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VTFT students gain more appreciation for teachers through internships

VTFT Students

High school juniors and seniors have been in classrooms for more than a dozen years and have had equally as many teachers. For students in the school division’s Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow (VTFT) classes, those years of experience have informed their class discussions about the profession and qualities of great teachers. But it is their VTFT internships that have given tomorrow’s teachers a unique perspective and newfound appreciation for their teachers today.

To describe their internship revelations, they used words like “hard work” and “rewarding.” They also echoed the thoughts of Nicole Finocchio, a Kellam High School senior, who said, “It’s definitely a lot of lesson planning and work that teachers put in behind the scenes. They don’t always get appreciated because not everyone knows what they do outside of school.”

Finocchio is one of 11 VTFT students we asked to share their lessons learned about teaching in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week.

Isaiah Gifford, a Tallwood High School senior and aspiring art teacher, said that when his VTFT teacher first discussed internships he knew exactly who he wanted to work with – his former English teacher at Brandon Middle School.

“When I had Ms. Baedke – I’m not an English student; I have dyslexia and I struggle a lot in English – she engaged me in wanting to learn more so I wanted to try to learn that style of teaching,” said Gifford. One can presume his style will emphasize the relationships he has enjoyed as a student.

“I’ve always liked teachers and enjoyed talking to them. I would be the kid staying after class late to talk to the teachers about how their week is going – not mine, theirs – just because I wanted to get to know them. If they’re going to teach me, I have to have a personal connection.”

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Crisher and Follin finalists for 2018 PAEMST

Allison Crisher, fourth-grade teacher at Luxford Elementary School, and Melissa Follin, third-grade teacher at Old Donation School, are two mathematics finalists in Virginia for the 2018 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). The PAEMST program was established in 1983 by Congress and is administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology. The President may recognize up to 108 exemplary teachers each year.

According to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), the award is regarded as the nation’s top honor for mathematics and science teachers and recognizes teachers who develop and implement high-quality instructional programs that improve student learning. PAEMST awardees serve as models for their colleagues and are leaders in the improvement of science and mathematics education.

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Jaworski wins David Cox FLAVA Award for Excellence in Foreign Language Teaching

Eric Jaworski, Ocean Lakes High School Spanish teacher and world languages department chairperson, has been selected by the Foreign Language Association of Virginia (FLAVA) as the winner of the 2018 David Cox FLAVA Award for Excellence in Foreign Language Teaching, K-12.

According to the FLAVA website, the award recognizes a foreign language educator in grades K-12 who has demonstrated excellence in foreign language instruction and whose nomination may be forwarded as the FLAVA candidate to regional associations’ competitions for Teacher of the Year.

Jaworski has been teaching Spanish at Ocean Lakes High School (OLHS) since 1992 and has a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Old Dominion University and a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Averett University.

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Diane Marx named Virginia Reading Teacher of the Year

Diane Marx

In November 2017, representatives from the Virginia Beach Reading Council visited Creeds Elementary to surprise third-grade teacher Diane Marx with the announcement that she was selected as the local council’s Reading Teacher of the Year. Months later, in March, another group of special guests visited Creeds to surprise Marx with the news that she was named the Virginia State Reading Association Reading Teacher of the Year.

The award recognizes a teacher whose commitment to literacy is exemplary and unparalleled, and Marx was selected from among the honorees named by the 15 reading councils in Virginia. The Virginia State Reading Association officially recognized Marx with the statewide honor March 9 at its annual reading conference in Richmond, Virginia.

“Mrs. Marx is a master teacher in every sense of the word,” wrote Casey Conger, Creeds principal, in a letter of recommendation for Marx. “She instills in her students a love for learning, especially reading, that extends beyond her classroom walls. After spending time in Mrs. Marx’s class, her students are better communicators, collaborators, flexible thinkers, problem solvers and citizens.”

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Students and staff recognized by Daughters of American Revolution

Four local chapters of the Daughters of American Revolution (DAR) hosted an Excellence in American History recognition ceremony Feb. 22 to celebrate the accomplishments of 22 Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ students and teachers. The nonprofit organization was founded in 1890 with the mission of promoting historic preservation, education and patriotism.

