Community Foundation Celebrates Dawbarn Education Award Winners
On November 5th at 5:30 pm, the Community Foundation will host the 19th Annual Dawbarn Education Awards and will be giving away $96,000. The reception and awards ceremony will be held in the Shenandoah Ballroom of the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Staunton, and approximately 150-200 people are expected to attend. There are ten recipients of the 2012 Dawbarn Awards, and each will attend the ceremony with family, friends and colleagues to celebrate their achievements and receive a check for $9,600. The Dawbarn Awards celebrate and reward exceptional individuals in the Community of Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County. Established in 1992 by H. Dunlop “Buz” Dawbarn, the annual award ceremony has become one of the Community Foundation’s signature events. The purpose of this fund is to improve public education in our community. As was the intent of Mr. Dawbarn, ten awards are made each year to:
- Classroom teachers of pre-school, elementary, and secondary students enrolled in the public schools that have most successfully inspired, encouraged, and fostered learning among the students under their charge.
- Individuals (including parents, teachers, administrators, coaches, school bus drivers, mentors, volunteers, or any other individuals) who have demonstrated a commitment to inspiring, encouraging, and fostering the education of young people.
- Persons who, by successful and effective mentoring and tutoring, have encouraged young women to remain and succeed in school.
The event is a celebration of individuals who have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to inspiring belief in the importance of education and learning, encouraging good citizenship and personal responsibility, and fostering high standards of achievement in learning among the young people of our public schools.
The Dawbarn Education Awards are the result of a fund “Buz” Dawbarn established with the foundation. The Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge is a non-profit organization that provides a simple, powerful, and highly personal approach to giving. As one of the largest philanthropic institutions in the Central Blue Ridge, we are committed to careful stewardship and thoughtful investment in our region’s future. Unlike other non-profit organizations, we are endowed in perpetuity. Now, with more than 80 funds and almost $13 million in assets, The Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge distributes more than $500,000 annually to the community in awards, grants and scholarships. We work with individuals, families, non-profit organizations and others to establish permanent charitable legacies to respond to needs in the cities of Staunton and Waynesboro, and Augusta, Nelson, and Highland Counties of Virginia.
2012 Dawbarn Education Award Recipients
Stephanie Sandridge – Special Education Teacher, Shelburne Middle School
Each morning when you walk down the 6th grade hall at Shelburne Middle School, Stephanie Sandridge’s face is the first one you see. She’s standing in the hallway greeting students as they head towards their classes with a beaming smile and encouraging words welcoming them to a new day. Stephanie Sandridge, special education teacher at Shelburne Middle School, and Staunton City Schools “Teacher of the Year,” is truly committed to the success of our struggling students – those students who might not have the best behavior, who might need significant support and guidance to understand a concept, and/or who might not have adequate support at home. She knows which students come to the 6th grade with academic and behavioral barriers to learning, and she dedicates herself to their successful middle school transition. High expectations for thinking critically about ideas are presented with appropriate scaffolding, which she slowly pulls down as the students gain confidence. The rapport she nourishes creates a safe harbor for each of her students to take learning and social risks in a nurturing environment.
The Executive Director of Instruction writes, “Recently, I had the opportunity to visit in Stephanie’s classroom. Every student was working on an individualized reading plan. Stephanie led the group like an orchestra conductor – offering support and encouragement here, answering a question there, smiling about a victory for this student, and discussing progress with another student. When you walk into some classrooms, you simply feel it; it’s an atmosphere of positivity, a mutual respect, an aura of “you can do it!” The students in Stephanie’s classroom are expected to succeed … and they will. You’ll see Stephanie on the sidelines at football, basketball or baseball games rooting for her students, at the school dance encouraging a shy student, or at the music program enjoying a student’s newly found accomplishment to play the trumpet. In every case, she is building relationships with her students– relationships that will transcend a single school year, or a three-year stint in middle school – relationships that will last a lifetime.”
Her former principal summed up the feelings of faculty, parents, and students. “I say without hesitation that Stephanie is a gift to Shelburne Middle School.”
