The Board of Education at its March 13 meeting honored seven Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) exemplary employees for their dedication to student success and commitment to teaching and learning.

Honored were Elaine Coombs, Laura Curry, Marilin Musser, Brian Palko, Deepa Patel, Brandon Simpson and Hope Warren.

Among those recognized for making a difference in the lives of CCPS students are Brandon Simpson, left, St. Charles High School’s food service manager; Laura Curry, instructional resource teacher at William B. Wade Elementary School; Deepa Patel, secretary to the principal of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School; Elaine Coombs, special education teacher at Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School; Hope Warren, special education instructional assistant at Dr. James Craik Elementary School; Brian Palko, Gateway teacher at Matthew Henson Middle School; and Marilin Musser, Spanish teacher at Robert D. Stethem Educational Center.

Coombs is a special education teacher at Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School. Her career with CCPS spans nearly 29 years, most of which were spent at the elementary school level working with students with special needs. At Jenifer, Coombs demonstrates individual behavior modeling to help increase positive behavior for students so they can learn and reach their highest potential. She took the lead in the implementation of the SOAR program at Jenifer and consulted with several professionals on how to provide the best learning environment for a blind student. Coombs serves as the special education team leader and helps to mentor both new and veteran teachers. She volunteers for extra school events and goes out of her way to support the school community. Jenifer Principal Nancy Seifert said Coombs is an example of a model teacher. “Mrs. Coombs is very humble and kind. Even though she works with some of our most challenging students, she always treats her students with dignity and respect,” Seifert wrote in an award nomination letter.

Curry is an instructional resource teacher at William B. Wade Elementary School and serves as the school’s math resource teacher. She oversees grade level professional development and works to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and learning tools. Curry implemented research-based interventions through the Do the Math program and set up training for the Dreambox math program. She is the school facilitator for Wade’s Formative Assessment for Maryland Educators (FAME) group. Curry offers resources to teachers to help support student engagement and collaborative discussion. She works with her colleagues to organize special projects and helps with a check-in, check-out program for identified students. Curry also launched one of the first Girls on the Run clubs at Wade, which provides running opportunities for female students. Wade Principal Kevin Jackson said Curry is an essential member to his school team. “Laura is meticulous in her craft as a math educator. She works tirelessly with all teachers to help them interpret math standards,” he wrote in an award nomination letter.

Musser is a world languages teacher at the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center, where she currently teaches Spanish. She began teaching at Stethem in 2013 and goes above and beyond to support both students and staff. She also teaches classes as part of the Virtual Academy and evening high school program. Musser holds high standards for her students and pushes them to do their best. Her classroom is vibrant and inviting and students look forward to her class. She adapts her instruction to meet the needs of all students. Musser also serves as an adjunct professor at the College of Southern Maryland, where she can further work with those interested in learning Spanish. Stethem Principal Lynne Arnold said Musser is an example of a dedicated and quality teacher. “Students will tell you ‘Ms. Musser is a great teacher and she really cares about us.’ Her passion for teaching is evident,” Arnold wrote in a nomination letter.

Palko is a Gateway to Technology teacher at Matthew Henson Middle School. Palko has been teaching with CCPS for the past 11 years and strives to meet the needs of all students. He is well versed in technology matters and mentors other teachers in need of technology assistance. Palko meets with students before school, during lunch and after school and is a resource of support for his colleagues. Earlier this school year, Palko launched a Vex Robotics team at Henson and helped the team qualify for a state competition. He also serves as the school Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) sponsor. During the 2015-16 school year, Palko helped a team advance to a national MESA competition. He is an essential member of the Educational Specifications Committee and leader in technology among his colleagues. Henson Principal Christina Caballero said Palko is a valuable asset to her staff. “He works with students to better understand inquiry based discoveries with technology. He is a mentor to other technology teachers in the building,” Caballero wrote in an award nomination letter.

Patel is secretary to the principal at Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School, where she has worked for the past nine years. She is always willing to go above and beyond the call of duty for students, staff, teachers, parents and the school community. This school year, Dr. Mudd is undergoing a transition due to renovations to the existing facility. Patel was instrumental in ensuring the move from the school building to a temporary location was smooth. She served as a key staff member between the contractor and CCPS staff, and helped to minimize disruption. Patel is willing to do whatever is needed to support students and staff, and demonstrates a positive attitude in all that she does. She strives to build relationships with Dr. Mudd families, which have positively affected the school community. Dr. Mudd Principal Orlena Whatley describes Patel as a champion for students and staff. “Her commitment is demonstrated both inside and outside of the office. She sacrifices her time, money and resources for our students, staff and school community. She is a firm believer in our school and believes that we should do everything we can to ensure our students have what they need,” Whatley wrote in an award nomination letter.

Simpson is the food nutrition manager at St. Charles High School. He works closely with staff and students and maintains a high level of professionalism. He is efficient and manages several responsibilities, from serving second-chance breakfast to storing weekly orders in the kitchen. Simpson recognizes when students are without meals and lets school staff know when he notices a child in need. He takes the time to talk with students and ensures every one of them is fed at school. His food service colleagues describe him as a hands-on leader who models an exemplary work ethic. Simpson works tirelessly to ensure the kitchen is clean and well organized, and the meal programs run smoothly. St. Charles Principal Richard Conley describes Simpson as a dedicated member of the Spartan family. “Brandon is deserving of recognition for the hard work and caring nature that he displays on a consistent basis. He is a very dedicated and respected member of the Spartan Family,” Conley wrote in a nomination letter.

Warren is a special education instructional assistant at Dr. James Craik Elementary School. She is a go-to resource for staff members in need of assistance. She is willing to do whatever is necessary to help, whether she is asked to help with classroom set up or work one-on-one with a student in need of additional support. Warren demonstrates a positive attitude and commitment to her students. At the start of the school year, Craik was short one classroom teacher. Warren volunteered to set up the classroom and lesson plan for students. She dedicates time outside of the school day to support the school community and has a positive rapport with parents. Warren has a kind and caring demeanor and students seek her out when they need encouragement. Craik Principal Michelle Beckwith said Warren is an asset to the entire school community. “Ms. Hope Warren sees a need and fills it. No task is beneath her and she does it all without wanting praise or recognition. Her dedication to her students and our school are commendable,” Beckwith wrote in a nomination letter.

The Board at its monthly meetings recognizes outstanding CCPS students and staff for exemplary accomplishments.

About CCPS

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,900 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.