2014 Top Teachers

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Coastal Virginia Magazine Top Teacher Shellie McHenryShellie McHenry

School: Southampton High School, Courtland

Years as an educator: 11

Grades and subjects taught: Sophomore and freshman English

Special recognitions/awards: Teacher of the Month; chairperson for several committees; part of the School Leadership Team

Why did you choose teaching as a career? My childhood was challenging; the only reliably consistent adults in my life were teachers, so I developed a love and respect for that profession. I tried several career paths before I came into teaching and felt for the first time this was the life I was meant to be living.

Your favorite part about being a teacher? Teaching high school provides the unique opportunity of watching students mature into the young adults they will become. I love the chance to be part of that: to open their minds to new ideas through literature, to show them the world as a place of opportunities and a place filled with people different from themselves.

The most important thing you have learned during your teaching career?

Students are not going to learn the way that I do, or the way that students five or 10 years ago did. I read what they read. I try to stay connected with what is important to them. I try to create lesson plans that are modern and technology-enhanced and help them connect what we are learning to their worlds.

At the end of the school year, what do you most want your students to leave your classroom knowing? I want them to believe in the power of words, whether they have read the words of others who inspired them, or they have developed the skills to write in a way that will inspire others.

What is one lesson/project/or initiative you started in your classroom or at your school that you are most proud of? Key Club, the community service group that I advise. I did not start the club, but over the past 11 years serving as their mentor, I have watched them grow into a self-governed group of teens eager to serve their school and community, moving from winning district awards to being recognized as a top Key Club internationally. Their willingness to serve as well as their continued achievements never fail to amaze me.

From her nomination: “Unlike other teachers, Mrs. McHenry was there to teach. Because of her courses, I decided that I wanted to pursue a degree in English. Mrs. McHenry is a teacher who goes above the mark, ensuring that students are challenged in their work but also willing to assist in other aspects of life.” —Amanda Johnson, student


Coastal Virginia Magazine Top Teacher Wendy PowellWendy Powell

School: Suffolk Christian Academy, Suffolk

Years as an educator: 7

Grades and subjects taught: Third grade, fourth grade, Spanish (kindergarten–fifth), Music (kindergarten–fifth), drama (middle school)

Why did you choose teaching as a career? Throughout my own school days, God placed teachers in my path that had an incredible impact on my life. The influence, care and encouragement they gave was truly inspirational. This played a big part in my decision to go into teaching. If I could have an opportunity to positively influence and invest in students in the same way, I would count my life blessed.

Your favorite part about being a teacher? There are many parts about being a teacher that I love, but my favorite part is seeing the light go on when they are learning a concept. They get so excited and feel so accomplished when they have understood. Knowing that I am making a temporary investment that could result in lifelong dividends makes the difficult days easier and the good days even better.

The most important thing you have learned during your teaching career?

There are numerous things I have learned on the road of education. First, the differences in the way each child learns. Because each child is unique, it is incredibly important that I teach, and each child has the opportunity to learn, in a way that is best for them. Second, and most important, is to treat each child with fairness and love. You never know what a child may be experiencing outside the classroom. Love and care can help to break through difficult walls to give the students an opportunity to reach their full potential.

At the end of the school year, what do you most want your students to leave your classroom knowing? Subject matter is important, but what I most want my students to know is that I love them unconditionally. I pray they understand that each one of them is special, has unique gifts to share with the world, and not to let anything hold them back from accomplishing their goal.

What is one lesson/project/or initiative you started in your classroom or at your school that you are most proud of? I get to play a big part in our missions projects at school. We were able to send, through Operation Christmas Child, Christmas gift boxes to children all over the world. It was amazing to see their excitement as they gave to others. I was so glad play a part in this giving project.

From her nomination: “I watched her take each child and teach them in the way that they learned best. Students learn differently. Wendy is able to transition between auditory, visual and creative learners and have successes for every student. Teaching is not a job for her; it’s a way to invest in the lives of everyone she teaches.” —Tom Powell, husband


Coastal Virginia Magazine Top Teacher Sue BaileySue Bailey

School: Landstown Middle School, Virginia Beach

Years as an educator: 14

Grades and subjects taught: Eighth-grade honors algebra and math

Special recognitions/awards: Dozens of awards including Norfolk Public Schools Citywide Teacher of the Year, 2005–2006 and the 2006 CARE Award, presented by Rep. Thelma Drake for contributions in education.

Why did you choose teaching as a career? I entered the teaching profession later in life, after realizing my heart and passion was working with kids. I went back to school 15 years after getting my undergraduate degree to get my master’s in education, and I am so thankful I did. I consider it a privilege to go to school each day and help cultivate a love of math that many students didn’t even know that they had inside them.

Your favorite part about being a teacher? We have amazing math teachers at Landstown, and we work together to provide the best and most innovative instruction we can. The other favorite part of teaching is the kids themselves. Each student comes to me with differences based on their life experiences, and what I try to do is to incorporate these differences into my approach so that all students can be reached. It’s amazing what a student can accomplish when they believe a teacher really cares about them.

The most important thing you have learned during your teaching career?

That the classroom environment really affects student success. Students need to enjoy class and feel comfortable and safe for optimal learning to occur.

At the end of the school year, what do you most want your students to leave your classroom knowing? On the last day of school, I always play Rascal Flatt’s “My Wish,” which pretty much sums up what I want my kids to know as they embark on high school. I’m so excited about the possibilities for their future. All year, I stress setting goals, and at the end of the year we do a project in which the kids look at what they want their lives to be after college. It’s amazing how many students let me know that they are indeed the doctor or lawyer they set about to be back in eighth grade.

What is one lesson/project/or initiative you started in your classroom or at your school that you are most proud of? I love teaching the topic of slope. I clomp around in my entire ski outfit complete with goggles and ski boots. It’s such a fun day because slope really does completely relate to skiing, and it helps the kids remember when they can visualize me with a chuckle in a crazy outfit.

From her nomination: “Mrs. Bailey really knows how to make math fun and interesting. She loves all of her students as if they were her own and will do anything to help her students succeed. She comes in early and stays after school to tutor just about every day. She is also the type of person you can go to for anything.” —Heather Hughes, student


2014 Top Teacher Honorable Mentions

Cynthia Heide, Carrollton Elementary

Lisa Martin, Alliance Christian Academy

Shannon Blanco, Kellam High School

Barbara Taliaferro, W. T. Cooke Elementary

Anne Fowler, Nansemond Suffolk Academy

Dexter Warren, Hardy Elementary School

Anne Curtis, Norfolk Collegiate School

Cheryl Fortner, Westside Elementary School

Joleen Neighbours, Nansemond River High School

Pat Stoegbauer, Walsingham Academy

Jared Wilson, Norfolk Collegiate School

Carolyn Harris, Carver Elementary School

Angela Rizzi, Our Lady of Mount Carmel School

Kathryn Kelchner, St. Mary Star of the Sea School

Tim Duvall, Norfolk Collegiate School

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