Catherine Olson – Third Grade Teacher, Wenonah Elementary School
Mrs. Catherine Olson, a third grade teacher at Wenonah Elementary School in Waynesboro, is a master teacher, leader in education, peer mentor, and hero to her students. In a school where nearly 90% of students live at or below the poverty line, she is well aware of the life challenges faced by many of the children in her care. However, in her classroom these students are her children and she believes in them, respects them, and supports them as they learn and grow in our school community. Catherine’s real strength in the area curriculum is evident in her teaching methods. She is constantly researching techniques and methods that will help her prepare her students for success. Her classroom is busy as students research topics and present information to their teams using graphic organizers, PowerPoint, or podcasts (just to name a few). Catherine understands that the most important way for a student to retain content is for the student to become the teacher. One of her colleagues, a former Dawbarn winner herself, had this to say, “Having worked in the teaching profession for the past twelve years, I have had the opportunity to work with many teachers. The last three years have been the most effective of my career because I had an amazing teaching partner – Catherine.”
Perhaps the highest praise comes from some of Catherine’s most challenging former students, now in middle school. “We would like to recommend an old teacher of ours to you and her name is Mrs. Olson for doing such a great job and sticking with us all the way through. She pushed us so we could work harder so that we could be more successful in the future. She didn’t just go to her desk and let us figure out the problems on our own. She was a special teacher to us because she really let us know that she cared about us. She showed us kindness and how to respect others. She taught us responsibility and how to be a good student. We did cool math and academic skill builders. She is just a phenomenal teacher!”
As is evident, Mrs. Olson believes in empowering her students to take ownership in the learning process and access the world around them. Her principal writes, “I find myself gravitating to Mrs. Olson’s classroom to visit several times a week. Not only do I end up observing an excellent teacher, I usually end up joining in the learning as a participant myself. You can’t help but want to sit at the table with Mrs. Olson and learn with her.” Catherine Olson continues to encourage, foster, and inspire the best in all of us.
Janet Hamilton– Biology/Research Teacher, Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School
Janet Hamilton is a biology and research teacher at the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School. With a humanistic approach and the wise insight that can only be gained only from thirty plus years of teaching, Janet creates a positive classroom atmosphere for learning while holding students highly accountable academically and personally. Whether staying late to help a junior who is struggling to complete a research project, conducting after school study sessions for molecular biology students, or working with seniors on service learning projects, Janet works effectively with all students regardless of their ability or personality. One student remarked “she makes me do what I didn’t think I was capable of doing”.
Her colleagues also hold her in high esteem. Her supervisor writes, “Janet’s calm perspective, listening ear, and patience offer much support to her colleagues personally and professionally. With her knowledge, problem solving expertise, and willingness to work with others, Janet is a frequently consulted by other staff members needing ideas for planning instruction or solutions to classroom issues.”
A veteran science teacher, Janet works tirelessly to inspire students in the sciences by remaining a student herself. Whether she is testing new scientific equipment, exploring opportunities for students to partner with VA Tech in biotechnology research, or attending professional conferences on nanotechnology, Janet keeps herself and her students on the “cutting edge”. After only teaching at SVGS one year, enrollment in Janet’s molecular biology class doubled the second year and has consistently increased. This is a testament to the value students place on the experience and tutelage they know they will receive in Mrs. Hamilton’s class.
One of her former students, currently pursuing a career in biology, writes, “I found Ms. Hamilton a genuinely inspiring teacher who expected the absolute best from those she taught. In addition to a phenomenal teaching style, Ms. Hamilton also went above and beyond the call of duty to prepare her students for a career in the sciences. She has had a profound effect upon my education and the education of all my peers who took her classes, providing an example of a strong female mentor in a field which is dominated by men.”
There is no doubt Ms. Hamilton stands out as a teacher who truly makes a great difference in the lives of all her students, and who is an incredible asset to Augusta County’s educational community.
Renee Campbell– Second Grade Teacher, McSwain Elementary School
Although Renee Campbell is a special education teacher and her focus is on meeting the needs of students in her case load, she consistently offers her expertise to all students and all teachers to support the learning process at her school. She makes herself available after school hours and on weekends to analyze data and offer creative methods. She has the remarkable ability to observe students closely, monitor challenges, and offer solutions that work to the advantage of the individual learner. Mrs. Campbell is honest and compassionate in her communication with students about their academic level, and uses that to promote an internal initiative and drive toward the particular goal. She is also masterful at helping students change undesirable behaviors and has the ability to not only get the student to understand the problem, but also to take ownership in correcting it. One particularly challenging student stands out as a tribute to Mrs. Campbell. This student came to McSwain with many personal challenges, including autism, physical and sexual abuse, foster care, and a history of school difficulties. Day in and day out, Mrs. Campbell was called to the classroom to support and encourage this child when she experienced meltdowns and classroom disruptions. With an inordinate amount of patience, Mrs. Campbell would work her magic, respectfully supporting and encouraging her, never losing sight of the goal to insure grade level learning took place. Without a shadow of a doubt, Mrs. Renee Campbell provided exceptional service to this child who remains in a public school, doing on grade level work, accepted by peers.
