Each year, two Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) teachers are chosen to represent the school system in Teacher of the Year awards programs. The Washington Post finalist from CCPS represents the school system in the paper’s overall awards program in which one teacher from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area is named The Washington Post Teacher of the Year. The Charles County Teacher of the Year honoree represents CCPS in the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Maryland Teacher of the Year program in which one teacher receives the overall state honor.

Left to right are Thorne, Simpson, Hungerford, Anderson and Amore. Credit: Charles County Public Schools

Morghan Hungerford, a second-grade teacher at Arthur Middleton Elementary School, was selected as the 2022 Charles County Teacher of the Year from among five finalists. Annemarie Simpson, Ph.D., a mathematics teacher at Maurice J. McDonough High School was selected as CCPS’s nominee for The Washington Post’s Teacher of the Year Award. Along with Hungerford and Simpson, three other CCPS teachers made it to the final round of consideration. Ryan Amore, instructional resource teacher, J.C. Parks Elementary School; Barbara Anderson, kindergarten teacher, Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School; and Brittany Thorne, fifth-grade teacher, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School round out the Top 5 finalists for Charles County Public Schools Teacher of the Year.

Hungerford graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Salisbury University in 2016 where she majored in elementary education. She has two master’s degrees from the American College of Education in Indianapolis, and she is currently enrolled in the Certificate in School Management and Leadership program at Harvard University. At Middleton, Hungerford is the second-grade team leader and the president of the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). Outside of the classroom, she stays busy at the school and has held several leadership positions, including being the team leader for Middleton’s Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS) program. She was the site coordinator for the Summer Boost program and works to develop a curriculum for CCPS. In the community, she helps with Teen Court and is a member of the Rotary Club of Charles County, Relay for Life, United Way of Charles County, and volunteers at the Charles Regional Medical Center Foundation. “Ms. Hungerford embodies what it means to selflessly support others and models how to impact the greater good in all the activities she is involved in within our school and community,” Middleton Principal Benjamin Harrington said in nomination materials. To read more about Hungerford, click here. 

Simpson is a mathematics teacher and department chair at McDonough. She graduated from Pennsylvania State College with her bachelor’s degree, earned her master’s from Florida State University, and her Ph.D. in professional students in education from Capella University. She coaches the math team at McDonough, and the school’s varsity swim teams. Simpson has assisted in writing a common core math curriculum for the MSDE and was an adjunct math instructor at the College of Southern Maryland. Simpson’s influence extends beyond the classroom. McDonough senior Cole Rapczynski was in Simpson’s math class in his junior and senior years. She has been his swim coach at the school since he was a freshman. “She has taught me many things in and out of books, including pre-calculus and statistics, as well as life lessons and the love for learning math,” he said. To read more about Simpson, click here. 

Amore started his career with CCPS in 2004 as a fourth-grade teacher at Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School. While there, Amore was an inclusion team and co-leader of the fourth-grade team. He has taught third and fifth grades at Berry Elementary School before becoming an instructional resource teacher (ILT) at Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy. In August 2021, Amore began working as an instructional resource teacher at J.C. Parks. Among other duties, elementary school ILTs serve as a liaison between the Office of Instruction and their school and work with their principals to coordinate the math program at their schools. “There is something about how Ryan approaches math and learning that is hard to duplicate,” Parks Principal Gregory Miller said in nomination materials. “He truly shows enthusiasm for math and imparts that onto us all — teachers and students.” At school events, Amore talks with their parents and gives out his business card to catch up with them later. “That connection is invaluable,” Miller said. At Mt. Hope/Najemoy, Amore was the chairman of a group called Iron Men, a group that provides real-world experiences for underprivileged students. He would like to start a similar group at Parks. Amore and the group would visit Maurice J. McDonough High School athletic events and meet the high school students who spoke to them about the importance of good grades and the focus it takes to train for sports. “Mr. Amore sought a way to expose the Iron Men to positive male influences in order to inspire them and guide them as they neared the end of elementary school,” Westlake High School Vice Principal Anthony Peck said. As a teacher, Amore engages students and urges them to take ownership of their education. “You can often find him with a group of students and manipulatives working away at a problem, all the while provoking them to think for themselves,” Charna N. Brooks, learning resource teacher at J.C. Parks, said. He asks students “Tell me what you’re thinking,” or “Show me how you got your answer.” Students wrote in support of Amore, saying his method of teaching math made them think differently about the subject and delve further into it. “Mr. Amore was an amazing teacher who made learning interesting and fun,” Eliza Freundel, a General Smallwood Middle School eighth-grade student, said. “Mr. Amore pushed me to do my best in math and now I have been invited to join the fifth-grade math team,” Landon Hubbard, a fifth-grader at Mt. Hope, said. “He explained the math in different ways and that has been a big part of me liking math and being good at it.”

