The Board of Education at its Dec. 8 meeting honored five Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) staff members for their commitment to the school system and student success. Each month, the Board honors staff members chosen by their school principals who demonstrate their dedication to teaching and learning. The recognition ceremony was held in a virtual format and featured pre-recorded introductions and recognitions from school principals.
Honored at the meeting were Trevor Gillum, Luciano Morales, Kim Powell Burks, Donna Rzechula, and Wanda Woodland.
Gillum is the computer analyst at General Smallwood Middle School. Since the school closures in March, Gillum has overseen the laptop distribution process for both Smallwood students and staff. Not only has Gillum had to prepare laptops for students, but also for teachers who are virtually teaching from home. He makes himself available to members of the school community for any technology-related needs. Gillum is well organized and manages the Smallwood technology help desk efficiently so all requests are addressed in a timely manner. He has a quick turnaround in responding to tickets and works extra hours to ensure students and staff have the necessary equipment to participate in virtual learning. According to Smallwood Principal Brenda Tillotson, Gillum is a valuable asset to the Smallwood staff. “Mr. Gillum has always done an outstanding job as the computer analyst at Smallwood, but since COVID-19, he has had to do so much more. He does a great job assisting staff and communicates with the school leadership on the progress of any issues that need to be resolved,” Tillotson wrote in a nomination statement.
Morales is an instructional assistant in the Secondary Academy of International Languages (SAIL) program at Thomas Stone High School. He has worked with students in the program for the past four years and is a retired detective with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. He brings a wealth of knowledge about youth outreach to the SAIL program. Through his demonstrated commitment to his students, Morales has earned the respect and trust of SAIL students and their families. He also serves as a translator, helps to conduct home visits with pupil personnel workers, mentors students in need of a positive role model and addresses attendance and grade concerns. Enrollment in the Stone SAIL program is growing, and Morales is an integral part in helping students and families thrive. Stone Principal Shanif Pearl said Morales has helped the administrative team build important relationships with students. “Our SAIL population is from Mexico, Central and South America, just to name a few. The cultural differences were often completely unknown to us. Mr. Morales has been exemplary, teaching our staff to be sensitive to certain topics and involves our SAIL students in teaching us about their culture to make everyone feel at home,” Pearl wrote in a nomination statement.
Powell Burks is a kindergarten instructional assistant at William A. Diggs Elementary School. She is well known among Diggs staff as someone who is willing to step up whenever and wherever she is needed. She comes in early, stays late in the evening, helps hand out virtual instructional materials to parents and creates fun activities for students. Powell Burks goes out of her way to help others in the school building. Powell Burks has taken on the role of team leader for the instructional assistants. Diggs Principal Debra Calvert said when Powell Burks sees a need, she jumps right in without being asked to help. “She has an eye for getting it done and getting it done right. Mrs. Burks is always willing to go above and beyond. She goes out of her way to help with many jobs and activities in the building,” Calvert wrote in a nomination statement.
Rzechula is an instructional assistant in the three-year-old program at J.P. Ryon Elementary School. She has held this position for 14 years and demonstrates a positive energy in all that she does. Throughout virtual learning, Rzechula has helped to organize and distribute materials for her students. Her work ethic is admirable, and she is well known by Ryon staff for being reliable, efficient and punctual. Rzechula is resourceful, creative and a team player. She helped the lead teacher create several hands-on projects for students, such as using items like cereal boxes and paper towel rolls to support learning. She puts in countless hours and serves as an after-school tutor when necessary. Rzechula is active in the school Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and supports school math and reading nights. Rzechula also takes advantage of professional development so she learns the latest on learning trends and topics. She is well known among her colleagues as a staff member who is committed to the success of children. “Mrs. Rzechula is an asset to the community. Our smiling three-year-olds are a testament to her dedication and commitment to education,” Ryon Principal Melinda Johnson wrote in a nomination statement.
Woodland is an instructional assistant at the F.B. Gwynn Educational Center. She began her career with CCPS in 1998 as a substitute teacher and was hired as a full-time employee in 2005. In 2011, she transitioned from the Terrific Threes program to the STAY program at the Gwynn Center. Students enrolled in the STAY program need additional behavioral supports. Woodland works closely with students and is patient, kind and supportive. Her calm demeanor helps her interact and build relationships with her students. When a teacher is absent, Woodland easily steps in and covers a class, ensuring students stay on task with their instructional routines. She is working on a degree in social work and is eager to learn new interventions and programs. Woodland also works with her colleagues to collect data and offer intervention strategies. Gwynn Center Principal Daphne Burns said Woodland is an invaluable asset to her students. “Mrs. Woodland maintains high expectations for herself and her students. She maintains and reviews data to ensure her students are making sufficient progress. She finds joy in helping others,” Burns wrote in a nomination statement.
The Board of Education of Charles County honored four Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) students at its Dec. 8 meeting. School principals annually select one student and staff member for Board recognition. Students are honored for accomplishments in the areas of academic achievement, career readiness and personal responsibility.
School closures announced earlier this year caused CCPS to postpone in-person student and staff recognitions. Health and safety guidelines changed student and staff recognitions at Board meetings to a virtual format. The recognition ceremony featured pre-recorded introductions and recognitions from school principals.
Honored this month were Payton Jones, Makayla Russell, Tamia Smith, and Rajan Venkatesh.
Jones is a fifth-grade student at J.P. Ryon Elementary School. She was chosen by Ryon Principal Melinda Johnson as an exemplary student in academic achievement. Jones is a straight-A student and leader in the virtual classroom. She participates in whole group discussions and is known for providing positive messages for her teacher and peers during online classes. Jones’ teacher describes her as a role-model student and “a pleasure to teach.” Jones demonstrates hard work each day and an exemplary work ethic. Outside of school, Jones participates in gymnastics, dance and swimming, and loves to read, write and illustrate books.
Russell is a fifth-grade student at William. A. Diggs Elementary School. Diggs Principal Debra Calvert selected Russell for recognition in personal responsibility. She has attended Diggs since her first-grade year and is a role-model student. Russell has earned straight A’s since third grade and is always eager to learn. Her teacher describes her as a student who is passionate about learning. She demonstrates hard work in the virtual classroom and strives to help both her teachers and classmates. Russell loves math and plans to pursue a career in finance. Outside of school, Russell is a competitive dancer, member of SeaPerch, and active with a youth auxiliary group that performs community service.
Smith is a senior at Thomas Stone High School. She was chosen by Stone Principal Shanif Pearl as the school’s exemplary student in career readiness. Smith is a student in the Teacher Academy of Maryland (TAM) program and aspires to become a middle school math or English teacher. As part of the TAM program, Smith has completed three Advanced Placement (AP) and 13 honors courses. Her teachers describe her as a motivated student with a strong work ethic. Smith also serves as president of the Educators Rising chapter at Stone, is the basketball team manager, and member of the W.E.B. Du Bois Honor Society. Smith was also nominated for a CCPS “Be the Difference” volunteer award for her work as a mentor with John Hanson Middle School students. Outside of school, Smith holds a part-time job and is active with her church. To date, Smith has 23 college acceptances and was offered more than $900,000 in scholarships. She hopes to attend Morgan State University next fall.
Venkatesh is an eighth-grade student at General Smallwood Middle School. Smallwood Principal Brenda Tillotson selected Venkatesh for recognition in academic achievement. Venkatesh is an honor-roll student and carries a 4.0 GPA. He has received gifted services since elementary school and recently scored in the top 20 percent of his peers on county reading and math assessments. Venkatesh is a member of the school Math Counts and Spelling Bee teams, and Destination Imagination. He was also selected to serve as a guest speaker during the promotion ceremony for students at Gale-Bailey Elementary School. Venkatesh is well known among his teachers as a role model and leader among his peers.
The Board each month honors CCPS students and staff selected by their principal for recognition.