One of her colleagues writes, “She is a wonderful resource for various “outside of the box” strategies to implement when we have reached an impasse in a student’s learning. She spends countless hours planning lessons and brainstorming with classroom teachers. She will modify assignments for students who need it presented in a different way, re-teach lessons in a small group setting when a student cannot focus in the typical classroom setting, and develop self-monitoring materials for students who need visual cues to be successful. She is constantly working toward self-motivated learning for her students.”
In conclusion, Renee Campbell’s principal summarized the feeling about her at McSwain Elementary. “In my 28 years of education, Mrs. Campbell quite simply is the best special education teacher I have had the pleasure of knowing. Many times, parents comment, “I wish Mrs. Campbell could go to the middle school with my child.” She exemplifies the exceptional educator that Mr. Dawbarn so graciously chose to honor.”
Tammy Hipes – Assistant Principal, Kate Collins Middle School
Tammy Hipes is currently the Assistant Principal at Kate Collins Middle School, but over the course of a twenty year career, she has worked at the elementary and high school levels also. She has won numerous accolades over the years, including being voted “Teacher of the Year” by her peers multiple times, and last year was selected as “Teacher of the Year” for the entire Waynesboro school division. Because she has experience at all levels, she uses this knowledge to find ways for all of her students to be successful; not only in her classroom, but within each building she has worked, as she counsels, guides, leads, educates and loves all of her kids. No matter the circumstances, each day is a fresh start.
Her former principal wrote, “Her presence at Waynesboro High School changed the status quo at the school. Her expectations for herself and her students became the “norm” for our faculty as well. She helped organize Field Days and Giant Pride Days when others were reluctant to help. She tied her curriculum to other classes which helped the students make connections in their learning.” In addition to her responsibilities at the high school, Tammy acted as an Activities Director at Kate Collins Middle School, organizing pep rallies and running athletic events. She recognized the importance of “feeder” programs to the high school, and took the opportunity to get to know many of the families as well.
Her current principal writes, “For the last year, we have worked together as new administrators for our middle school. She consults with teachers, counselors, and parents to build a team of support to help students find success. Tammy is frequently seen giving unlimited hugs, high fives and words of encouragement.”
Tammy Hipes approaches obstacles with a determined spirit and a wonderful sense of humor. That humor must have been very necessary over the years as she organized trips to Wintergreen, Humpback Rock, Wayne Lanes Bowling Alley, and the YMCA for her students, and not just the well behaved ones! Tammy Hipes has always asked kids to explore the many opportunities our community provides, and the importance of reaching beyond our comfort zones, and she does so in ways that will remain with them for a lifetime.
Jessica Herr – Art Teacher, Buffalo Gap High School
Jessica Herr came to Buffalo Gap in 2005. What she found when she arrived was a moribund program which totally lacked direction or interest from the students. Enrollment consisted of a total of only forty students in four art classes. This year’s enrollment is 109 in seven classes.
Jessica convinced the county to let her add two levels of ceramics instruction, a selection which had never been offered. Enrollment quickly grew. In 2010 Jessica began teaching AP Studio Art: Drawing and in 2011 added AP Studio Art: 2-D Design. To give the students more exposure, she started a chapter of the National Art Honor Society. Demand for art instruction has increased so dramatically that Jessica now teaches double classes simultaneously and – get this – a waiting list for students who she can’t squeeze in.
Jessica’s impact on her students has been profound. Many have and are pursuing art degrees. Scholarships and awards are common for her students. In recognition of her impact, Jessica received the Secondary Art Teacher of the Year Award from the Blue Ridge Region of the Virginia Art Education Association. One of her students writes: “When I first started at Buffalo Gap High School I was a transfer student. One of my classes in that first semester was Art 1 with Mrs. Herr. She gave me the kinds of challenges that I desired from the art program. As a new student, she gave me guidance and was my favorite teacher that year and all my years at Buffalo Gap. Over the years that I have known her, I have seen her befriend new and shy students and encourage students to approach each other with the same friendliness. It would be an understatement to say that she leads by example. Her old students still come almost daily to visit her at school. Because of the portfolio that she helped me assemble, I was ultimately accepted into the James Madison University School of Art and Art History. Not only that, but I was also offered a renewable scholarship based on that portfolio. I owe many of my accomplishments to Mrs. Herr. She is a role model to me and I hope to someday be able to give my students what she has given to me.”