A kindergarten teacher with more than 26 years of experience in education, Anderson specializes in guiding some of the school system’s youngest learners into independent thinkers. She believes in celebrating mistakes that lead to flexible thinking and to students taking charge of their own education. A graduate of Bowie State University, Anderson taught fifth grade for two years at Benjamin Foulois Elementary School in Morningside before her career began at Mt. Hope, where she has taught since 1998. First as a fifth-grade teacher, then teaching second and fourth grades. She has been a kindergarten teacher at Mt. Hope since 2019. “She is a teacher who loves to watch students interact with each other, work with each other and learn from each other,” Mt. Hope Principal Mike Hoffman. “The students are always excited when walking into her classroom. That is a win for sure — students truly want to come to your classroom every day.” Henry E. Lackey High School graduate Macie Shumpert was in Anderson’s second-grade class. “Mrs. Anderson’s enthusiastic attitude about learning carried over to my love of school and learning,” she said. “Having Mrs. Anderson as a teacher during my primary school years has made an impact in my adult life” Shumpert said. When virtual school started in the summer of 2020, many parents now working from home saw and heard how teachers were leading classes over Zoom. Danielle Thorp’s son Waylon was in Anderson’s class. The mother and son had at-home workstations close to each other. She worked from home; he went to school. “I was constantly in earshot of hearing the instruction,” Thorp said. “Mrs. Anderson was always so patient and willing to help any student who needed assistance. She went above and beyond to ensure all students felt included in the daily activities. She ensured each students received group and personal instruction.” Beyond the classroom, Anderson is part of the fabric of Mt. Hope. She is on the safety committee as well as the math and reading committees. She has sponsored the Just Say No Club and has been the coordinator of the summer lunch program, the kindergarten summer orientation, and afterschool activities. In the community, Anderson has been a softball coach for the Charles County Youth League (CCYL), a cheerleading coach for the La Plata Blue Knights, and participates in Nanjemoy Heritage Day and Christmas in Nanjemoy events.

Thorne is a fifth-grade teacher at Dr. Mudd where she has been the grade-level chair, PBIS co-coordinator, Education Association of Charles County (EACC) building representative, Geography Bee sponsor, and coordinator of the online grade book. Thorne makes her students feel safe and ready to learn. “The students in Ms. Thorne’s class are always willing to take risks,” Dr. Mudd Vice Principal Shellia Soderstrom said in nomination materials. “Ms. Thorne instills in students a desire to learn and achieve, understands the individual needs of students, encourages their talents, and fosters their self-esteem.” Thorne can be counted on to help new teachers and develop a rapport with parents. Heather Yake’s daughter, Evann, was a student in Thorne’s class. “She always felt welcomed and stated that Ms. Thorne created a classroom environment that was organized, inviting, and comfortable for everyone,” she said. Yake also praised Thorne’s exceptional communication with their parents. “We received regular communication via emails, phone calls, or notes to keep us informed and up-to-date on classroom and school information,” Yake said. For two years, Lindsey McNeil, a special education teacher, co-taught with Thorne in fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms. “Ms. Thorne was warm and welcomed me into her classroom and as her friend,” McNeil said. “She is the reason I started going to parent nights and other events.” Thorne is known to go above and beyond to help colleagues, said Gabrielle Thompson, who first met Thorne when Thompson arrived at Dr. Mudd as a student-teacher. “From the moment I stepped into the school, she was always someone who kindly offered help and support throughout my time at Dr. Mudd.” Students feel the same way. They call Thorne helpful, amazing, and kind. “Ms. Thorne is really smart, and she is always happy,” Zion Bannister, a fifth-grade student, said. “Ms. Thorne does good things,” Aminah Washington, a fifth-grade student, said. “She gives second chances for assignments. Even when the class isn’t following directions, she waits for us and never gives up on us.”

Each CCPS school and center nominate a teacher for the CCPS Teacher of the Year Award program.


Lindsey Tayman is a special education teacher at the F.B. Gwynn Educational Center. Parents see her love and devotion to her students. “The support we received from Mrs. Tayman in our time at the Gwynn Center is entirely unmatched by anything we have ever experienced,” Kelsey Edwards, a parent of a former Gwynn student, said. “She believed in and encouraged my son, Connor, with everything she had.” As a coworker, Tayman is reliable and flexible. “She understands the importance of building relationships upon trust and confidence, not only with students but with staff and parents as well,” Melissa White, a former teacher at Gwynn, said.