Representatives from the Francis Land Chapter, Adam Thoroughgood Chapter, Lynnhaven Parish Chapter and Princess Anne County Chapter presented Outstanding American History Teacher Awards to the following 8 recipients: Michael Bedell, Bayside High School; Sarah Clark, Salem High School; Randy Homesly, Cox High School; Karl Knoche, First Colonial High School; Brian Leininger, Kempsville High School; Dolores Marinello, Windsor Oaks Elementary School; Courtney Pope, Tallwood High School; and Melissa Porter, Landstown High School.

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VBCPS celebrates new National Board Certified Teachers

Congratulations to the school division’s 24 newest National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT) as well as those who renewed their certifications. NBCTs received their notifications in December while staff receiving renewals were notified in October.

These new honorees bring the school division’s total of NBCTs to 144 – the fourth highest in the Commonwealth. This prestigious distinction is a symbol of professional teaching excellence that takes anywhere from three to five years to complete and is based on rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do.

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John Pienkowski wins national ‘Outstanding New Educator’ award

John Pienkowski

In December 2017, the National Association for Alternative Certification (NAAC) announced that Brandon Middle School science teacher John Pienkowski is the recipient of its 2018 Outstanding New Educator Award.

According to the NAAC, award nominees are in their first three years of teaching, were certified through an alternative route program that is a member of NAAC, and demonstrate passion for and commitment to the success of every student. Pienkowski was selected from five finalists.

Pienkowski, who is a second-year teacher, earned his teaching license through Regent University’s Career Switcher program. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he served for 20 years in the U.S. Navy and retired in 2015 as the commanding officer of the USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19).

He began considering a second career as a teacher as he neared retirement.

“I was in charge of the lives of 365 sailors and marines and an almost $2 billion warship. I had to do a lot of training and teaching,” he said. “I knew I was coming up on the end of my career and had been working with young officers right out of college and young sailors right out of high school. I enjoyed teaching them and seeing that ‘aha’ moment. I thought to myself, ‘I really enjoyed doing that.’”

He also knew that a career in education would allow him to continue to serve others.

“I joined the Navy to serve my country, to serve something bigger than myself. I felt [teaching] was a calling,” he reflected in September. “I thought, ‘You really love science. You are really energetic about teaching young people. You served your nation. Go serve your community.’”

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Leigh Drake’s artwork selected for VBEF 2018 Commemorative Print

Leigh Drake

Beginning in November, the Virginia Beach Education Foundation (VBEF) invited the public to cast its online vote for the foundation’s 2018 Commemorative Print. Each of the five options, artwork created by Virginia Beach City Public Schools employees, was on display Dec. 6 at the VBEF’s annual Teacher Grants Improve Futures (TGIF) Celebration where it also announced the winning piece.

Leigh Drake’s piece, titled “If I Could Keep you Little,” was selected to be the featured artwork for the VBEF 2018 Commemorative Print. The Old Donation Center gifted visual arts teacher explained the story behind the painting that features a child fishing.

“I’m inspired every day by the community in which we live and the students that I teach. This piece was a culmination of both,” she said.

“I’ve always loved the slow-paced sport of fishing. I remember fishing with my dad in Pennsylvania when I was young at a lake near our house. Living by the oceanfront now, I love seeing the thrill it brings to people both young and old when they catch something,” said Drake. “Currently, teaching students in grades 3-5, I love that excitement and innocence of them. They aren’t too caught up yet with cell phones and the digital age of things. So through this piece I decided to remove technology and show the wonder the world has when we just take a moment and enjoy things, like fishing.”

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Teacher and principals take flight at air show

Ron Shaneyfelt  flew with the Blue Angels

For Landstown High School astronomy teacher Ron Shaneyfelt and many people across the United States, Aug. 21, 2017 was a memorable date – the first time he saw a total solar eclipse.

Days later, on Aug. 25, Shaneyfelt learned about another life changing event – his selection to ride backseat in the No. 7 F-A/18 jet of the Navy’s elite flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels.

He added Sept. 12 to his list of memorable dates when he flew with the Blue Angels while they were in town for the Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana Air Show.

“Emotionally, it was a day that really touched me realizing I was lucky to be selected for a flight that few get to experience. I couldn’t stop smiling,” reflected Shaneyfelt days after the flight. “I get to use that experience for my students to not just talk about forces in my Astronomy class, I get to tell them of my personal experience and show them the videos of me in the aircraft.”

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Moore becomes first VBCPS National Geographic Certified Educator

Stacey Moore

Stacey Moore loves science. You could say it is in her blood.

“Everything growing up was a science lesson,” said Moore of her childhood with her father, a science teacher.

It’s hard to imagine that the third-grade teacher’s enthusiasm for science could increase but her participation in the National Geographic Educator Certification program did just that.

“It’s a very cool program,” she said. “National Geographic for science is huge! It’s fun as a teacher and the kids absolutely love it.”

Administrated as a beta program since August 2015, 410 teachers have earned the National Geographic Educator Certification as of August 2017, according to National Geographic’s communications staff. An additional 1,488 educators are in the process of completing certification.

Moore is the first and only National Geographic Certified Educator from Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS).

She hopes to help change that.

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Who says you can't go home?

Cherie Davis

When Cherie Davis began her first day as a full time Physical Education Assistant at Providence Elementary School, the one item that she didn't need was a hall map.

"I loved coming back to the school, I loved coming to school here, kindergarten through fifth grade," the former student turned teacher said. "I liked working with the students and I really liked the teachers."

Davis is a product of Virginia Beach City Public Schools as she also attended middle and high school in the division. Little did she know that she would return one day after graduating from college.

"I have a degree in marketing, I had no idea that I would be doing this. It was really never on my radar, it just kind of fell into place," said Davis.

She served as a substitute teacher last year, a role suggested by her mother who also subbed.

"I first started as a sub, because I was looking at working three days a week and, as a sub, you can work when you want to," Davis explained. "The more I subbed the more I enjoyed it. I started out in the library, then kindergarten, pre-school and then P.E. I remember loving PE, and had such a great time with it."

Davis figured that whenever the right position would open up that she would apply. The right one turned out to be in physical education at her former school, working as an assistant to her former teacher, Donna Roenker.

"What made this position the right one?" asked Davis. "This school and the opportunity to work with Ms. Roenker. I knew that this would be what I loved."

"Cherie was an athlete when she was here, she was one of my athletes of the year," Roenker explained. "She went on to college to play field hockey, she did soccer and field hockey when she was in middle school, so she was always athletic."

Roenker says that Davis' familiarity with the school and the staff will be of benefit to her and the students.

"Cherie knows what I expect, she's been through it. She knows what we expect from the students and the more we raise what's expected, the more they give us, so she’s a really good influence on the children. And she seems to have fit in really well and the children like her.

"Yes, one of the first units that we did when I came here was parachute," Davis shared excitedly. "That was my absolute favorite when I was a student here and I was really excited and fed off the student's excitement. I remembered so many of the things that we did and loved that I can share that with the students today. They enjoy it just as much as I did."

"The families know that she is from this area so she can relate to experiences of this area," Roenker continued. "She comes here and knows the students, knows the area; Virginia Beach in general, not just Providence but all of Virginia Beach. The children respect her so I knew it would be a good fit. And that's what we like, we like to have adults in here that get along with the students and can relate to them."

"Relating to the students," said Davis, "I think it makes me a better mom when I get home. Overall my life is so positive. I knew that I had found what I was meant to do for the rest of my life."

Davis's road to discovery brought her roundtrip to her home, a school she attended and a teacher who inspired her nearly two decades ago.

"I said that I would give this a shot and pretty soon I realized that I loved working with the children in this community," Davis concluded. "I had studied marketing and here I am, teaching PE with my former PE teacher. It doesn’t get better than this."