The Curriculum Supervisor for Augusta County is also a fan. He wrote, “By every standard, Mrs. Herr is an outstanding educator. She ranks in the top 1% of all teachers I have worked with over the past 18 years. She continually evaluates her program for effectiveness and feels personally responsible for what each student learns. In my opinion, she is an example of a “master” teacher.”
Dana Jackson – Secretary, William Perry Elementary School
Dana Jackson has been the front office secretary at William Perry Elementary for 5 years. The first person that you see when you walk in the office is Dana Jackson. After visiting the school one time, Dana will remember your name, your child’s name, and your child’s teacher. As a large school of 476 children, it is no easy feat to keep track of so many children, but Dana’s ability to remember the little things, and her attention to detail helps to make each child feel special when they walk into the office. When families share news of a hardship or difficulties at home, she immediately comes to those whom she believes should be aware and can help support them. She is the ear to the ground for the William Perry community.
Dana is so much more than a secretary at William Perry. To the families, she is a wealth of information and often the comforting voice at the other end of the phone. To the staff, she is the glue that keeps the office running smoothly and efficiently and incredibly organized. To the students, she is person that seems to have all the answers. A coworker explains, “During my first year, after counseling a student about stresses in her life, as we were walking out of my office, the student asked, “Could I just go give Mrs. Dana a hug?” It was at that point that I understood the impact that Dana has on this school. Dana is not simply a secretary, but rather the personification of warmth and support that educators strive to pass on to our students.”
Dana’s principal concurs, and summed it up best: “Dana is not a teacher. Dana is not an instructional aide. Dana is not a reading specialist. Dana is someone who knows our kids and cares about every single one of them. She is a smiling face that starts the day for many of our students. She is someone who they know has high expectations for them, cares about them and expects them to do their very best each and every day. Most secretaries station themselves behind a desk and do a great job of managing from there. Dana takes her role by the hand, comes out from behind her desk, and carries it into the school and into our community.”
Sarah Davis – Fifth Grade Teacher, Verona Elementary School
Sarah Davis is a 5th Grade teacher at Verona Elementary. She was chosen by her colleagues as the “Teacher of the Year” for the 2011-2012 school year and went on to be selected as the Augusta County “Teacher of the Year.” There is complete agreement amongst faculty, parents, and students that Sarah is an excellent teacher. She uses movement, manipulatives, technology, and a variety of strategies to keep students actively engaged in learning, and there is no doubt that she is successful. In addition, she has energized the staff at Verona by coordinating the Winter Carnival, sponsoring the SCA and the Gifted and Talented Program, and starting a hugely successful science fair, amongst other activities.
However, the real key to her success is that she is one of the nicest people you will ever come across. As her principal writes, “Without a doubt, Mrs. Davis is one of the most caring and nurturing teachers I have ever met. She is, most definitely, the teacher that every parent wants their child to have.” Sarah Davis is kind, creative, and unfailingly optimistic. In fact, her reputation has spread far beyond her school. One of her letter of recommendation stated, “The Augusta County instructional staff lovingly refer to Sarah as “Snow White” because she always follows her heart and does what is right for children. She is sweet, charming, cheerful, and gentle. These characteristics are why Sarah and her students are successful.”
One parent described this success: “Sarah Davis taught my son in fifth grade. My son has Aspereger’s syndrome and requires a high degree of attention. Sarah was able to connect with my son on a level that most teachers do not understand. She was compassionate and caring during the many frustrations he encountered. Sarah took the time to work closely with him to figure out a system that would help him transition from activity to activity and from classroom to classroom. These times were very difficult for him and made him extremely anxious. Sarah always encouraged him to try his very best and to never give up. My son would come home from school after a hard day, and he would always say that Mrs. Davis was the best teacher. He would go to her with problems and confide in her when he had a sadness or frustration. It is not easy for an Asperger child to trust someone, and for him to be able to go to her was wonderful.”
Sarah Davis is a role model for young people. Her actions show children the right way to communicate with others, make friends, deal with conflict and a way to approach learning that will excel them forward into their middle school years. This same parent ends her letter, “I am so very thankful that she taught my son.” There is no greater compliment.