A middle-school language arts teacher at the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center, Alison Patricelli is known for being a collaborative and creative leader. “Her students speak highly of her and frequently ask to meet with her if they are having difficulties,” Natalie Williams-Cole, administrative intern at Stethem, said. “One student shared with me that Ms. Patricelli motivates him to do well and that she has high expectations for all her students.” Parents see Patricelli’s impact on their children, as well. “Ms. Patricelli helped my daughter gain confidence in her writing ability,” Crystal Hill, mother of one of Patricelli’s former students, said. “Even after my daughter moved on to ninth grade, she checked in.”

Elementary Schools

Elizabeth Simmons is a fifth-grade teacher at C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School where she inspires students. “Ms. Simmons was the best teacher ever,” Autumn Hart, now a Mattawoman Middle School seventh-grader wrote in a “My Awesome Teacher” essay. “She was always willing to help me and my classmates … for example, she stayed late after school to help me with my math. And thanks to her, I’m now better at math than I was before!” Coworkers see firsthand her experience benefiting her students. “Ms. Simmons demonstrates strong teaching skills regardless of her class’s diversity of learning levels. She ensures that her students experience success by challenging their abilities,” Luanne Cochran, instructional resource teacher, and Ayesha Williams reading resource teacher wrote in a joint letter.

When Jean Proctor, a kindergarten teacher at Berry Elementary School, went to college she wasn’t sure what she wanted to study. “I just knew that I loved working with children,” she said. While there, her early childhood education instructor instilled in her a love of learning. That is something Proctor strives to do with her students. “At this age,” she said of her kindergarten students, “most children are very curious and want to learn about the people and the world around them.” During her teaching career, Proctor has been a grade-level team leader, mentored new teachers, and led the school’s Early Intervention and Implementation Program team.

Lauren Sharpe began her teaching career at Eva Turner Elementary School in 2013 before moving to Billingsley Elementary School in 2019. A third-grade teacher and team leader, Sharpe is a planner and well organized, Billingsley Principal Sabrina Robinson-Taylor said. Known as a consistent, firm, and caring teacher, students “blossom” in her classroom, Robinson-Taylor said. Parents report that their children come home from school excitedly talking about their school day. “My daughter has always liked school but has never come home on such a regular basis telling about her day in such detail,” Amanda Chetry, a Billingsley parent, said. Sharpe’s influence is felt. “Mrs. Sharpe is the first teacher my children have ever had who helped them realize that they have the capacity to change the world,” Billingsley parent Kristina Baird said.

Music is in the air at Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary School thanks to Denise Pratt, the music teacher at the school since 2014. Previously, she taught music at J.C. Parks Elementary School. Her love of music sparks an interest in the subject among her students, even during virtual learning. “She continued to teach and make music,” Cathy Bellamy, parent of a former Dr. Brown student, said. “My daughter has carried on her love of music and the arts to middle school where she continues to play the violin.” Pratt is Dr. Brown’s EACC building representative, greets students each morning, writes curriculum for CCPS, founded Dr. Brown’s drama club, and helps organize the school’s science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) Night. Pratt is a five-time National Education Association (NEA) delegate representing Maryland and has been a Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) delegate 10 times.

Pamela Batchelor is an inclusion teacher for students in prekindergarten and first grade at Dr. James Craik Elementary School. She has also worked at Eva Turner and J.C. Parks elementary schools. “She can reach a troubled or struggling student with simple, yet profound instincts and empathy coupled with complete professionalism,” Principal Michelle Beckwith said. “Likewise, she can accelerate and challenge her brightest students.” Batchelor co-sponsors Craik’s Tiger Green Team and the Green School Committee and has served as team leader for the school’s Relay for Life team. Her students appreciate Batchelor’s patience and dedication. “She was really nice and taught me many things,” Conall Faherty, a fourth-grade student at Craik, said. “She taught me hard math and she said it clearly, so it made sense.”

Jacqueline Stancliff, a fifth-grade teacher at William A. Diggs Elementary School, started her career with CCPS as a substitute teacher and later worked as an instructional assistant. She began teaching at Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School before transferring to Diggs in 2006. When virtual learning took hold in the 2020-2021 school year, parents came to rely on Stancliff to not only teach their children but to help them navigate the virtual waters. “Technology is not always easy for us as parents,” Mark and Venecia Simms, parents of former students of Stancliff’s, said. “However, Ms. Stancliff held several sessions during the pandemic to make sure that we understood how to help our children.” Students like that Stancliff isn’t too stuffy in the classroom. “Ms. Stancliff is funny, and she makes jokes which sometimes makes us laugh,” student Zeina Amin said. “Reading is my favorite subject,” student Sydney Edwards said. “Ms. