eight students a day. But Helen didn’t just tutor. She became a part of our lives. She got to know the students she tutored. She got to know how each of us learned. We were her students and we were lucky to have her one-on-one attention. She knew my notebooks were neat and tidy, but I could not understand the easiest of geometric equations. She knew the ways to get me to learn. We would laugh, we would cry, we would struggle together. I never felt that I was alone in my difficult math journey. Helen was my teacher after I left school. She would drive me home from tutoring because my mom was unable to. Helen became my friend and my confidant when I didn’t have anyone that I could count on.

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- Lyndsay M. Hamby

Dondero received a Starbucks gift card donated to the campaign by an individual who wished to remain anonymous.

Katrina Roth ‘is a phenomenal teacher who has a kind and beautiful heart’

Katrina Roth

Mrs. Katrina Roth from Rosemont Elementary is by far one of the most caring and most competent teachers I have ever come into contact with. My son was in her first-grade class, which was the inclusion class at the time. During my time volunteering in her classroom I was able to inadvertently observe her teaching and not only did I feel confident in her ability to challenge my son academically, I was beyond impressed with the way she altered her teaching style depending on the student she was working with from moment to moment. Mrs. Roth is a phenomenal teacher who has a kind and beautiful heart. She is dedicated to each and every student she comes into contact with and I have personally seen her dedicate countless hours alongside her principal, Cari Hall, making Rosemont Elementary a school that not only adequately services each of their students but also goes above and beyond to make each student and staff member's lives better by attending this school.

- Jessica Kelly

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza, Roth received pizza discount coupons.

James Reid ‘goes the extra mile’ to prepare students for challenges

James Reid

I would like to recognize Mr. Reid, the band director at Corporate Landing Middle School (CLMS). He is an amazing teacher and an amazing man, and you can tell he really cares about the children under his tutelage. I am a band parent; my daughter plays the flute in the CLMS band. He really goes the extra mile to make sure that his students are well-prepared and ready for any challenge that comes their way (i.e. All-City Band, concerts, marching band functions). I was in marching band myself (Kellam High School, Class of ‘96) and I have never seen a more patient and involved band director in my entire life. He really makes a difference with these students and my daughter idolizes him.

- Alicia Reffett

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza, Reid received pizza discount coupons.

Kindergartner says Whitney Sinnen is ‘doing a fantastic job’

Whitney Sinnen

My granddaughter is in kindergarten at Christopher Farms Elementary School. She comes home every day telling Papa and me that Mrs. Sinnen is doing a great job and that she loves her so much. When asked what is she doing? She simply says, "She's just doing a fantastic job.” There's nothing more I can say about Mrs. Sinnen except, from the mouth of a 5-year-old, that she's doing a great job!

- Virgie Riddick

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza, Sinnen received pizza discount coupons.

Felethia Stacy provides ‘exceptional learning opportunities’ and ‘builds positive relationships’

Felethia Stacy

I would like to take the time to recognize a wonderful teacher who serves the first-grade students at Rosemont Elementary School. Her name is Felethia Stacy and she has made a meaningful difference in the life of my daughter.

Last school year, my daughter was in Ms. Stacy's first-grade classroom. Ms. Stacy not only provided exceptional learning opportunities for my daughter, but also she built a love of learning in my child's heart. She went above and beyond the call of duty to build a positive relationship with my child and helped to nurture and cultivate my daughter's strengths while supporting her areas of needed growth. One example of this was when she spent her personal time to visit with my daughter in her after-school program to play Connect Four. Ms. Stacy made my daughter feel special, helped her build her logistical thinking and deductive reasoning skills, and taught her that teachers are more than people who simply teach lessons in math and reading, but also are role models who provide support and can be depended on for support and guidance. In addition, she offered me the opportunity to come into her classroom to see the great things that were going on as well as participate by being a guest reader and volunteer. My daughter made both academic growth as well as growth as a citizen while working with her teacher. Ms. Stacy created a welcoming environment where my daughter felt safe to express her feelings.

She has continued to stay in constant communication with both my daughter and myself this school year (my daughter has now moved onto second grade), which shows that she has the belief that being an educator is a lifelong commitment. Ms. Stacy will always hold a special place in both my daughter's and my heart, and I am sure she continues to represent the same for the many students whom she works with. When the division says that "Great Dreams Need Great Teachers," Ms. Stacy embodies this vision.

- Laura Silverman

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza, Stacy received pizza discount coupons.

Melissa Calaman ‘encompasses all the qualities of a great teacher and great person’

Melissa Calaman

I believe there are many qualities of a great teacher, such as: their ability to relate to their students, their ability to keep students interested in the work they do, their ability to encourage students become their best selves, and last but not least, their ability to make the classroom and learning material enjoyable. Therefore, I would like to recognize Mrs. Calaman, my astronomy teacher at Landstown High School, as a “Great Teacher” because she encompasses all the qualities of not only a great teacher, but an overall great person.

- KaJay Ernest

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza, Calaman received pizza discount coupons.

Danielle Minehan’s ‘smile is genuine and her good attitude shines’

Danielle Minehan

This year, our daughter has Mrs. Minehan for first grade at Christopher Farms Elementary. When we arrived at Open House we found a very organized and enthusiastic teacher. She put together a lovely classroom. She spends a considerable amount of her personal time on Seesaw posting videos and pictures of the children learning, playing, and interacting with each other (which engages the parents). We are thankful to have this app to keep up with what is going on at school so that we can reinforce good behavior and learning at home.

Mrs. Minehan has a great attitude, not only when parents are around but even when we observe her outside of her room, in the school, interacting with other personnel. Her smile is genuine and her good attitude shines.

Our daughter wrote Mrs. Minehan a letter – unsolicited – that read, “You are the best teacher! I want my friend Maleigha to be in your class next year so you can teach her good things like 3D shapes and vertices.”

Mrs. Minehan has a zeal for her profession and it makes the students enjoy learning and have the desire to attend school. We are grateful that our daughter is in her class.

- Rachel and Bill Brody

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza, Minehan received pizza discount coupons.

Katherine Valet ‘motivates all her students to strive for excellence’

Katherine Valet

I cannot say enough about how wonderful Mrs. Valet is. She is my daughter's kindergarten teacher at Rosemont Elementary School and under her guidance and supervision, my daughter has blossomed academically and socially. Mrs. Valet manages her classroom with a calm hand and I believe she motivates all her students to strive for excellence. She really takes time to get to know each of her students and how they best learn and focuses her methods to ensure a student’s success. She is able to challenge and motivate each student at the level they are at and encourages and celebrates their efforts and successes. Mrs. Valet is a treasure at Rosemont Elementary School.

- R. Myhr

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza, Valet received pizza discount coupons.

Jamie Dallas ‘is warm, inviting and gives so much love’

Jamie Dallas

Ms. Dallas is one of those teachers that makes an instant impression. I first met her a couple weeks before school. I was there with my two kids to drop off some paperwork and we thought to take a stroll and explore the school a bit. Ms. Dallas was decorating her classroom and welcomed us in before I even knew who she was. Coincidentally, she happened to be my daughter’s future teacher, but it made no difference to her. She would have welcomed any parent in with the same open arms regardless if their child was going to be her pupil. Her energy was immediate and almost overwhelming; I thought to myself: This women is the perfect kindergarten teacher. My daughter loved her right away and opened up instantly. Typically she takes a while to warm up to adults. We spoke for about 20 minutes and I walked away feeling 100 percent comfortable with my daughter starting school.

Fast forward several weeks, and my three-year-old son and I headed to Creeds for a parent lunch day with. This was my first time going to the school and I was excited to witness the environment full with students. Ms. Dallas welcomed us, we enjoyed an excellent lunch, and then were invited back to the class for STEM. Well, to say being in a room with 25 five-year-olds is overwhelming is the understatement of the year. After about 20 minutes I was having heart palpitations and sensory overload. Ms. Dallas was interacting with every student, maintaining the same energy level she had when I first met her. It was truly a sight to see – mind you, this was a Friday afternoon as well.

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Dallas received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Hannah Yasemsky ‘is the best gift’ to the Renaissance Academy

Hannah Yasemsky

As rare as they often are, have you ever felt those moments in your life when you feel like you are about to experience something pretty phenomenal? So many came out to experience the eclipse this past summer, but it could be the excitement of something great coming your way, or the feeling (oh, so many years ago) of being a child watching the night sky hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa and his red nosed reindeer. I feel excited and on the brink of something phenomenal because of the presence of one of the new teachers at Renaissance Academy. I’m confident that Great Teachers is not limited to those that have been in the Virginia Beach the longest, but is open to anyone who represents great dreams.

Hannah Yasemsky organized an outing for her Renaissance middle school students to visit the Virginia Wild Horse Rescue. She is also expanding the opportunity to include the “Circle A Home for Horses,” where students become familiar with the lives of horses that have had a really hard time in life because of mistreatment and yet find hope and love again in the company of those who advocate for them. There are many lessons at hand – from horse to student and student to horse.

When she isn’t offering these opportunities, she is incorporating the latest technology with her students to encourage their active student engagement or organizing a Cultural Awareness Day.

Great Dreams Need Great Teachers – no one exemplifies it better. There is no better way to celebrate this season…if I get nothing else, I have the best gift I would ever want– a teacher like Hannah.

- a Renaissance Academy colleague

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza, Yasemsky received a gift card for a free pizza.

Kathy O’Brien shows dedication to her students and passion for her profession

Kathy O’Brien

Mrs. O’Brien was my son’s pre-kindergarten teacher at Arrowhead Elementary. I am so thankful for her. She was simply amazing in the transition from home daycare to a larger school with hundreds more people. Mrs. O’Brien was very attentive to the needs of my son. She listened to him and made him feel safe while he was away from us. When he had to have surgery, she gave us a call to check in on us the same evening and also let the class express their concern via phone while he was out. It’s these details as a parent that mean so much to me. She is such a lifesaver. I could not make a list long enough to give you all the instances that Mrs. O’Brien has made such an impact on our family.

One event that sticks out in my memory the most was closer to the end of the school year. I wish you could have seen the faces of my son and another student in her class when she showed up to their Saturday soccer graduation. Oh, it was priceless! Since leaving her class last summer, Mrs. O’Brien and my son still check in on each other often. If he could be in her class again, I am sure that he wouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity. He still has a picture of the two of them at his student awards ceremony hanging on his wall.

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Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, O’Brien received a gift card for free pizza.

Kathryn Chandler is an ‘understanding, caring, and exceptional’ teacher

Kathryn Chandler

When our kids start school, we as parents always have such hopes for them and their teachers. We all think that are kids are going to excel in school and that we will have a great relationship with their teachers. My son is in third grade now and I finally feel like we have found a great teacher. Mrs. Chandler first impressed me when she called me just to introduce herself and what to expect in her class. I was unable to attend the open houses, so this was a great relief to me to talk with her. I could tell right off the bat that she truly cares. She wants a successful year for her, her students and their parents.

Communication is a must between parents and teachers. Mrs. Chandler makes the effort to keep me informed of not only his behavior during class but also what they are learning each day. I can send her a message and she responds quickly. She is just a quick to tell me the positive things my son has been doing in class.

Being a teacher is one of the hardest, yet most important jobs around. Mrs. Chandler is a breath of fresh air in my experience. She understands what a parent appreciates but she also seems to be able to help my son. For the first time ever he comes home and tells me what he learned today. He seems to be engaged and focused. She is quick to encourage, yet keeps him in line when needed.

In closing, I was beginning to think that we would not find a teacher that was a good fit with my son. However, my prayers were answered this year by Mrs. Chandler. Arrowhead Elementary school is lucky to have a teacher as understanding, caring, and exceptional as Mrs. Chandler.

- Alyssa Young

Chandler received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Flo Heilig helps former student flourish

Flo Heilig

I want to nominate Flo Heilig for a Great Teachers recognition. My son had her as a teacher two years ago and made great strides in her class. She always found ways to help nurture his academic side and avoid the power struggles that many teachers used to have with my son. For example, he has issues with sitting still or in his seat to do his work, so she allowed him to sit under his desk. She didn’t care as long as he learned and didn’t disturb other students. This sort of teaching allowed him to flourish and I saw the relationship he was able to have with her. It’s really awesome and I wish there were more teachers like Flo. Thank you for being an amazing teacher to my son.

- Alisha MacElwee

Heilig received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Jamie Mann and Melanie Butler show compassion and patience

Jamie Mann and Melanie Butler

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize my son’s teachers, Mrs. Mann and Mrs. Butler. I think great teachers process qualities like tolerance and keeping an open mind. They are not in it just for a paycheck but have genuine compassion toward each child and want to see each child do his/her best. I have yet to feel like I was unimportant or my concerns didn’t matter. With each concern, I received a quick response by phone or email. I feel like they are getting to know my son for themselves and they do not expect him to be on the same level as others. They are dealing with him on “his” level because each child is different and learns differently even though they may be the same age or in the same class. My son is a typical fourth-grader with a fourth-grader attitude and behavior; however, I don’t feel he’s being singled out or disciplined any differently. “Patience is a virtue” and it is with great peace thus far that I feel his teachers process such godly characteristics.

- Debbie Parrish

Mann and Butler received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Deena Vinson ‘empowers her students to dream big’

Deena Vinson

Ms. Vinson is my daughter’s fifth-grade teacher at Linkhorn Park Elementary School. I also have two older children who were also students in Ms. Vinson’s class. She is a wonderful role model for children, both academically and as a vibrant active member of her community. Ms. Vinson shares her love of learning and reading with the children so they are infected with her enthusiasm to carry that zest for education along with them as they continue in school. She is motivating and encouraging, yet she keeps things real and honest too. She also has a great sense of humor that the children adore. She is a grounded person who shares tidbits of her life with her students. They all know how she loves her house in Pungo and considers herself a Southern girl. She listens to her students and cares about how they work together in the classroom, frequently encouraging them to try to work out their issues and strive for kindness. When my daughter recently had an episode where she was unkind to another student, she wanted to tell Ms. Vinson about the incident and how she felt about it even though it did not happen in her classroom. This proves to me that Ms. Vinson is someone my child feels comfortable approaching when she is struggling.

It is crucial that children are in a positive, comfortable, motivating environment for their learning. Ms. Vinson empowers her students to dream big, whether it is career options, hobbies, student government, physical activity or summer plans. These are the dreams that lead to future success. It is this open-minded, nonjudgmental positive approach to life that I love Ms. Vinson sharing with my children. They often adopt her silly sayings or Southern accent when they talk about their days at school. Lastly, Ms. Vinson is very well put together. She shows the children how they should present themselves: in a tidy, healthy, positive, keep-it-real kind of way.

- Heather Richardson

Vinson received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Mark Schmidt ‘is a great math and science teacher’

Mark Schmidt

Mr. Schmidt, fifth-grade teacher at Red Mill Elementary School, is a great math and science teacher; however, it’s the non-curriculum things he does that truly make him a great educator. Mr. Schmidt attends recreational league sporting events to support his students as well as band and choral performances. He gives freely of his time and tutors in the morning and also willingly donates his time to the PTA and various school events. He instills old school manners to his students whether it be that girls always line up first or answering questions with a polite “Yes, Sir” or “No, Sir.”

My boys had the good fortune of being in Mr. Schmidt’s class and, as a parent, I appreciated all that he did without bringing attention to himself.

Red Mill is lucky to have him on their fifth-grade team.

- The Hale Family

Schmidt received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Dalton Parker ‘truly cares for my children and has their best interest in mind’

Dalton Parker

Mr. Parker has been so awesome to me throughout my years at Red Mill. He is always kind and caring to every student at Red Mill. I love having him around to talk to and teach me while I am at P.E. When I was in second grade I won third place at my state meet and he died his hair pink for me! That is just one example that shows how much Mr. Parker loves each one of his students. We truly are thankful to have him at Red Mill as one of our fabulous P.E. teachers Thank you, Mr. Parker, for all you do for not only me, but for every student at our school.

- Lily Enlow

Mr. Parker is kind, fun and caring. At recess, when I am sad and sometimes feel I have no one to play with, Mr. Parker is always there to help. He will play with me or find new friends for me. He makes sure I am never sad long.

- Chase Enlow

While I have never met Mr. Parker in person, it is obvious the joy Mr. Parker brings to my children while at school. One of them comes home weekly with a story that involves Mr. Parker. The stories I hear let me know that he truly cares for my children and has their best interest in mind. He makes them happy and is a man of his word to them, which is what children need. I cannot thank him enough for the happiness and security he offers both my children while at school. Thanks, Mr. Parker, for truly caring and helping my children each day!

- Christina Enlow

Parker received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Katie Anderson ‘is a great teacher that I know will continue to change lives’

Katie Anderson

I don’t even know where to begin with this great teacher.

My great teacher is Mrs. Katie Anderson at Ocean Lakes High School. I first met Mrs. Anderson during my freshman year of high school, as I was in her Honors English class. Instantly, I admired her strong teaching methods, welcoming personality and demeanor, and incredible sense of style. During middle school, I unfortunately fell out of love with English, but coming into Mrs. Anderson’s English class, I was lucky to have a teacher so passionate about English and literature that it brought back the wonderful feeling the class used to fill me with. She introduced me to various writing styles and a novel that remains near and dear to my heart. That year of English truly changed my life and made me the person I am today.

From that year forward, Mrs. Anderson became someone I could trust, confide in, and speak to whenever I had questions, grievances, needed advice, or just simply wanted to have a conversation with. The conversations we’d have would extend into various topics, allowing us to speak freely to one another about anything. Every time we spoke, she talked to me as though I was a friend and any information shared, she’d remember every little thing.

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- Blake Smith

Anderson received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Karen Sawyer helps and supports students with their studies

Karen Sawyer

I would like to admire a special teacher at Ocean Lakes High School – Mrs. Sawyer. She has been with my two sons since they have been in that school. She is a really good teacher to them and she helps them with all of their work and helps them improve with their studies. She is a big help to my two sons and will help my rising children who will attend that school.

- Joe C. Iwuamadi

Sawyer received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Courtney Lambert ‘has truly been heaven-sent’

Courtney Lambert

Mrs. Courtney Lambert was my daughter’s second-grade teacher last year. She has truly been heaven-sent! My children and school have not always had the greatest experiences. The struggles at home can be just as great. With one child in a SECEP school, one in residential treatment and one at CLES, there is a lot going on.

My daughter has always struggled with doing homework at home for me. When I brought this to Mrs. Lambert's attention, she immediately came up with a different homework system for my daughter to follow. This made more work for herself but has increased the amount of homework my daughter gets done to almost 100 percent weekly. Mrs. Lambert never hesitated to just come up with a different plan for her.

When I reached out to Mrs. Lambert and told her of some of my struggles, she came back to me with heartfelt words of encouragement and praise to me, and told me I am a blessing to all my kids and she can see the love I had for them. I was happy to hear that someone saw the things I do and, although I often feel like I'm not doing a good job, she assured me I am and then some.

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- Jen Simpson

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Lambert received a free pizza gift card.

Claudia Ockert inspires and encourages student leaders

Claudia Ockert

My teacher’s name is Ms. Ockert. She teaches at Kempsville High School and she is the reason I became interested in leadership. Ms. Ockert was my honors English teacher my sophomore year. I had an amazing year in her class and toward the end of the year, she pushed me to run for a class office. Long story short, I instead just decided to join SCA, which she was an advisor of, and filled out an application to be on the executive board. My junior year was one of the best years of my life leadership-wise. I was involved with so many new programs and I knew that leadership was for me. At the end of my junior year I ran for senior class president and I won.

Now it’s my senior year and any time I need help with anything Ms. Ockert is always there for me with advice or anything else I need. If it wasn’t for Ms. Ockert pushing me to join a leadership group, I wouldn’t have been able to put myself out into the school and accomplish the things I have been able to and will accomplish my last year at Kempsville.

I think that Ms. Ockert deserves this recognition more than any other teacher in Virginia Beach because she’s just that great.

- Amarah Gray

Ockert received a gift certificate to Pulcinella’s Italian Restaurant provided to the campaign by an anonymous donor.

Danielle Coughlin models kindness and respect

Danielle Coughlin

I wanted to recognize a teacher I barely encountered for her kind problem-solving and friendship-making skills. My son is a student at Bayside Elementary and I recently picked him up near the end of the day for a doctor's appointment. As I was waiting for him to come from his classroom I had the pleasure of witnessing Miss Coughlin deal with a situation between two young ladies involving unkind words. She asked both girls to think of something kind to say about the other. Though one girl was angry and unresponsive, Miss Coughlin's voice never raised, the smile remained planted on her face and she used kind and respectful phrases to explain the young ladies consequences for her actions. My son is not in Miss Coughlin's class, and I've only ever said hi to her in passing. But the way she handled the situation with communication and respectful thinking blew me away. Miss Coughlin did not belittle or chastise; she did not present a monologue – she opened a safe circle for the young ladies to work out their issues and express their emotions and thoughts while expanding their spoken vocabulary in communication.

- Tiffanny Hudson

Coughlin received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Kristen Daugherty shows a ‘love for her job and for her students’

Kristen Daugherty

Mrs. Kristen Daugherty is an amazing teacher. She has helped my oldest son with all his issues over the past two years. He has grown through her help and all her teachings to him. He went from struggling in school to loving it and being a helper in class. I know from this program and her help he will totally succeed in kindergarten next year. He is at his best and has a bright future because of her compassion and love for her job and for her students. Mrs. Daugherty is amazing!

- Shireen Peek

Daugherty received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Sonia Lacewell ‘creates a nurturing, fun, loving and learning environment’

Sonia Lacewell

A wonderfully great first-grade teacher at Woodstock Elementary is Sonia Lacewell. She effortlessly recognizes each child’s strengths and weaknesses and adopts lessons accordingly. She allows each child to play to their strengths. She also creates a nurturing, fun and loving learning environment for her class. She recognizes some children within her class may not be able to bring a snack from home, so she provides a snack for each child every day. Mrs. Lacewell also goes out of her way to include parents in the activities occurring in her class. Lastly, every day Mrs. Lacewell shows up to school with a smile on her face and an enthusiastic greeting for her students and their parents. She goes the extra mile to make sure all her kids are taken care of from hugs, to food, to academics. She is truly invested in her kids.

My son was in Mrs. Lacewell’s classroom last year and she was instrumental in getting him on the right path. She recognized where he needed help and implemented accommodations for him without us having to ask. My son absolutely loved going to school every day. Mrs. Lacewell discovered the areas he was gifted in and pushed him in these areas, while also helping him work in areas he was deficient. She also ensured he had accommodations in place for the next year ensuring he and his second-grade teacher would start off on the right foot. My son continues to go to her room every morning to give her a hug before starting his day. I volunteered often in her classroom and saw her use this same approach to each kid in her classroom. Her fluid approach to teaching allowed every child in her class to thrive.

- Charmel Cross

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza, Lacewell received a gift card for free pizza.

Roseanne Jacob ‘is patient, kind and believes in my daughter’

Roseanne Jacob

My daughters go to Woodstock Elementary. My youngest daughter has had a tough time with school. This year, it’s like a switch flipped with her, and I think that her teacher has everything to do with her success. Ms. Jacob has pushed her to do better, be better and try harder. She placed my daughter in the SCA, which has helped her become responsible and more outgoing. Ms. Jacob is patient, she is kind, and most importantly, she believes in my daughter. Now my daughter truly enjoys learning. She has trouble learning to read, and Ms. Jacob is making it fun for her to where she wants to try harder. This year has already been life changing for my sweet 7-year-old, and I owe it all to her teacher.

- Pam Perkins

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Beach Pub, Lacewell received a gift certificate for free breakfast.

Tammie Maury-Huff ‘builds relationships with her students like no other teacher’

Tammie Maury-Huff

Tammie Huff, also known to me and other students as just Mrs. Huff, was one of the first teachers that would truly impact my life in a great way. Although, I never had a chance to attend her class, Mrs. Huff seemed to still find away into my life by becoming my reading and writing tutor. Growing up I was not a strong reader and writer, so my mother hired Mrs. Huff to tutor me because my little brother attended her class and she had seen the improvements he was making throughout the year.

Mrs. Huff first started working with me around the fourth-grade and has been in my life ever since. She instilled reading and writing technique that I still use to this day that I am beyond grateful for. Throughout our ride to success she never gave up on me; she would always tell she believed in me and that I could do anything – I just had to believe in myself.

For that reason my mother hired Mrs. Huff again to help me prepare and improve my SAT test scores from before. My SAT scores where a few points off from meeting the required score for the college I wanted to attend. She worked with me for a month and help me gear myself up for the test and gave me a game plan that would work for me. The work we put in was successful and I reached the score I needed to be accepted into the University of Texas at Austin.

If Mrs. Huff was not in my life I do not know if I would be where I am today. Mrs. Huff is not just a great teacher; she is a great person and builds relationships with her students like no other teacher. She becomes a part of your family – attending graduations, birthdays and going-away parties. You just want Mrs. Huff to be there because she invested so much in you to make sure success was in your grasp. For these reasons, Mrs. Huff is a major key to the success I have had so far in my life.

- Micaiah Harris

Maury-Huff received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Maria Bayse cares about and challenges students

Maria Bayse

Mrs. Bayse is my son’s first-grade teacher. She has communicated about my son’s progress on a consistent basis. She understands his academic needs; she has worked to provide activities to challenge him in the class. My son knows she cares about him as a student. He is always excited about what happens in the classroom. She holds him accountable for his behavior and he knows what the expectations are. As a reward for good behavior, she took time to come to one of his football games. My son was excited to see one of his teachers at his football game.

- Latashia Bates

Bayse received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Luisa Zirkle makes a positive impact with her positive attitude

Luisa Zirkle

Various times my daughter has come home to show me videos of Mrs. Zirkle and her class. She starts off her class by playing music and just being herself – loud and happy. How can this not have a positive impact on a student's life? I would not even be able to sleep through her class with her music playing and her walking around the classroom singing and ensuring she has your undivided attention.

Seeing these videos and hearing my daughter speak about her proves that what Mrs. Zirkle is doing in her class is much more than teaching. She brings a positive attitude and makes it fun. I doubt there is ever a dull moment in the life of a student in her class. She has gained the trust of her students and has made significant impact where students look forward to another day in her class. School does not have to be boring, we need teachers who love their job so much that they go a bit further to show this to their students.

I commend her on her positive attitude and just wanted to take a few minutes to say: Thank you, Mrs. Zirkle, for being so upbeat and fun, and bringing something different and new to the students of Bayside High (HSA). We never know what students are going through at home. You are making a positive impact in their lives.

- Elsie Delgado

Zirkle received a gift certificate to Pulcinella’s Italian Restaurant provided to the campaign by an anonymous donor.

Andrew Harris instills a love of art and art history in students

Andrew Harris

I would like to nominate Mr. Andrew Harris who is an advanced art teacher at Old Donation School as a Great Teacher. My daughter Adeline loves art but she just loves doing art and crafting. She has not historically enjoyed learning about the techniques or history of art. Until this year! Mr. Harris has really motivated Adeline to embrace and enjoy actually learning about art and the processes and history. This is no easy feat and I credit Mr. Harris’ easy way with the students. He engages very naturally and easily and makes it interesting and exciting. She has greatly improved in her techniques and maturity in her content and draws at home to practice new techniques whenever she has free time. Thanks, Mr. Harris, for helping to advance Adeline’s love for art.

- Jennifer Finger

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Pinboy’s at the Beach, Harris received free bowling passes.

Sheldene Martin and Latasha Waters are ‘an outstanding team’

Sheldene Martin Latasha Waters

My son is 4 years old and is in the pre-kindergarten program at Diamond Springs Elementary. Mrs. Martin has kept in contact with me every day on his progress in her classroom. Mrs. Martin has been a Godsend helping me keep his behavior in check. She has implemented behavior rewards, charts and ideas for home. She is a great teacher and sees the good in my son. I would love for her to be recognized because not only is she a great teacher but she goes above and beyond to make sure he is being held accountable. He was not allowed to go on a field trip, but Mrs. Martin and her assistant, Ms. Waters, were thoughtful enough to bring my son back a pumpkin. It shows their love for the children. I am blessed to have a great team helping me with my son. Please surprise Mrs. Martin and her assistant Mrs. Waters for being an outstanding team and dedicated teachers. They are truly AMAZING!