Ramona DeWitt – Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, Waynesboro Public Schools
Ramona DeWitt, Waynesboro’s 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year, has been a valued member of the Waynesboro Public School system for 28 years. Her first teaching position involved establishing a half-day prekindergarten program at Kate Collins School in the Home Economics Department. She was a leader in developing a relatively new prekindergarten program for Waynesboro Public Schools and in the State of Virginia. Nearly 30 years later, she is still at it, and a colleague writes, “Since she is most likely each of her student’s first teacher, she takes very seriously the task of helping each child develop a love for school and learning. She truly sets them up for a successful school career and a lifetime of opportunity. She uses fun activities with the children so that they come to enjoy learning. She uses lots of praise when a child accomplishes even a small task. She gives them the confidence to try new things so that learning is not such a daunting experience.”
In addition to her success at demonstrating the importance of promoting early literacy through the creation of a supportive classroom environment, instruction designed to meet the needs of each student, and the use of developmentally appropriate practices, Ramona DeWitt’s greatest gift is her inherent optimism. Her principal shares this anecdote, “If you listen to the conversations with her children you will always hear her telling them that they are going to achieve great things, and she usually ends it with the statement…”I just know it!” Her students do not disappoint.”
She is an extraordinary teacher with the mission of helping children become confident, independent, motivated, and successful students ready to transition to kindergarten. She believes that each family has entrusted her with their greatest gift and that it is her mission to do the most that she can for the child and the family in their time together. Ramona DeWitt truly believes that from the moment that she takes a child’s hand from their parents, it is her responsibility to spark their love of education and help them realize that school is a safe, inviting, and positive place, and she has succeeded wonderfully.
Elaine Almarode – Instructor, Valley Vocational Technical School
Elaine Almarode has been in the business of education for a long time. She began her teaching career in Augusta County in 1975 as a classroom English teacher and was one of the first teachers in Augusta County to offer Advanced Placement Classes. After a long and varied career as counselor and later administrator, she “semi-retired” in 2010, but there is no evidence of her giving up her passion for education. Elaine currently teaches the Teachers for Tomorrow program at Valley Vocational Technical Center which introduces high school students to all facets of child development and educational theory and practice. She provides consultation and training services to local school divisions on bullying, self-mutilation and teen suicide prevention. She serves as an adjunct instructor at James Madison University in the fields of education and counseling. Elaine provides professional development institutes for Mary Baldwin College in their Master’s in Teaching Program on the topics of child abuse and neglect. Known for her impeccable judgment and expertise throughout the area, Elaine is always willing to answer questions or help with difficult situations, and does so unselfishly with patience and understanding. This attribute has fostered a collegial atmosphere of support and encouragement with all those who are fortunate enough to work with her. Likewise, when a child’s personal or academic welfare is at stake, administrators, counselors, teachers and parents rely on Elaine’s wisdom and communication skills. In situations of crisis or death, working with at-risk students, difficult parents or new teachers, Elaine is still one of the first called for assistance. Does this sound like someone who has retired?!
There is no doubt that Elaine Almarode has been influential in our community for a long time. One of her letters of recommendation from a local veterinarian stated, “Mrs. Almarode was my high school AP English teacher over two decades ago. Yet, even with this assignment, I feel that I must do my very best writing with multiple drafts!” Another former student, who currently serves as a Director of Instruction for Augusta County, states, “As my AP English Teacher she challenged me to read more widely, to think more critically, and to seek deeper truths from the life I lived. I wish I could weave so that I could create a tapestry that tells the tales of Elaine Almarode’s great battles and legendary achievements, but since I can’t, I am content knowing that Elaine has woven her own tapestry through the students she has inspired, the lives she has touched and the friendships she has forged.”
Elaine Almarode has been influential across the board with extraordinary insight into the many diverse problems faced by educators, and throughout her career in education, Elaine has taken the initiative to shape policy, not merely administer it. With innovation and vision, Elaine worked to start a program which promotes math and science careers for female and minority students, now in its fifteenth year. In that time span, many of those program participants choose to enroll in our regional Governor’s School for Math, Science and Technology, almost doubling the previous female enrollment. Likewise, she has helped to develop freshman transition programs in high school, after-school programs in elementary schools, and a regional career assessment center.
As an educator of almost 40 years in the Augusta County Schools, Elaine Almarode exemplifies the highest level of excellence in teaching, counseling and educational leadership throughout the area. Her life’s work has not only positively impacted the students she has worked with directly, but has also encouraged and inspired other educators, making her influence on young people limitless. Her talents and heart have touched many. While many educators have admirable qualities, Elaine Almarode is simply the best of the best.