- a Diamond Springs Elementary parent

Thanks to campaign sponsors, Pinboy’s at the Beach and Papa John’s Pizza, Martin and Waters received free bowling passes and free pizza.

Sharon Phillips ‘is the epitome of a wonderful teacher’

Sharon Phillips

Mrs. Phillips was my daughter’s kindergarten teacher when she was labeled developmentally delayed. Mrs. Phillips worked wholeheartedly with my daughter for the whole two years that she was in her class. Before the first year at Diamond Springs Elementary my daughter couldn’t even tell me what she had learned during any school day. Mrs. Phillips knew my daughter could do it, so she pushed her. My daughter began coming home with wonderful stories of what she had learned. Exemplary cannot even define Mrs. Phillips. She stayed on the phone and in meetings with me all in an effort to make my daughter a more effective learner. In 2016 my daughter had what came to be her very last IEP meeting at school. I could not believe the things that they were saying about my child; it literally brought me to tears. Mrs. Phillips is a wonderful teacher with a real heart for what she does. I know my child and I know she can be a handful at times, but Mrs. Phillips never seemed the least bit frustrated. I contribute much of my daughter’s success to the help of Mrs. Phillips. She is the epitome of what a wonderful teacher is. I would like to take the time to appreciate Mrs. Phillips for all her hard work; it shows brightly. The best feeling in the world was when my daughter’s new teacher said she is very smart and she knows a lot. All I could do was silently say: Thank you, Mrs. Phillips for a job well done.

- Denise Parker

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Phillips got a free pizza card.

Ellen Olson ‘had a deep interest in kids and their future’

Ellen Olson

My son studied under her Ellen Olson in first-grade in 2015. In spite of kids’ various levels in a class, she would separate them in various groups based on their ability in different subjects. Then she taught them at their level. When she found that my son was at all different learning level, she trained him individually. She went out of her way to collaborate with other teachers from first grade to put similar abilities together. This kept his first-grade class interesting and challenging. He developed the love to explore, and she nurtured his curiosity by igniting the ideas and letting him research.

Today, students from her class are in third grade and thriving academically due to the strong foundation she built. She definitely making a big difference in our kids’ lives. She has a deep interest in kids and their future. I see my son getting closer to his dreams of becoming scientist one day.

Thank you VB Schools for making all this happen.

- Jinal Kothari

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Phillips got a free pizza card.

Stephanie Johnson ‘is the sweetest, most patient teacher’

Stephanie Johnson

We have a new special education teacher at Thoroughgood Elementary and she’s just the best! Mrs. Johnson is the sweetest, most patient teacher we’ve had yet. I love how she takes her time and stays positive with our son. You can tell she really genuinely cares about her students and tries to go the extra mile. We love her dearly!

- Jennie Arnett

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Phillips got a free pizza card.

Caroline Baraki ‘rocks’ and inspires young learners

Caroline Baraki

My family and I would like to recognize Mrs. Caroline O. Baraki who teaches first-grade at Hermitage Elementary School. My son is currently a second grader at Hermitage and had Mrs. Baraki for first grade. Mrs. Baraki is wonderful with the students she has and still, to this day, she holds a special place in my family’s life. She was a great advocate of reading nightly and taking trips to the library on the weekends to learn even more. She kept great communication with all of her students’ parents by sending out a weekly email to keep us updated on what the students were currently working on and would be doing in the upcoming week. She helped so much with getting my child where he needed to be and on the right level that by the end of the year, he looked forward to going to the library and different bookstores. She has been a wonderful teacher overall. I am so thankful that our paths happened to cross and we will never forget the impact she had in our life. Mrs. Baraki rocks and truly deserves to be recognized as a valuable asset to Hermitage Elementary School.

- Nadia Mile

I would like to nominate Caroline Baraki - 1st grade teacher at Hermitage Elementary. I have been collaborating with Caroline Baraki as my Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow seniors visit her class to teach her students. It is amazing to watch her interact with her students in a manner that is calm and respectful. Her students love her and her lessons inspire them! She seeks out new methods of teaching and is always attending conferences to enhance her skills. She speaks of her students as if they are her own kids. Her teaching is to be commended and her dedication to perfection should be known. I hope you will recognize her as the awesome teacher she is!

- Camilla Walck

Thanks to campaign sponsor, the Virginia Aquarium, Baraki got a free admission ticket.

Tracy Taylor shows ‘hard work, dedication and joy’

Tracy Taylor

I am writing to you to tell you about the most amazing teacher I have ever met, Tracy Taylor. My son was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in March 2003. In December of that same year he was diagnosed with cancer. He was only 4 years old and it was an extremely scary time. He started school in the fall of 2004 at Woodstock Elementary and his kindergarten teacher was Mrs. Taylor. As you can imagine, this was very difficult to send him into school not knowing what his outcome would be.

Upon our first meeting with Mrs. Taylor I realized that my son was in good hands. She was kind, loving, informative and firm all at the same time. There was never a day that I worried that he wouldn't get a hug if he were sad or a break if he were tired. She was a mother also and knew what it was like to send your child to school to be taught by someone other than yourself. She allowed me to be as involved as I wanted and to volunteer and help when needed. I never missed out on an experience with my son, which is what scared me the most – not having those memories to hold onto.

My son is a senior this year and a straight-A student with dual enrollment at high school and the ATC. I'm happy to say he is in remission and doing fabulously. He has had many teachers over the years. To this day, no one has ever shown the hard work, dedication and joy I have seen from Mrs. Taylor's teaching. She is truly one-of-a-kind. I heard she is at Bayside Elementary teaching pre-kindergarten. How lucky are those parents and they don't even know it yet? I want to let everyone know what a difference she made to my and my son's experience and life. Thank you, Mrs. Taylor. You will always be in our thoughts and hearts.

- Michelle Wickman

Taylor received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Andrew Cronin ‘makes students feel like they are his family’

Andrew Cronin

Mr. Cronin is very considerate of everybody’s learning. He is always nice and never embarrasses students by yelling at them in front of their classmates. He is very prompt for all classes and makes his students feel like they are his family.

- TJ Turner

Cronin received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Kathleen Trace ‘played a huge role in shaping our daughter’s gifts’

Kathleen Trace

Ms. Trace is one of the most creative, invested teachers we have experienced. When our daughter began at Salem High School as a junior, she had great concern about fitting in. Being part of journalism with Ms. Trace was a beautiful lifeline. Ms. Trace welcomed, embraced, challenged and pulled out the best in our daughter. She helped her tap into her gifts with great confidence and own and strengthen her voice.

I love that Ms. Trace is such a blend of head and heart. She makes her students work hard and think critically but she does so with great love for and belief in them. She is a true 21st century teacher, encouraging technology and a flexible learning environment. She has played a huge role in shaping our daughter’s gifts and plans for the future.

- Brook Chalfant

Trace received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

David Brown ‘is a visionary for student achievement’

David Brown

David Brown is an amazing teacher at the Technical and Career Education Center. He is a visionary for student achievement. He calculates methodically what a student needs and then formulates a plan to ensure each student succeeds. He is never afraid of a challenge and goes wherever he is needed within the school. He is truly an amazing, caring, educator.

- A VBCPS colleague

Brown received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Student says ‘the world needs more teachers like Natalie Pernites’

Natalie Pernites

I had Mrs. Pernites, who was Ms. Massey at the time, for English when I was in eighth grade at Kempsville Middle School. Mrs. Pernites was not only my English teacher, but my soccer coach at Kempsville as well. Although it was one of her very first years of teaching, you wouldn't know it unless she told you. She led the classroom with a confidence and enthusiasm that many veteran teachers strive for throughout their careers. She was a natural.

I am still very close with Mrs. Pernites today, in fact she just wrote a letter of recommendation for me to her alma mater, Longwood University, last month. This is the type of dedication and support she shows her students. Mrs. Pernites is willing to learn and grow alongside us because she knows, even as a teacher, there are still new things to be discovered. She gave me so much confidence by believing in me and showing me my potential even when I couldn't see it myself.

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- Samantha Sherman

Pernites received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Ray Obispo works ‘to ensure his students well-being and success’

Ray Obispo

Mr. Obispo is one of the most interesting and influential people I've ever had the privilege of having as a teacher. He was my history teacher last year, my junior year, and is currently my sociology teacher. I met with my guidance counselor to find ways of making new friends and getting involved at Salem. She showed me a list of all the clubs and organizations that Salem offered and there was one on the list that stuck out to me: Maelstrom. I had no idea what it was and neither did my counselor, but it listed Mr. Obispo as the sponsor, so I went and talked to him about it. He explained to me that Maelstrom was an under-the-radar club that sponsors open mics and creates a literature and art magazine every year. I started going to Maelstrom meetings and because of Mr. Obispo's encouragement, I decided that this club was a group that I could fit into and belong to. If Mr. Obispo hadn't introduced me to such an amazing organization, I would not have become Editor-in-Chief of Maelstrom this year.

Not only did Mr. Obispo get me involved in a club where I felt important and accepted, he taught me history in a way that I had never been taught before. He is has a very holistic and worldly view on life, which makes him an amazing teacher. He relates current events, one of his favorite topics, to the past and preaches about how everything is connected. Although his way of teaching might be unconventional, it allows students to learn more than solely what’s written in a textbook. At the end of the year, I was presented with the outstanding history award for juniors and had the highest history SOL score in my class.

Mr. Obispo deserves to be recognized as a great teacher because he is one. He sponsors two clubs and teaches both U.S. history and sociology. He has a lot of responsibilities as a teacher and somehow manages to put his students first. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Obispo and all the behind-the-scenes work he does to ensure his students well-being and success.

- Rachel George

Obispo received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Maggie Wilson ‘works endlessly to help her students achieve’

Maggie Wilson

I am an AVID tutor for many of the Virginia Beach high schools. I have worked with many teachers and while all of them have been good, there is one that I would consider great: Mrs. Maggie Wilson. She is the AVID and Public Speaking teacher at Salem High and she is one that I believe should be recognized. The children who learn from her love her and admire her, and working alongside her for a few years, I have to say, I do, too. She is stern with her students, but not the way any adult would be with kids. She does it with a great amount of affection and dedication. With every piece of information she bestows onto her classes, she molds it in every way possible to get all of the students to truly understand the material and connect with it through their daily lives.

I have been told by several students how favored she is among them and that without her constant drive and push for them to reach farther and do a little more, they would not have made it as far as they have. She works endlessly to help her students achieve what they didn’t think they could before.

I believe Mrs. Maggie Wilson to be a GREAT teacher.

- Erica Grinnell

Wilson received pizza discounts and coupons from campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza.

Mark Mugler ‘always makes his classes fun’

Mark Mugler

Mr. Mugler has always been and always will be my favorite teacher. He incorporates fun stuff into learning causing me to really enjoy his class. Having an A in his class was easy, especially when he taught so well. After having him in seventh grade, my sister continued to have him in sixth grade and loves him just as much as I do. He talks about stuff we like and always makes his classes fun!

- Hanna Williams

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza, Mugler received free pizza coupons.

Katherine Peot is ‘very professional and passionate’

Katherine Peot

Ms. Peot at Windsor Oaks Elementary is my son’s first-grade teacher. She has been great helping my son build his self-confidence. He loves going to school every day and is excited to learn with her. I am active in ClassDojo where I have sent her a few messages. She replies the same day, which shows her level of professionalism and respect for her students' parents. She is very professional and passionate towards the children and seems to really love her job. I’m sure being a teacher in an integrated classroom can be very difficult as there are many children with varying educational and behavioral needs. I have volunteered in her classroom and seen how she interacts with the children with different abilities. She is patient and very observant with all of the children and has amazing skills/tools to keep the children on task and engaged. It is great to watch her help the children learn how to do the right thing for themselves and the classroom. I am looking forward to interacting with her and the students more often this year.

- Kelly DeMarchena

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza, Peot received a gift care for a free large pizza.

Richard Rigg fosters love of music and confidence

Richard Rigg

I've had two sons go through Virginia Beach Middle School and my Great Teacher is Mr. Rigg, the music teacher. In the last four years he has gone out of his way to inspire my sons to play music – often times meeting them before or after school, and often requiring more from them than they want to give. I feel Mr. Rigg has been going above and beyond his job title for the four years I have known him.

My son is in high school and does have two amazing teachers, but I feel that if Mr. Rigg didn't give his 150 percent when my son was in middle school, he would not have the love of music and the confidence he has now.

- Tammy Rowan

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza, Rigg received free pizza coupons.

Hannah Hopper teaches with ‘a soft voice and new ideas’

Hannah Hopper

I would like to bring light to a first-year teacher at Malibu Elementary School. From day one, Ms. Hopper’s communication skills have been 100 percent. My child, though not special needs, needs a little bit more attention in the classroom than most, and she has been a refreshing experience. She has always communicated very well what's going on in the classroom to further help me.

Also, she will take one-on-one time if needed in the classroom so that the student can get the same experience out of the lesson as other students who may not need as much guidance.

All of that combined with a soft voice and new ideas, Ms. Hopper has been an excellent addition to Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

- Katharine Fite

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Hopper received a free pizza card.

Parent wants to thank Kimberly Silva a million times

Kimberly Silva

I would like to thank Ms. Silva for her time and her efforts with my child. She is really such a great teacher – the best I have ever met. Any time I need her help, she answers me right away. I would say to her: “Thank you! Thank you!” a million times.

- Karima Harakat

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Silva received a free pizza card.

Nicole Bemis ‘is truly an example to follow’

Nicole Bemis

Nicole Bemis is an absolutely incredible teacher. She is everything we could have ever wanted for our two boys. We have been blessed to have her for both of our sons. First for our oldest when she taught second grade. Our middle son has her this year for first grade and it just keeps getting better.

Mrs. Bemis has the perfect combination of fresh ideas, the ability to communicate creatively to teach the curriculum, and, most importantly, a true love for her students as though they are her family. Nicole believes in letting the kids move about the space, lay down on the carpet for reading, and fostering creative teamwork amongst students. She has also embraced technology in the classroom as another wonderful tool to connect with students. Finally, Mrs. Bemis' communication with parents is stellar. She is only a ClassDojo message away and responds even during off-hours or weekends.

If anyone deserves credit and praise, it's Nicole Bemis. She is the kind of teacher that makes us so proud to call Kingston "home" for our children. She is truly an example to follow. Both of our kids say she is "the best teacher they will ever have!!”

- Troy Hedspeth

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Bemis received a free pizza card.

Julie Kelley ‘is responsive and connected’

Julie Kelley

I have the great privilege of having my child attend Kingston Elementary School. My son has the further great fortune of being assigned to the classroom of Julie Kelley for second grade. Mrs. Kelley is a standout teacher for a couple of reasons that are already very apparent to me. Not that my child has had a ton of teachers as only a second-grader, but as a graduate school graduate and alumnae of this very same elementary school, I think I can speak from experience about a variety of teachers I have witnessed, observed and from whom I have learned.

Mrs. Kelley is responsive and connected. Each weekend she outlines the objectives of the week and what the kids will learn in science, math, language, reading, etc., as well as their learning milestones and objectives. Kingston is a digital initiative school and she keeps us connected through messages, notifications, emails and postings on Class Dojo. I appreciate less paper and direct contact that does not depend on an elementary school messenger and his or her backpack of “treasures.”

She sends home notes that are personal to the child and offer praise but more importantly, targeted points of improvement, and she pushes them. Gently, but she pushes them. Even the advanced and gifted kids are pushed to do the best of their potential and not to “coast.” I appreciate that as early as second grade. It offers great life lessons and college and post-college grad school preparation in a competitive global workforce.

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- Lisa Hudson Kim

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Kelley received a free pizza card.

Elizabeth Clark ‘is kind and caring to all her students’

Elizabeth Clark

Mrs. Clark is a Great Teacher! This is my daughter’s first year in a public school as she’s only ever attended small private schools. Mrs. Clark has helped to make my daughter’s transition into public school a pleasant experience.

Mrs. Clark is kind and caring to all her students. I remember even during orientation hearing many parents say how Mrs. Clark was their favorite teacher at Linkhorn Park Elementary School. We had a parent/teacher conference and my heart was touched by how well my daughter and her teacher have bonded and connected. My daughter loves her teacher so much so she made sure we were able to get her gifts for her birthday! During the conference I was moved to hear Mrs. Clark talk about my daughter’s potential for reaching her future dreams and how she would help in any way she can to make sure my daughter is always learning and challenging herself to do better.

I truly believe Mrs. Clark goes above and beyond in all her efforts and this is why I say she is A GREAT TEACHER! Thank you so much for making public school a wonderful experience!

- Tania Fontanez

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Clark received a free pizza card.

Robert Wilson ‘creates a wonderful learning environment for his students’

Robert Wilson

Mr. Wilson, music/chorus teacher at Independence Middle School, creates a wonderful learning environment for his students. He is an engaged, dedicated and talented educator. He has challenged my daughter to do more without exerting pressure that is unbearable. She has developed her singing voice, performance skills and talent as a result of his leadership and mentoring.

Mr. Wilson is an asset to IMS and the entire Virginia Beach Public City Schools system and is deserving of this recognition.

- Mona Lisa Lysinger

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Wilson received a free pizza gift card.

Carly Ciarochi is ‘trusting, kind, fair and she cares’

Carly Ciarochi

Mrs. Ciarochi’s love for her students and willingness to go above and beyond her roles and responsibilities are what all teachers should strive for. Mrs. Ciarochi will e-mail parents after hours to let them know that their students are bright and intuitive. She gives credit for hard work and recognizes that children are individuals. She teaches to their strengths, promoting a positive classroom environment and respect. Mrs. Ciarochi has approximately 150 students and takes time to get to know each of their learning styles so that she can ensure the success of her students. Mrs. Ciarochi is a breath of fresh air in the middle school environment. She is trusting, she is kind, she is fair and she cares. She spends countless “off duty” hours to ensure that each child’s success and academic goals are met. She deserves recognition just as she recognizes her students.

- Carrie McClellan

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Ciarochi received a free pizza gift card.

Brooke Graham ‘cultivates and nurtures’ students’ interests

Brooke Graham

My son was in Mrs. Graham’s first-grade class last year and she is just amazing. She is so patient with the kids and always found a way to communicate positively about my child even on days when he needed to maybe behave a little bit better. She nurtured and cultivated my son’s specific interests, particularly in math and science. My son loves nature and taking care of the environment, and she encouraged this passion in him by equipping him with a bag to pick up trash and naming him the ‘trash manager’ when they would go outside. He was so excited to clean up around the school grounds because of Mrs. Graham’s encouragement and enthusiasm for his interests.

She does an amazing job of using technology resources to communicate with parents. Last year, the area of Virginia Beach we live in experienced a few scary tornadoes. One happened during a school day at arrival time. She took the time to take pictures of the kids and share via the Remind app with parents that kids were fine. That meant the world to me as a mom. If my son left home in any kind of bad mood or I knew he may have a bad day, I could use that app to alert her and she was always able to respond and assure me that he was OK (and take the time to check in with him).

My son loved her class so much that he was probably one of the few kids who was disappointed when school was canceled for snow last year. She is a true gift to teaching and VBCPS.

- Alison Leclaire

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Graham received a free pizza gift card.

Marica Mills is an ‘inspiration with her kindness and generous spirit’

Marica Mills

I know Ms. Mills because we both work at Kohl's on weekends. My son with special needs just so happens to go to Parkway Elementary where she teaches. On many occasions she has made herself available to help me and my son. Ms. Mills is a dedicated teacher and only elementary step team instructor for Virginia Beach elementary schools. Ms. Mills proffers and conducts charitable events with her school and Kohl's Cares, raising money for the school and the step team. Along with that, she will go all the way in the effort she puts forth with her students, helping them achieve their individual potential. She is a cancer survivor and truly an inspiration with her kindness and generous spirit.

- Adam Deever

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Mills received a free pizza gift card.

Janice Grover ‘sees all the potential with each and every child’

Janice Grover

My son was in Mrs. Grover's special education class for three years. She was absolutely amazing with him. She pushed and supported him just right to get him out of his shell and flourish into an amazing scholar! I might add that when she first got him he was nonverbal, but she didn't let that discourage her at all. He never got a report card from public school due to his "classification,” but he managed to get 3.8 GPA in his first quarter and every quarter thereafter in his new private school. This is thanks to Mrs. Grover and her excellent instruction for three of his formative years. She is a gifted teacher that teaches for the love of teaching and it shows.

- Ruth Abraham, D.D.S.

If it wasn't for Janice Grover at Providence Elementary School, my grandson would not be the man he is today. She is a very gifted teacher who loves teaching and who pushes and sees all the potential with each and every child in her classroom. She devotes herself to just them. When my grandson was first in her class, which he was in for several years because of autism, we had our first meeting and she asked me if I would like to have him succeed. She did exactly that. My grandson left her class on a SOL track for the following years and is still on it at Salem Middle School with a 3.7 GPA. She is an asset to Virginia Beach City Public Schools. I, for one, and many other parents are so grateful for the role she played in the lives of our children. I can't thank her enough for being a part of their lives and the difference she made in theirs and ours.

- Ruth Abraham, D.D.S.

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Grover received a free pizza gift card.

John Conway ‘encourages students to do and be their best’

John Conway

Mr. Conway at Providence Elementary school is an excellent teacher! He was my son Elijah’s third-grade teacher last year. Being new to Providence and public school was a big transition for my son. He’s an active, talkative boy who’s in the gifted program. Mr. Conway was very understanding and is the most patient teacher ever! He not only taught scholarly values to his students but also exhibited them.

My son said that Mr. Conway never yelled or raised his voice when students were off task; he just patiently redirected students to get back on task. He thought of creative ways to teach and motivate students. Mr. Conway gave Elijah a small squishy toy, “Mr. Strawberry,” when Eli moved his hands a lot during classwork. Eli looked forward to playing with “Mr. Strawberry” and eventually didn’t need him anymore. Mr. Conway always encouraged students to do and be their best. He was positive and could relate as a parent and teacher.

My son Elijah looks up to Mr. Conway and we think he’s an excellent teacher and couldn’t have been happier that Elijah was in his class.

- Deidre Harmon

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Conway received a free pizza gift card.

Erika Tortorice and Romy Bailey create ‘a great kindergarten experience’

Erika Tortorice and Romy Bailey

The teacher I would like to thank is Mrs. Tortorice, kindergarten teacher at Rosemont Elementary School. She had my twins last year in her class. She has done an amazing job preparing them for first grade. She let them explore who they were.

The reading that they have accomplished is outstanding. My son has learned to look at pictures to help with his reading and storytelling. My daughter has learned to count by 5s, 10s, and 20s. On picture day, my daughter’s hair had fallen apart and Mrs. Tortorice helped her fix her hair. I thought that was the sweetest thing. She took pictures of all the moments in class and field trips, and put them on Seesaw for the parents to feel connected. She corrected my son when he was wrong and I thank her for that. When I couldn’t make it to class events and my family would go in place of me, she welcomed them with the Rosemont spirit. She made every child in that room feel like they were future leaders, inventors and explorers.

I can’t forget Ms. Bailey; she is the glue that holds it together. Ms. Bailey made sure that the children were kind and used manners to each other. She made sure they stayed on task. She is such an amazing helper to have.

Ms. Tortorice and Ms. Bailey are truly awesome at making a child and parent feel like their children are in great hands. My children still to this day talk about those two and all the fun times and things they learned in room 9. I say thank you for all you two have done for a great kindergarten experience.

- Mrs. Costen

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Conway received a free pizza gift card.

Pamela Knecht is ‘an extremely special, one-of-a-kind teacher’

Pamela Knecht

When I remarried in 2015 it meant that my two boys and I had to move from Frederick County to Virginia Beach. It meant that my two boys would have to leave the only friends they had ever had, the only schools and staff they had ever attended and worked with, and all their grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. We were leaving our school community, one in which I was a very active volunteer and employee. The people we were leaving knew and loved my boys immensely.

It also meant that my youngest, who had just completed the second grade, would have to start his brand new IEP in a completely different school system. Knowing that we were moving, the special education team in Frederick County took extra care when writing the IEP to include detailed test data and much more background information.

I was still worried; I trusted the team at our old school. I knew they truly had my son’s best interest at heart. They had known him since birth and knew exactly what his struggles were, plus he trusted them. How would he do in a new school, not knowing any of the staff or teachers? Would he get the help that he really needed?

I found a home in New Castle’s attendance zone and my son was assigned to a third-grade teacher by the name of Pamela Knecht. She was new to New Castle Elementary but not to Virginia Beach City Public Schools. At open house she told us that she had been a gifted teacher, which worried me. Was she going to expect my son to be able to do things he couldn’t? Wow, was I wrong to be worried!

Pamela Knecht was not only the BEST teacher for Matthew, but a GREAT teacher for the entire class. Her genuine concern and care of each student in her class was amazing. She made sure she knew how each student learned, what worked for each individual student and then pushed them just enough to help them develop self-confidence but without frustration. They excelled!

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- Michelle McKinstry

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Knecht received a free pizza gift card.

Lavoreen McPherson ‘takes the prize’ as a phenomenal teacher

Lavoreen McPherson

My son has had some phenomenal teachers over the years, but Ms. McPherson at Brandon Middle school takes the prize. She had him as a student two years ago and still to this day, she checks on him regularly to make sure he is doing well and to lend her assistance. My son started this year as a freshman at Tallwood High School and she called him the day before school started to wish him a good school year. She always checks in on him from time to time to see how he is doing and to make sure he is OK. Ms. McPherson goes above the call of duty and I truly appreciate her. She is the epitome of a great teacher!

- Audra Jeffries

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Stewart received a free pizza gift card.

Nancy Stewart encourages student ‘to strive for success’

Nancy Stewart

I would like to recognize Ms. Nancy Stewart. She teaches seventh-grade English at Larkspur Middle School. My son was not successful on the SOL in fifth and sixth grade. Because of this, he could only take Core English. After the first grading period of seventh grade, he expressed to me that he wanted to be in Advanced English. He knew with hard work he would succeed. I spoke to Ms. Stewart and she agreed. My son was placed in Advanced English and his grades excelled from there. The last concern was him passing the SOL. Ms. Stewart assigned many IXLs lessons for the class to complete. At first the IXLs were very challenging for him, but with guidance and encouragement from Ms. Stewart, he continued to strive for success.

What I appreciated the most is the talk Ms. Stewart had with my son about the high expectations of him passing the SOL – that it will not only impact him but is also very important to the school. The SOL is not an individual success but a team success. My son felt the pressure but was more than willing to give his best. After taking the SOL, he felt confident that he passed it. The next day he was more than proud to hear that it was true. The excitement! The joy! Not only did he make Ms. Stewart proud but also the school. He came home full of JOY! "Mom, I did it!"

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- Ms. Cynthia, "Proud Mom"

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Stewart received a free pizza gift card.

‘Nice and funny’ Mark Lents is student’s favorite teacher

Mark Lents

Mr. Lents is my son's favorite teacher. He talks about him every day and tells me the stories he uses to teach the kids science. My son loves his class and says Mr. Lents is very nice, funny and shares how much he is learning through Mr. Lents' excellent teaching.

- Melissa Julian

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Stewart received a free pizza gift card.

Debra Vickery teaches students ‘to grow, fail, learn from failing and always keep learning’

Debra Vickery

Both of my daughters are lucky enough to get weekly instruction from Mrs. Vickery, the gifted resource teacher at Christopher Farms Elementary School. They look forward to her lessons and they say, "When she teaches us, it is fun.”

I spent a little time with her during the first couple weeks of school when she did an introductions with the parents, and it is clear that she is INCREDIBLY PASSIONATE, not only about the children but also about teaching them to grow, fail, learn from failing and to always keep learning.

I feel very fortunate that my girls get the opportunity to engage with her and her passion for learning.

- Launa McMillen

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Stewart received a free pizza gift card.

Brianna Wille encourages students with warm, welcoming environment

Brianna Wille

I would love to recognize Mrs. Wille of Rosemont Forest Elementary School. My twins are in her class and were moved to Rosemont Forest this year. She is wonderful at communicating with me about their needs as well as their accomplishments. My boys love going to school every day and tell me they feel like a part of the class this year. This is due to Mrs. Wille making them feel important, including them, as well as encouraging them to be a part of discussions. I am confident that with Mrs. Wille as their teacher this year, they will grow tremendously with their social skills.

She is a wonderful teacher who encourages students to participate by making a warm, welcoming environment for her class. She makes it easy for parents to communicate with her and talk with her about any concerns we may have. I can only hope that through the years my children have teachers as wonderful as her.

Thank you for recognizing our great teachers!

- Bonnie Timms

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Citrus, Wille received a gift certificate to the restaurant.

Judith Raja Sekar ‘is nothing less than amazing’

Judith Raja Sekar

We brought our kids in the middle of first grade to White Oaks Elementary. We were having trouble with one of our twins and a teacher in a private school, and there was no option to try another teacher at that school. We were being told that our child needed testing for ADHD, but as a nurse and as somebody who came from a family with ADHD in it, I wasn’t seeing the same issues at home. I was super nervous about the switch.

After about of week of having both of my boys in her class, I saw a difference in their demeanor and attitudes toward school. Mrs. Raja Sekar stayed after class to meet with us and tell us how everything was going. She also let us know they were behind one grade level in pretty much every subject, but she assured us she wasn’t worried and they would be OK. And they were more than OK.

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- Elizabeth “Bibi” Jackson

Thanks to campaign sponsor, the Virginia Aquarium, Raja Sekar received a free admission ticket.

Jillian Anderson is why students are excited to go to school

Jillian Anderson

Mrs. Anderson is my son’s kindergarten teacher at White Oaks Elementary School. She is the reason why my son is always excited to go to school.

- Letbatho Idibouo

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Beach Pub, Anderson received a gift certificate for two free breakfast specials.

Margie Belan eases family’s burdens with generous acts of kindness

Margie Belan

We were evicted from our apartment because of nonpayment. My job was so slow and I couldn't pay. My family and I did not have a place to stay one night and we slept in the car. But the next day, Mrs. Belan called me and accommodated us in a hotel for a week and gave us three Visa gift cards for food or any expense my family had. My wife, my son, my daughter and I are very thankful for what she did for us at a very bad time. God bless her husband and her family. We are very, very thankful.

- A Centerville parent

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Papa John’s Pizza, Belan received a gift card for free pizza.

Randy Resek is “a thoughtful, caring and strengths-based teacher”

Randy Resek

My son has had some great teachers but his fourth-grade teacher, Mr. Resek, at Centerville Elementary stands out. Mr. Resek was a thoughtful, caring and strengths-based teacher and my son thrived in his classroom. My son has always been a good student — good grades and citizenship — but my son gave great reports at home about how much he enjoyed Mr. Resek’s fun and engaging style of teaching. I very much appreciated Mr. Resek’s rapport with my son and with myself, as a parent. My son began to truly stand out as a leader during his fourth-grade year.

My favorite Mr. Resek story is that upon learning that two of his students, my son and another classmate, were facing off in a championship Virginia Beach recreation basketball league game, he told the boys he'd try and stop by and watch them play that evening. And he did! He stayed for a few moments on our team’s "side” of the court and then headed over to spend some time on the other team's "side." Both boys were excited and proud to have their teacher come out to see them play, and I was beyond impressed that my son had a teacher who was not only teaching him what he needed to know to conquer fourth-grade but who was also modeling what it means to be a person of your word outside the classroom.

Bravo, Mr Resek! #greatteachers

- Sharhonda Woods

Resek received a gift certificate to Pulcinella’s Italian Restaurant provided to the campaign by an anonymous donor.

Heather Elman ‘blends compassion with accountability’

Heather Elman

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.

Saying “changed for the better” is truly an understatement. Everyone noticed – teachers, students, parents, administration and friends. She is amazing and was able to blend compassion with accountability. He found new confidence in what he was capable of which resulted in improved grades and self-esteem. To the surprise of everyone, her work with my son culminated with him singing the National Anthem, by himself and at the request of Mrs. Bianchi, during the John B. Dey groundbreaking ceremony.

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”!

- Glen Trematore

Thanks to campaign sponsor, the Virginia Aquarium, Elman received free admission tickets.

Kimberley Bostick-Spencer gives student ‘a new sense of pride in his work’

Kimberley Bostick-Spencer

My stepson is a student at Seatack Elementary in Mrs. Bostick-Spencer's fifth-grade class. This summer he relocated from Georgia to Virginia. The last school he attended, in several ways, was not a good fit for him. Even with an IEP in place, he struggled with reading, writing and math skills. We, as his parents, knew having a learning disability does not mean he is unable to learn or be taught. We desperately needed someone with the right kind of patience.

When speaking with Mrs. Bostick-Spencer, my husband and I expressed our concerns, possible barriers to his success, his academic habits and our hopes for this school year and his educational growth overall. We asked to be updated and kept in the loop with any concerns. From the first meeting my husband had with Mrs. Bostick-Spencer to every single encounter we have had since, she has been such a gift to our family. She has listened to our concerns, given us feedback and suggestions and offered advice based on how she has come to know our son and what works for his learning style. She has also opened the door for our suggestions and feedback. Since signing up for Class Dojo, we have written at 9:30 p.m., 7:00 a.m. and all hours in between, and get a prompt reply, even on weekends. If it matters to us, it matters to her.

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- Marquia Gale Murray

Bostick-Spencer received a gift certificate to Pulcinella’s Italian Restaurant provided to the campaign by an anonymous donor.

Christine Hayes’ ‘hard work and dedication’ prepares senior for graduation

Christine Hayes

I would like to bring to your attention the hard work and dedication of an elementary teacher named Christine K. Hayes at Birdneck Elementary School. She certainly deserves recognition. She has worked with my autistic son for nine years as his personal tutor. She never looked at the clock; she worked until he got it. She planned exceptional lessons for him and has worked her magic every Sunday for nearly a decade to help him meet his benchmarks. His teachers over the years have mentioned the great strategies that she has taught him and how he used them during class.

He is now a senior at Landstown High School and thanks to her expertise as an inclusion teacher, she has strengthened his skills in math, reading and writing every year. He has met his last SOL requirement for graduation because of the extra time she put into preparing him. Because of her investment and the relationship they have, my son feels confident and accomplished.

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!

- Tina Carter Garfield

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Baker’s Crust, Hayes received a free pizza gift card.

Josh White is a positive mentor who is ‘adored by kids, staff and parents’

Josh White

We have a VERY big school and Birdneck is a Title I school. Our babies need love and a positive male role model, and we are low on male staff like all schools. We do, however, have a pretty special P.E. teacher who goes way above and beyond his job title.

Mr. White is the happiest man I know. He is contagiously happy. He LOVES his job. He LOVES to play and teach kids how to play. He just loves kids in general. So, he is the person the kids gravitate to if there’s a problem. Or, if they want a special lunch with someone. Or, if they need help. In fact, Mr. White is ALWAYS called on. He gives up his lunches as rewards or to council kids ALL the time. But beyond that, he is called in on field trips if they really need an extra male mentor, and he stays after school to fix things personally for kids on his own time. I could go on forever.

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- Robyn Hofheimer

Thanks to campaign sponsor, the Virginia Aquarium, White received free admission tickets.

Stephanie Piron teaches empathy and compassion

Stephanie Piron

Kindergarten is a difficult transition for most children. New school, new people, new routine. Our first two weeks were rough, as our 5-year-old transitioned from a small faith-based preschool to Trantwood Elementary. Mrs. Piron was warm and inviting. She encouraged our son to feel comfortable and made me feel more comfortable as well. Our child had never really “liked” going to school. He always fussed about going, said he was bored, the day was too long. We anticipated the same reaction to kindergarten. However, class with Mrs. Piron is so different! He loves school and races to the bus stop every morning. He comes home each day excited to tell us about his activities and explain how he “stretched his brain.”

The most impactful thing for our family has been the awareness of others that Mrs. Piron has demonstrated to the children. 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.

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- Stacy Wells

Thanks to campaign sponsor, the Virginia Aquarium, Piron received free admission tickets.

Tom Stahl “is all that is right about the teaching profession”

Tom Stahl

I want to bring your attention to Tom Stahl, fifth-grade teacher at Alanton Elementary. 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.

Alanton recently started using Chromebooks and you would think he has always taught with them. No doubt he has had recreate lessons utilizing Google classroom and it is not worksheets online; there are video clips and detailed presentations that clearly took a lot of time and thought. I recently volunteered when the kids went to measure the oysters for the Lynnhaven River oyster project and it was clear he was having a wonderful time, engaging the students in math, science and writing lessons as they observed science in action.

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- Parent of an Alanton fifth-grader

Stahl received a gift certificate to Pulcinella’s Italian Restaurant provided to the campaign by an anonymous donor.

Craig Powers and Amee Johnson “make learning relevant and fun”

Craig Powers Amee Johnson

Our daughter is a junior at Kellam High School. While she has had GREAT teachers every year, Craig Powers and Amee Johnson are two teachers this year who go above and beyond the call of duty. 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. She speaks so highly of her teachers in general, but Mr. Powers and Ms. Johnson are truly special and stand out from the pack. Kellam High School is the best and the entire staff are to be commended for the excellent job they are doing.

- Susan Landry

Thanks to campaign sponsors, the Virginia Aquarium and Pinboy’s at the Beach, Johnson received a free admission ticket to the aquarium and Powers received passes for free bowling games.

Andrea Larson “makes learning interesting and fun”

Andrea Larson

My son is in Mrs. Larson’s second-grade class this year. I am so thankful that he has Mrs. Larson as a teacher because he gets off the school bus smiling every day! That may not seem like a lot, but last year was a very rough year for him. I really considered taking him out of public school and either homeschooling him or putting him in a private school this year, but I decided to give public school one more year. I am so glad I did!

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.

Thank you Mrs. Larson, for making school interesting and challenging for my son again. I appreciate all that you do!

- Cora Kasse

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Pinboy’s at the Beach, Larson received passes for free bowling games.

Nacita Croy helps students believe in themselves and set goals

Nacita Croy

I am sure you are getting numerous heartwarming stories of accounts by parents related to how Mrs. Croy has helped their child in some form. 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. She fights for them; I have never seen her give up on any student. She has an energy you can’t get from everyday sleep; it comes from a personal desire and need to help others.

Mrs. Croy has been one of the most important people my daughter will ever meet in her life. I will forever be grateful for her service and dedication.

- Pamela Smith

Thanks to campaign sponsor, the Virginia Aquarium, Croy received a free admission ticket.

Stephanie Marshall is a “patient, nurturing and hardworking teacher”

Stephanie Marshall

My son is a third-grade student at Glenwood Elementary School. His teacher’s name is Ms. Marshall. She is absolutely amazing. My son was born deaf and received cochlear implants at the age of 2. These have now enabled him to hear and allowed him to be a part of a mainstream classroom; although, he would not be successful without the patience and help from an awesome teacher. He requires an FM system, a special mic to be worn by his teacher, and extra assistance to make sure that his system is always working properly. As if being a teacher to 29 children wasn’t hectic enough already, she is always sure that my son is able to hear and be a part of his class. It takes an extremely patient, nurturing and hardworking teacher.

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 and that all of his equipment is working smoothly. 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.

- Shannon Flynn

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Pinboy’s at the Beach, Marshall received passes for free bowling games.

Anne Flavin’s students know she loves and cares about them

Anne Flavin

Mrs. Flavin has been a great teacher in my life because she has always loved me. She has always cared about me and she was always nice. She helped me a lot to actually know how to get better at reading and she told me to read every day so you can get smarter, and now I’m smarter because I was reading every day.

- GeKobe Bell, second-grade student

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Beach Cinema Alehouse, Flavin received free movie passes.

Stephan Currence provides ‘unwavering support’

Stephan Currence

I am writing to let you know about a teacher that I feel makes an impact on children daily. It’s not an extreme case, nothing remarkable – just a typical teenager struggling with his studies and the unwavering support and warm approachability of this teacher to help change this child’s direction.

My son has ADD. We requested a meeting to look at possible supports for my son in all of his classes. Mr. Currence was engaged during the meeting and treated Jeff like he really cared about what was happening while still holding him accountable for his grades and his responsibilities to them. He offered up his own planning class time to help in any subject, and during his class later that day, he reinforced his support and reminded my son he would see him the next morning to help during this special time.

Later that evening as I was going to sleep I received a ding on my phone and it was an email from Mr. Currence. He wanted to touch base about my son after the meeting and was happy to report that he was more engaged during class and positive about what he had to do. He again expressed his support and offered to speak with me about any questions or concerns, and let me know he would be in touch about my son’s progress.

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- Aimee Greco, parent

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Beach Cinema Alehouse, Currence received free movie passes.

Logan Berns ‘loves his job and his first-graders’

Logan Berns

My daughter came to W.T. Cooke Elementary from a homeschool environment a little late in the year. She was welcomed to the school by Mr. Berns. He has had such a positive impact on her.

He communicates with parents daily through the Class Dojo app. Even beyond school hours he has been available to address my concerns. I've attended a couple school field trips with my daughter's class and I've seen his gentle way of dealing with apprehensive students. Mr. Berns accompanies his lessons with real-life experiences. My daughter frequently tells me of his stories, which give her examples of how to make good choices in her life.

We are so blessed that she was able to connect with such a kind-hearted, resourceful and gregarious teacher. This was especially helpful during her transition from one-on-one, parent-instructed learning. We want to thank him for all of his efforts at Cooke. I know when she is away she is in great hands. I can see that Mr. Berns loves his job and his first-graders!

Thanks for making a difference Mr. B!

- Kristen Aymer, parent

Thanks to campaign sponsor, the Virginia Aquarium, Berns received a free admission ticket.

For Jill Belch, ‘teaching is not just an occupation, it’s her passion’

Jill Belch

We would like to acknowledge Mrs. Belch as a Great Teacher as a family! Our son is in her class this year and the week prior to school starting his grandfather passed away, whom he was very close to. We did inform her at the orientation but did not divulge how close they were or how hard it was impacting our son.

Mrs. Belch sought us out for a meeting within first three weeks of school to find what she could do to help him engage more and be more attentive. She was concerned as to why he was putting his head down during learning. While meeting with her we were comforted just knowing she really cared about our son. She truly wanted to know what was going on with this sweet child in which she sees tremendous potential. She mentioned that, for his age and being one of the youngest second-graders, he has a lot of profound thoughts and great ideas, can solve problems well, but gets very frustrated when others won’t listen to his ideas and shuts down or gives up.

We explained the closeness of our son and his grandpa and told her he was really sad, missing him daily. She immediately took action. She asked if she should have him talk to the counselor so he can express his feelings when he’s sad or upset. She said she could ask him if, if she saw him drifting off, if he needed some personal time to regroup or see if he wanted to see the counselor. She asked what we are doing at home that helps him through those moments of sadness.

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Thanks to campaign sponsor, Beach Cinema Alehouse, Belch received free movie passes.

Chiquita Tucker works together with parents for student success

Chiquita Tucker

Wow, where do I start when it comes to an amazing teacher? I was born and raised with a retired educator, and I understand the hard work and extra hours that go into being a great teacher. However, Ms. Chiquita Tucker goes above and beyond when it comes to teaching.

Throughout my son’s history, I have yet to find a teacher with her compassion and dedication to her students. I have received phone calls early in the morning and at night because my son was missing an assignment or to determine a new way of making him advance to the next level in his education. I have received e-mails if he is having a bad day to inquire if anything was happening outside of school that might affect his behavior. We have had countless conversations on how we can work together for the success of my son to ensure he has the skills needed to move forward in life. She is not just correcting papers and teaching in the class, but she is involved in their extracurricular activities as well (ensuring they are not only well educated, but have the proper social skills to succeed as well). She is interacting with the parents, coming in before school to offer additional tutoring and assistance as well as staying after. She takes her position home at night and reaches out to family to ensure she is doing right by our children and ensuring the success of our kids.

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- Angela Sears, parent

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Beach Cinema Alehouse, Tucker received free movie passes.

Dione McTyre helps students embrace strengths

Dione McTyre

My son attended Brookwood Elementary from kindergarten through fifth grade. There is one teacher that truly, truly captured both my son’s and my heart.

I can remember going to have lunch with my son and I would see her walking around the lunchroom and offering hugs and smiles to the other students. Every time I saw her she was engaged with the students and I could tell that they just loved her. I remember hoping that my son would be lucky enough to have her one day.

The summer before fourth grade, I checked the mail and inside there was a postcard welcoming my son to fourth grade and introducing his teacher for the upcoming year. I saw the name Mrs. Dione McTyre. I wasn't sure of her name, so immediately I ran to my son's room and thumbed through the yearbook to find her. To my surprise it was that loving teacher that I had hoped for! I told my son that he was going to be so lucky that year and he truly was lucky. We as a family were lucky.

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- Amanda Pearson, parent

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Pinboy’s at the Beach, McTyre received passes for free bowling games.

Leah Cuthbertson is ‘responsive, patient and kind’

Leah Cuthbertson

I have been so impressed with all of the teachers at Landstown Elementary. The support my daughter and I have received has been so amazing. These kids spend a lot of time with their teachers at school and it is so important to have that support in and out of the classroom.

Meeting Mrs. Cuthbertson, we had no idea what to expect. Fourth grade was a big deal for my daughter and she was nervous about it. Her third-grade teacher, Mrs. Haberdash, really set the tone for the gifted program at Landstown. On opening night before school started Mrs. Cuthbertson met us with a warm and welcoming greeting. My daughter was excited to get the school year going.

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- Brittany Diaz, parent

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Pinboy’s at the Beach, Cuthbertson received passes for free bowling games.

Melissa Bruckner ‘is a gift’ and fosters a love of learning

Melissa Bruckner

I am writing to recommend Mrs. Melissa Bruckner at Princess Anne Elementary School as a Great Teacher. She is a kindergarten teacher who strives for the very highest standards by modeling them for the children with her very awesome assistant Staci Neumann.

My little boy has always loved to learn and, as a stay at home mom, I try to give him as many opportunities to indulge that as possible. He is my first child and entered kindergarten this year. We came to the school for EDK testing during the summer and were greeted by Mrs. Bruckner. I knew she was special from the start. She put my boy at ease and he did his best for her on that screening, so I was thrilled to learn she would be his teacher when the card came in the mail.

When school started I suspect that I had all the rookie mom questions, which were numerous, but she has been gracious and attentive to all of my concerns. She has responded to every email in very timely fashion, and even put aside time to meet with me to address concerns when necessary. She is completely professional, kind, and reassuring not only from her tone, but from her results. From day one my child has bounced to school looking forward to every single new day. He gets off of the bus as if it was the best day ever every day. He tells me what he has learned and his love for school has trumped his past interests.

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- Jenny Davis

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Virginia Aquarium, Bruckner received a free admission ticket.

Mary Malone-Brown ‘is so very involved in every child’s learning path’

>Mary Malone-Brown

Mrs. Malone-Brown, a first-grade teacher at Princess Anne Elementary, has been a game changer for my son and our family!

My son’s kindergarten year had been very difficult for him, which makes it difficult for parents as well. He felt very overwhelmed and insecure in his abilities to read and write. On Open House night for first grade, Mrs. Malone-Brown came right up to Lukas and welcomed him to her class with a big smile of excitement! She showed him around the room and introduced him to all the exciting things they would be doing on the first day of school. On our way out Mrs. Malone-Brown thanked us for stopping in and gave us some papers to fill out. As we got home I opened up the folder and saw a really important sheet of paper. It was a front and back sheet of questions about my son. She wanted to understand my child. She wanted to know his strengths, his weaknesses, his favorite color, favorite hobbies and more. But what really stuck out was the question, “What do I need to know about your child to help them succeed this year?” I began to write and tell her all of the challenges my son had last year and how he really needed encouragement, reassurance and positive reinforcement.

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- Josh, Jennifer, Lukas and Liv Young

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Pinboy’s at the Beach, Brown received passes for free bowling games.

Jennifer Rohr ‘keeps learning fun’

Jennifer Rohr

My son is a first-grader at Strawbridge Elementary School. I can honestly say ALL of his teachers are beyond GREAT. We are a military family and my son has moved every year for the first five years of his life. He attended four different schools before we settled here in Virginia Beach last year. He began kindergarten at Strawbridge and I have been amazed by the love, support and positiveness that emanates from all staff.

Ms. Rohr, his current teacher, is amazing. She not only is able to teach at my son’s level for him, she is able to keep learning fun. She is so kind and patient with all the students. She goes out of her way to make sure the students enjoy the activities and maintain enjoying school. Ms. Rohr allows my son, who is very particular and sensitive, to simply be him. She helps meet the needs of all the students while making each one feel special and like an individual. Additionally, Ms. Rohr is willing to adapt new methods into her classroom. For example, she is aware of the importance of students maintaining flexible seating and she has transformed her classroom into many tables with different types of seating options for the students. I am a physical therapist by profession, and I am so impressed at how progressive Ms. Rohr is at adapting her classroom for what is best for the current students. My son comes home telling me I should get the chairs he uses in school for home use because “kids work better when they are moving and my chairs at school allow me to keep moving.”

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- Michelle Menashi

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Beach Cinema Alehouse, Rohr received free movie passes.

Wednesdays are student’s favorite day because of Leslie Wildman

Leslie Wildman

Mrs. Wildman is the gifted resource teacher at Strawbridge Elementary. She works with the students weekly and helps make their process of learning and creating so much fun. She encourages thinking outside the box and is always willing to believe in a child’s vision. She has been very supportive to my son and his process. He has stated for the past two years that Wednesdays are his favorite day because Mrs. Wildman goes to his class on Wednesdays.

My son always comes home from school and tells his younger brother the project he performed with Mrs. Wildman for that day, and then he recreates the project with his 4-year-old brother. It is amazing to watch. One week, after reading a book, “The Z was Zapped,” my son came home and retold myself and my younger son the story. By dinner time, the two had created drawings on the wall with each paper representing a different letter of the alphabet and depicting the story that was told that morning with Mrs. Wildman. Only they did not retell the story, they created their own sayings for each letter of the alphabet. I also had to buy the book that was read to show my younger son. Now, Mrs. Wildman not only impacted and taught my first-grader, but she is impacting my 4 year old as well.

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- Michelle Menashi

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Pinboy’s at the Beach, Wildman received passes for free bowling games.

Mary Letson builds relationships and love of music

Mary Letson

Ms. Letson was my son's chorus teacher last year and because he enjoyed it so much, he signed up again for this school year. He has had a rough nine months. He found out during the middle of All City Chorus tryouts last year that I was in the hospital. I spent a month in the hospital to find out it was a very rare form of cancer, a sarcoma in my chest, that would be sending me to Boston for most of my treatments. Ms. Letson checked in with my son every day and offered her room as a space where he could come to feel safe and do work he may not have finished in class or at home during lunch and first bell. She also called to check in on me occasionally. When we tried to get our son to try some other electives this year, just for the experience, he got upset and said music was his outlet for his feelings and he feels good performing onstage. This year he continues to rave about Ms. Letson's kindness and ability to bring out emotion and music in him that he didn't know he was capable of. I'm a true believer that relationships matter in education (and all areas of life) and Ms. Letson has an amazing relationship with all of her students, especially my son who needs that extra set of eyes and ears right now as we continue to struggle through treatments. When my son goes to his room to sing I know I have Ms. Letson to thank for that outlet and for that love of music.
- Korrina Duprey

My son has had an amazing teacher for the last three years. Mary Letson has always helped my son and our family with anything we have ever needed. She has taken an exceptional interest in my child's development. I don't think I could ever repay her for the love, time and commitment that she has given. As a parent, I could not ever ask for a more exceptional teacher. She recognizes what these children have to offer and she challenges them and she actually teaches them. My son has learned a lifetime of lessons from her. On a more personal level, she has taken it upon herself to know about my family and how my job takes me away from home often. She keeps in touch with me while I am gone and helps my son out where he needs it such as bringing him specific shirts to wear because mom was not home to be able to get him certain things he might need for certain performances, etc. She also has helped to map out his direction in the coming years to further his education. These are not necessarily things you would expect from a teacher, but these are just a few things that she does on an everyday basis. I could go on and on about her and all that she does but in a few short words, Mary Letson is an amazing teacher and woman and should receive the highest of accolades for all that she does for our children. I will never be able to thank her enough!
- Tamara Bailey-Gatling

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Beach Cinema Alehouse, Letson received free movie passes.

Kristin Martinolich and Jennifer Pendleton ‘truly want the best’ for their students

Kristin Martinolich and Jennifer Pendleton

My son is in Mrs. Martinolich's seventh-grade math class at Corporate Landing Middle School. I wanted to recognize Mrs. Martinolich and Mrs. Pendleton for all amazing things they do for my son. My son works really hard every day and struggles to keep up sometimes. Math has always been a hard subject for him and he needs a lot of help to understand math. Both of these teachers have gone out of their way to stay after school with him and help him one-on-one as well as take the time to teach me what they are doing so I can help him at home. I don't know a lot of teachers who take the time to not only teach great students all day but then take the time to teach a parent as well. My son is really hard on himself when he gets a bad grade in something especially if he's studied really hard. Both of the teachers make sure he's OK and cheer him up and every time. They love all their students and you can see they truly want the best for them. I have never had two teachers work so hard to help my son since he's been in school. I truly believe they deserve to be recognized and honored for how amazing they are. Any student would be lucky to have them as teachers.
- Nancy Bryant

Thanks to campaign sponsors, Martinolich and Pendleton received free movie passes from Beach Cinema Alehouse and passes for free bowling from Pinboy’s at the Beach.

Jacqueline Davis is a ‘motivator, encourager, confidant’

Jacqueline Davis

Mrs. Jacqueline Davis has stood by and pushed my son since he first got to Princess Anne High School. She's always reached out to me whether it was good news or his lack of good judgment. Mrs. Davis has built such a great rapport with him that not only does he want me to be proud of him but he also wants Mrs. Davis to be proud of him. So far, his senior year has been a success, and he is able to balance out his part-time job. Last year when he wasn't doing well in school, she made it a point to reach out to me and seek approval to stay after school to help him at least three times a week. She promised me that we would get him out of high school and on to bigger and better things, and so far, she has not only kept her word but she has exceeded well beyond what a teacher does by showing her care and concern for his well-being. I can tell she actually loves her job. For that, I love her and if I were able to give Mrs. Davis the world for her support and love for my son, I would ensure that she wouldn't have to worry about a thing ever again. Mrs. Davis looked beyond the young comedic classroom nuisance that my son can sometimes be and saw the potential that I see in him. If there was a cash prize for this recognition she deserves it all. Mrs. Davis is that woman, teacher, supporter, motivator, encourager, confidant and leader. She is everything that a teacher stands for.

- DaiToya Miles

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Beach Cinema Alehouse, Davis received free movie passes.

Tim Dishaw helps students excel in math and more

Tim Dishaw

My son is currently in the eighth grade and throughout his school career he has struggled with his courses. This year has been different. He has a teacher that sees the best in him and I believe he is excelling because of this teacher. The only teacher who has ever called home after hours to give positive feedback about my son was Mr. Tim Dishaw, "Mr. D". After the phone call with glowing comments about my son’s behavior and grades, my son shared with me that Mr. D is awesome. He said that Mr. D did not like school when he was a kid so he makes the class fun to learn. I can tell you that after just a few minutes on the phone with him I could tell he was a fun and energetic teacher, the kind I would want to have in a class! Our teachers do so much every day beyond their scope of duties, after hours and for little pay. They should all be recognized for their determination to help mold the minds of young individuals. Mr. Dishaw stands out to me after having four children in Virginia Beach City Public Schools.
- Kathy Vargas

My son has always struggled with math. To say he hated math class on every level would be a true and accurate statement. He’s now in eighth grade and his math teacher is Mr. Dishaw. My son is coming home happy. He has good grades in math. He even goes to school an hour early just to go into Mr. Dishaw‘s class to get extra help. He is not forced to do this, he asks me to take him. My son tells me that Mr. Dishaw teaches integrity and honor by many methods within his class. This is an added bonus for any parent! He makes class fun and still expects and encourages hard work. I’ve never seen my boy so inspired and encouraged about something he’s hated for most of his life.
- Beth Davis

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Pinboy’s at the Beach, Dishaw received passes for free bowling games.

Amanda Townsend “goes above and beyond” for her students

Amanda Townsend

I would like to commend Mrs. Amanda Townsend, for being an excellent and dedicated teacher. But we have seen more than the excellence as our son's classroom teacher; she has regularly gone above and beyond for her students. Mrs. Townsend has been our son’s English and social studies teacher since he entered Kempsville Middle as a sixth-grader in a special education classroom. Our son has Down syndrome. The first sign of Mrs. Townsend’s extraordinary dedication was when we discovered from his fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Grover at Providence Elementary, that Mrs. Townsend had visited her to learn about Caleb; what he liked, how he learned best and what worked for him in the classroom. We saw her at fundraisers/casholas outside of the school setting with the same enthusiasm and welcoming spirit that she generously gives in the classroom. Last year, when he wanted to try out for the school track team, a special education assistant was assigned to help him handle the tryout process. When a special education assistant was not available one particular day of tryouts, Mrs. Townsend stepped up and helped him that day. We have learned that these instances of extraordinary and selfless acts of service are not unusual for Mrs. Townsend. She has a heart for students and their families, while raising her own family. We know that there are many talented, dedicated teachers in this school system, and we have been blessed by one that is truly an inspiration to the profession – Mrs. Amanda Townsend.

- Steve & Denise Schmitter

I would like to recognize Mrs. Amanda Townsend at Kempsville Middle School for her exceptional performance and over-and-above service. Mrs. Townsend is my granddaughter’s special education lead teacher. It has been a blessing having her there with my granddaughter these last few years. She not only has helped her to achieve her goals set by her IEP but also has become a special friend to her. She will often talk about ‘Mrs. TaTaTa’ at the end of the day. Mrs. Townsend is always updating us on our granddaughter’s day, whether good or bad. She a lucky young girl to have Mrs. Townsend in her corner. It is nice to feel so comfortable having our granddaughter there with her. She really gets her and knows her better than any teacher she has encountered so far in Virginia Beach City Public Schools. I cannot say enough how blessed we are to have our granddaughter with Mrs. Townsend at Kempsville Middle School.
- Lou (PopPop) Caretta

Thanks to campaign sponsor, Pinboy’s at the Beach, Townsend received passes for free bowling games.

Deb Fuge provides ‘comfort and relief’ for new military family

Deb Fuge

We have been fortunate enough to get Mrs. Fuge as my son’s first-grade teacher. She has been such a positive influence for my son, allowing him to flourish in the classroom. My husband is a Naval Flight Officer in the Navy. Like many military families in our position, we have lived in three states in three years. My 7-year-old son, Mason, has attended four schools in three years which is a feat of its own. Mason has a rare genetic disease which has complicated his young life and has caused him to have heart surgery and long stays in hospitals throughout the United States. We have encountered many special people who have contributed to Mason’s success, but there is something about Mrs. Fuge that has provided a sense of comfort that we haven’t had in three years.

Due to Mason’s expansive medical history, he is weary around adults and feels uncomfortable when his dad and I aren’t around to comfort him. He has a tendency to “shut down” when he is feeling vulnerable which has made it challenging at times for some of his teacher in his past. My husband and I were nervous to send him into another new school district and explain to Mrs. Fuge how to deal with Mason and his situation. I went to meet Mrs. Fuge a couple of days prior to the beginning of school in order to introduce ourselves. We left with some paperwork to fill out and bring back on the first day of school. This is when I knew Mrs. Fuge was going to be the perfect fit.

We have been fortunate enough to get Mrs. Fuge as my son’s first-grade teacher. She has been such a positive influence for my son, allowing him to flourish in the classroom. My husband is a Naval Flight Officer in the Navy. Like many military families in our position, we have lived in three states in three years. My 7-year-old son, Mason, has attended four schools in three years which is a feat of its own. Mason has a rare genetic disease which has complicated his young life and has caused him to have heart surgery and long stays in hospitals throughout the United States. We have encountered many special people who have contributed to Mason’s success, but there is something about Mrs. Fuge that has provided a sense of comfort that we haven’t had in three years.

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- Danielle Gussie

Thanks to our campaign sponsor, Beach Cinema Alehouse, Fuge received free movie passes.

Capt. Timothy Richardt encourages cadets to reach full potential

Timothy Richardt

Captain Richardt is a Naval Science teacher for NJROTC at First Colonial High School who goes over and above every day to make sure that his students or taken care of and don't feel like they ever have to worry. This is my son’s second year in the program. We enjoy working with Captain. Captain is known to show up at 5 a.m. to run PT and sometimes he does not leave the school until 7 or 8 p.m. because some of the cadets don't have the best home life and they like to stay after school. He plans field trips on the weekends to places like the Naval Academy to foster a passion for post-secondary education and a respect for our military and our country. You'll always find him encouraging students to reach their fullest potential. This man never does anything half way. He spends most weekends at NJROTC events and/or at NJROTC educational opportunities that he can bring back to school and report on to the cadets. I've witnessed him coordinate efforts to assist a cadet whose family lost their home in Hurricane Matthew. I've seen him give money and food to cadets whose families who don't have enough around the holidays, even if it means it’s coming out of his own pocket. He's a teacher who should be honored because he spends all of his time giving to others and building the future of these cadets.

- A First Colonial High School parent

Thanks to our campaign sponsor, Beach Cinema Alehouse, Richardt received free movie passes.

Amy Siverd inspires love of reading in students

Amy Siverd

When we went to meet my son’s first-grade teacher at North Landing Elementary School, I was very nervous. I knew Jake was behind in reading and, at times, he can be a bit of a handful. As soon as we met Amy Siverd, I felt confident it was going to be a great year. Mrs. Siverd has helped Jake go from a reluctant, struggling reader, to a boy who loves to read. Jake is reading above grade level now, which is a great accomplishment. But, as Jake’s parents, the moment we truly realized the impact Mrs. Siverd has had on Jake was on his birthday. We asked Jake what he was most proud of from his sixth year and he replied without hesitation, “My reading.”

Mrs. Siverd has built a relationship with Jake and all of her students. When you enter her classroom, you can feel the family and community that she has created with her students. We believe it is because of this relationship that Jake has been so successful and will continue to love learning and school.

- Katie Niehoff

Thanks to our campaign sponsor, Beach Cinema Alehouse, Siverd received free movie passes.

Kelly Singer 'pushes all her kids to their full potential'

Kelly Singer

Landstown High School's great teacher is Mrs. Singer. She is the gifted resource teacher here at Landstown but she holds so many more titles in our heart. She is a mentor, English teacher, avid teacher, virtual Virginia online mentor, guider, helper, enthusiast, and most certainly a ray of sunshine. She is a jack of all trades. Day in and day out she continuously brightens my day whenever I step into her room with her words of encouragement and bright smile. She carries a vibe with her that is so vibrant and makes the school day that much more enjoyable. She genuinely cares about the wellbeing of all her kids and it shows in everything she does for us whether she's required to do it or not. There truly isn't anything I cannot go to her for, which is a great characteristic to have in a school of high school young adults. She'll praise your success with you and uplift you during your downs. She pushes all her kids to their full potential even if they don't see it yet and she never gives up on what she knows they can do. Mrs. Singer loves us like her own and for that we truly appreciate her. For all these reasons, Mrs. Singer is truly my GREAT teacher.

-Destini Perry

Thanks to our sponsor, AutoBell, Singer received a free car wash and cleaning.

School Year 2016-2017

Lacy Ryerson 'makes learning FUN'

Lacy Ryerson

In the beginning of the school year, Mrs. Ryerson sent home a personal bio about herself. Upon reading it, I had no doubt in my mind that she was the right teacher for my child. Emma loves school and looks forward to attending every day. I've never seen my daughter so enthusiastic about school or her teacher. Mrs. Ryerson brings life to the classroom and makes learning FUN. She demonstrates a unique level of compassion and understands that all kids are different. Some have good days and some have bad days. She demonstrates an outstanding quality in communicating with parents daily. The school year is coming to an end and both Emma and I are a little sad. If only Mrs. Ryerson could teach fifth grade next year.

- Teresa H. Coker



Thanks to our campaign sponsor, Ocean Breeze Waterpark, Ryerson received a free 2017 season pass.


Students 'can always count on' Denise Rapp

Denise Rapp

Mrs. Rapp has been teaching for 30+ years and she's just been amazing! She loves to teach and you can see and feel how much love she has for what she does! Since she has been teaching for as long as she has, she has had the pleasure to teach children of former students. Each morning I witness all her former students coming to her for hugs and not only does she give them a hug, she tells them to have a great day. Her past students know they can always count on her. She has helped my daughter grow and become a stronger reader. She comes in early every single day to get her lessons ready and to make sure she has everything ready for the kids to come in and learn. She also stays late almost every day. When she's not teaching at Rosemont Forest Elementary School she's teaching kids at her church. She's been a blessing to my family and so many others!

- Colette Benko


Thanks to our campaign sponsor, iFly, Rapp received a free pass for iFly flights.



Allison Krebs 'is a great teacher'

Allison Krebs

Who I think is a great teacher is Mrs. Krebs, one of my many favorite teachers that I had when I when I went to Lynnhaven Middle. I remember it was my birthday and, not only did the whole class work on what we had to do, we also celebrated with some hot chocolate. She also helped me keep my binder organized. I used one binder for all my classes and it occasionally ended up with papers in the wrong spot or papers fell out if they weren’t placed in there right. Mrs. Krebs is a great teacher!

- Amy Sawyer

Thanks to our campaign sponsor, iFLY, Krebs received a free pass for iFLY flights.



Sarah Sykes instills growth mindset in students

Sarah Sykes

I am a fifth-grade student in Mrs. Sykes' class at Landstown Elementary School. Mrs. Sykes teaches us A LOT! She loves her kids (aka her students). She has a growth mindset. I love her. I feel like she should be the Teacher of the Year, even though I'm not allowed to vote. She says if we put our mind to it, we can do anything! Because of her, I know I can reach my dreams.

- Joshua Miller

Thanks to our sponsor, Beach Movie Bistro, Sykes received two free movie passes.



Rachel Lugo 'wants every student to achieve excellence'


Rachel Lugo, third-grade teacher at Lynnhaven Elementary School, is a great teacher.

She keeps the parents involved, communicates with us frequently, and she is serious about the kids learning. She doesn't let her students slack and I believe she wants each and every student to achieve excellence.

I must admit, I get excited when I get a message from Ms. Lugo in ClassDojo, which means the students are learning something new, and I have an idea of what to inquire about when my child comes home from school. I feel a lot closer to my child and I know that if there is a subject or piece of homework that my child and I cannot get through at home, Ms. Lugo is there to assist and explain what she is looking for and provide tips on how to get through it at home.

This third-grade teacher is fantastic.

- Theresa Carpenter

Thanks to our campaign sponsor, iFly, Lugo received free passes for iFly flights.

Hunter Dunlo’s attitude is ‘Pawsitively Positive’

Hunter Dunlo

In a district filled with amazing educators and from a middle school busting at the seams with terrific teachers, I'd like to highlight yet another man going above and beyond — Princess Anne Middle School's eighth-grade English teacher Hunter Dunlo. His message goes far beyond the structure of a sentence.

He and some fellow staff launched a program last year called “PMA,” three simple letters pointing to an equally simple but needed message, Positive Mental Attitude. The acronym adorns shirts, rubber wristlets and many of the posters, door placards and assignments Dunlo's students create. The message speaks for itself and it speaks volumes about Dunlo and his reach with his students. Practical yet profound. It's not about life being easy or everyone winning and sailing through. In fact, it's the contrary. He even had the kids write their own credo. It acknowledges that life can be hard and there are challenges, but one of the best and most powerful tools we have sits in our heads and hearts.

It's about choosing how you go into your day, seeing the good and choosing how you react to some of the tough stuff. And couldn't we all benefit from a little more PMA? As a parent, it's what I teach my own kids and one I'm thankful to see layered in school. It's my dream to see this in every school. Model it; big and bold.

He's a quiet guy but he's been known to dramatically bust into class dressed as a superhero and to vanish just as fast. Why? It's a way to inspire students to find adjectives and adverbs that describe the masked man. He raps; he laughs; the kids sing and the kids write. That's right, the kids write and they enjoy it!

He's a quiet guy but he's been known to dramatically bust into class dressed as a superhero and to vanish just as fast. Why? It's a way to inspire students to find adjectives and adverbs that describe the masked man. He raps; he laughs; the kids sing and the kids write. That's right, the kids write and they enjoy it!

There is no SOL test to measure the impact, but I can only imagine the effect of such lessons. Thanks, Mr. Dunlo, for being, doing and leading this “Pawsitively Positive” attitude.

- Kathy Rush

Thanks to our campaign sponsor, Rudee Tours, Dunlo received passes for a half-day fishing trip.

Gabe Howard 'teaches from the heart'

Gabe Howard

I am the parent of two students who are both fortunate to have been taught and/or coached by Mr. Gabriel Howard. All members of our family cherish the years that our children were taught/coached by him. He is not only an outstanding teacher and soccer coach, but also a remarkable person who seamlessly demonstrates and instills the proper values and behaviors to his students. Mr. Howard’s gentle demeanor, disposition and sense of humor all create an environment that causes students to grow and thrive. We feel he has been an outstanding mentor to both of our sons and that he has influenced them to be better people and citizens for the future. They now view situations from different perspectives, respect various opinions more, are more humble at success and more gracious in defeat.

Mr. Howard possesses so many of the qualities of an outstanding teacher and mentor: comprehensive knowledge of subject matter and curriculum and innovative ways to teach it; a loving, positive and effective classroom/coaching management style that engages the children; nurturing qualities of compassion, kindness, respect and patience; excellent communication skills; and an awesome eagerness and natural ability to teach that is truly motivated from his heart! He is truly making an impact on these young students and soccer players now and for the future!

Mr. Howard is always available for a conversation with students and parents. He disseminates a comprehensive weekly email that discusses in detail, usually with a humorous tone, the previous week’s gifted activities/projects and objectives. Projects are creative and innovative and allow the students to express their own uniqueness and personality and encourage the students to think “out of the box” and express themselves. It is evident that there is a tremendous amount of planning by Mr. Howard and collaboration with other staff members to implement the great and expansive gifted program at Great Neck Middle School. Mr. Howard also regularly updates his Twitter account to give parents a visual account of some of the great projects. This is the most communication and information we have ever received about my child’s gifted curriculum. I have been able to have conversations with my son about what he is doing at school. It is WONDERFUL!

Mr. Howard is dedicated to the profession of teaching and thrives on being his personal best for his students and their families and also his fellow colleagues. It is his heartfelt dedication to teaching and warm, nurturing demeanor and creativity that makes the difference in the lives of our children. Virginia Beach truly has employed a teacher who loves and believes in his profession, dedicates his time and teaches from the heart.

- Elisabeth Scheuer

Thanks to our campaign sponsor, iFLY, Howard received a free pass for iFLY flights.

Leyla Caralivanos builds student confidence

Leyla Caralivanos

I wanted to take the time to write about my daughter’s fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Caralivanos at Brickell Academy/Old Donation School.

My daughter is a very emotional girl who does best with positive reinforcement. Mrs. C has a beautiful talent of finding the best traits in each student and really letting them thrive!

Her positive attitude and pleasant disposition keep the kids energetic and motivated. She provides a lot of hands-on experiences and allows the kids to really explore and dig deeper into topics. She works with them individually on their writing to build confidence and make it fun.

Brickell Academy is a challenging school with incredibly bright kids, and last year my daughter struggled to find her confidence in such a strong academic group. Mrs. C has truly helped her blossom and find her strengths and confidence again.

Addie, my daughter, says: "She definitely deserves an opportunity like this because she is truly creative and has a strong writing voice. She can teach her class to do amazing things."

- Jennifer and Addie Finger

Thanks to our sponsor, Pinboy’s at the Beach, Caralivanos received passes for free bowling games.

Dwight Robinson is ‘amazing mentor’ to students

Dwight Robinson

My great teacher is my AVID teacher at Landstown High School. Coach Rob, or "Mr. Robinson," is the best teacher, amazing mentor and excellent coach a student could ask for. His doors are always open and he genuinely cares about each student. If you are having a bad day, Coach Rob will make sure it turns around for the better. He is consistently asking how everyone is doing and never fails to help when in need.

Without Coach Rob I would not be the student I am today. He pushes me and loves me like his own. He loves his job and you can see it shine on his face.

My great teacher is Coach Rob.

- Bailee Cox

Thanks to our sponsor, Ocean Breeze Waterpark, Robinson received a 2017 season pass.

Winn and Wyman encourage students to set high goals

Heather Winn and Stephanie Wyman

My son Brysen was in fifth grade last year, and Stephanie Wyman and Heather Winn were by far the most impactful teachers in such a critical time in his life.

Brysen is now a sixth-grader at Kempsville Middle, and he made the Principal’s List for the second quarter. Brysen set a goal at the beginning of the second quarter to make straight A's. Brysen has ADD and has been on medication for a few years. Two months ago he was taken off the medication. He's doing well but has to study harder as he has some trouble with staying focused, but not enough to need the medication any longer. When I asked Brysen what drives him and what is making him set such high goals for himself, he told me, “Mrs. Wyman and Ms. Winn,” and that they taught him in fifth grade to push yourself; set high goals; reach for your dreams.

He talks about the experiences both teachers shared about their college days. Brysen wants to go to MIT. He has it all plotted out. He even told me how many hours I will have to travel to see him. He also has his eyes set on the Advanced Technology Center when he gets into high school. His counselor is already working with him to get him ready for what he needs to get in – making sure he has enough credits and making sure he is on target to graduate with an Advanced Diploma.

I know teachers work so hard and sometimes it may feel like a thankless job – the hours; not just dealing with kids, but also the parents; and trying to do everything right. And teachers don't get paid anywhere close to what they should. So, Brysen sharing that with me touched my heart.

As a parent I can't thank them enough for impacting Brysen's life in such a positive way. This will stay with him for the rest of his life. He also said the field trip to Wal-Mart changed him. Raising money and buying for the homeless was so impactful and so empowering. He's been volunteering since then, which has also helped him with AVID.

Mrs. Wyman and Ms. Winn, keep changing lives.

- Lisa Knorr

Thanks to our sponsors, AMC Theatres and iFLY, Winn received two free movie passes and Wyman received two free iFLY flights.

Aaron Burdon inspires the “Heroes of Room 17”

Aaron Burdon

I'd like to tell you about a great teacher named Aaron Burdon who teaches third grade at Hermitage Elementary School. Not only does he teach third grade, he is the school’s Partners in Education coordinator as well as the robotics team mentor.

Mr. Burdon puts in at least 10 hours of work at school each day. Then he spends another hour and a half at home answering emails, preparing lesson plans, coordinating for the PIE program and prepping for the STEM Robotics Challenge in June.

Last year Mr. Burdon received the "Tagged by the Superintendent" recognition. He also maintains "The Awesome Folder," which is full of his students' drawings, cards and notes from his 3.5 years teaching at Hermitage.

One of Mr. Burdon’s most incredible ideas is a math game he created called "Heroes of Room 17," named after the room in which he teaches. At the beginning of the year, he takes pictures of each student. He uploads the photos and uses Photoshop to turn them into superhero cards. Each card is worth points for a spin of the dice. All I know is, it’s a game that the students love and learn from. The cards are amazing and are becoming legendary with each class that passes through.

I strongly urge you to go and meet this incredibly unselfish teacher for yourself. He's simply amazing.

- Deb Ruzycki

Thanks to our sponsor, Beach Movie Bistro, Burdon received two free movie passes.

Andrew Jackson is devoted, demanding and respected

Bryan Everett

I really respect Mr. Andrew Jackson at Green Run Collegiate. He has been the most demanding and challenging teacher that my son has had in his four years at the school, yet my son looks forward to his classes the most. That's because he has a great rapport with the students and has earned their respect. He has tremendous expectations, but he's up front about them and really pushes the kids to give their all to their work. It's just the motivation the kids need so they don't give less effort than they are capable of giving. He, too, always takes time to talk to parents when they are in the building, and he never hesitates to set up parent meetings when you request advice for how to help your student perform better. He's responsive in the evenings and on weekends when a student needs help or asks a question, and he's a devoted teacher. Despite how critical he can be, my son even chose him as his mentor for his extended essay because he knew Mr. Jackson was knowledgeable on the subject matter and would give him the most helpful and honest feedback, whether it was positive or negative.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my feelings about this exceptional educator. I've been homeschooling my children for nearly 15 years, and Mr. Jackson has earned my respect. He considers the individual student and tries to meet their educational needs to the best of his ability. I couldn't ask for more.

- Kelly Burgess

Thanks to our sponsor, Beach Movie Bistro, Jackson received two free movie passes.

Krista Mackintire leaves an impact on students

Bryan Everett

As someone who has grown up in Virginia Beach schools, I have been impacted by many great teachers. Being in education now, I still think back on all of my teachers. I had Mrs. Mackintire in fourth grade at Strawbridge Elementary and I remember specific activities from her class - like reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and writing an essay on what to do if we had the last piece of chocolate in the world. The best part, was she put a Hershey's kiss in front of us and honestly expected a class of fourth graders to not eat it before we finished our paper. Long story short, I was hired to teach middle school physical science and earth science to start my career. I achieved a great dream of mine with the inspiration from this great teacher.

- Amanda Malbon

Thanks to our sponsor, AutoBell, Mackintire received a free car wash and cleaning.

Jennifer Ramey is ‘always willing to be there’

Bryan Everett

Three Ocean Lakes High School students wrote in to share about their great teacher, Jennifer Ramey.

"I believe that the best teacher in VBCPS has to be Mrs Ramey she has been a big influence in my life academically and in my athletics. she is always there to stay after and help with what ever I need, I don't know how I could get by without the support of my favorite teacher Mrs Ramey."
- Hunter Gibbs

"Mrs. Coach Ramey (Jennifer Ramey) is a great teacher and coach at Ocean Lakes High School. No matter what sport or class you are in or take she is always willing to be there and help. I believe she is a great and fantastic teacher. She is always there for students when they are down or need help. She is a perfect example of a great teacher."
- AJ Atkins

"Mrs. Coach Ramey (Jennifer Ramey) is the definition of a great teacher, she goes above and beyond to make her classroom the best environment possible. Not only is she a great teacher but a great coach, I've had the honor of being one of her athletes for my two years at Ocean Lakes High School. In those two years she has coached The Competition Cheer Team, and Gymnastics team. She has lead us to a Conference Championship on both teams in just this year. Thank you for taking the time to read this message and I hope you consider recognizing the best teacher I've ever came across."
- Tayler Figo

Thanks to our sponsor, Rudee Tours, Ramey received two free dolphin-watching passes.

Lisa Powers excites, motivates students


I have the great honor of being able to help out in Mrs. Lisa Powers’s fourth-grade class a couple of hours a week and am so impressed with the way she interacts and motivates and challenges our students.

Mrs. Powers has a self-guided method of teaching that allows them to thrive at their own levels and move up and down as needed. Mrs. Powers has motivated my son to ask questions, put in the work and excel for “AP” level learning. She has found my excited, eager, motivated learner again.

He is thriving and feels respected and learning how to organize his day and manage his time and still excel. He loves to see his AP grades now and get his work done well and quickly.

She gives the kids the autonomy to guide themselves through their assigned work to help them build time management skills and work at their own learning levels. If they need to work at home, they can. They work in small groups as needed and have ample time to ask questions as a group which they then also help answer. She respects them and they know it and in return they respect her and work harder – for themselves – because she empowers them to know they can.

I adore Mrs. Powers. She gets him and doesn’t just look through him and write him off. She understands he is capable if she doesn’t reward him for less than he can do.

I hope she can continue to do what she is doing and the other gifted cluster classes take from her successes and incorporate some of the practices she uses to reach all of their unique learning levels. She gets it.

-Jennifer Finger

Thanks to our sponsor, Rudee Tours, Powers received two free dolphin watching passes.

Bryan Everett is one of the best

Bryan Everett

I graduated from Ocean Lakes High School in 2013. Mr. Everett was my counselor and a huge part of the reason I graduated with honors. I was a part of the Culinary Arts VoTech program during my junior and senior year. I needed one class to allow me an honors seal on my diploma. This class was only offered during one block & it happened to be when I was scheduled to be at VoTech. Mr. Everett worked to allow me to do independent study to complete the class. This is just one of the many outstanding things he had done for me during my time at Ocean Lakes. The Dolphins family has so many amazing staff members but I truly believe Mr. Everett is one of the best.

-Nikki Reeves, Johnson & Wales University Foodservice Management-Senior

Thanks to our sponsor, Rudee Tours, Everett received two free whale-watching passes.

Jeremy Schratwieser inspires careers

Jeremy Schratwieser

Mr. Schrat (Schratwieser) had a huge impact on my career path. He was my magnet molecular teacher in 10th grade at OLHS and I enjoyed his class so much, that I took his AP Biology class senior year. Biology ended up being my major in college because I wanted to be a bio teacher just like him. Long story short, I was hired to teach middle school physical science and earth science to start my career, and now I am the new secondary science instructional specialist! I achieved a great dream of mine with the inspiration from this great teacher.

-Amanda Malbon

Thanks to our sponsor, Rudee Tours, Schratwieser received two free fishing passes.

Lisa Embrey amazes with her level of kindness

Lisa Embrey

I would like to recognize Ms. Lisa Embrey, Early Childhood Education teacher at the Virginia Beach Technical and Career Education Center. My son is in the preschool program and is the happiest 4-year-old on Earth the mornings he gets to go to school. I can imagine it might be difficult for some to teach preschoolers and high-schoolers simultaneously, but I am amazed at the level of with-it-ness and kindness I see in Ms. Embrey any time I visit the preschool classroom. She is warm and welcoming to parents and students (the big ones and the little ones!). My son perceives each high school student in the classroom as one of his teachers because they are treated with respect and dignity by the adults leading the class. The instructional design of the learning centers, outdoor play time, and direct instruction provides the perfect model for my son and as parents we could not be happier with the program and Ms. Embrey’s leadership specifically. I could not be more impressed and grateful to Ms. Embrey!

Thanks to our sponsor, Rudee Tours, Embrey received two free whale-watching passes.

Princess Anne Middle School’s James Arnett makes a difference

Rachel Jennings

I can't say how appreciative I am that my daughter had the opportunity to have Mr. Arnett for math last year. He will forever be someone she can go to if she needs help or advice. He definitely made a difference in her first year of middle school.

-Jen Romine

Thanks to our sponsor, Rudee Tours, Arnett received two free whale-watching passes.




Debra Liddon is ‘a goal setter and dream maker’

Brenda Fuller

Mrs. Debra Liddon from Strawbridge Elementary School exemplifies the phrase, “Great Dreams Need Great Teachers.” Mrs. Liddon’s formal role is an ITS; however, she is a goal setter and dream maker. Her positive, go-getter attitude continues to push teachers to strive for more and dive deeper into using technology to enhance student learning. Mrs. Liddon transformed the school’s formal computer lab into a “Launch Pad” where students can explore, create and make using a variety of resources. She creates centers in the Launch Pad to extend grade level lessons and standards. She moderates monthly school wide twitter chats for teacher collaboration, motivates teachers through activities like Twitter Bingo and Tweet Competitions, and is a driving force in a green screen wall project for students to take their learning beyond the four walls of a classroom. She continues to find innovative ways to involve parents and the community through the technology transformation.

Thank you, Mrs. Liddon, for making amazing dreams come to life for the students and teachers at Strawbridge.

Thanks to our sponsor, Rudee Tours, Liddon received two free whale-watching passes.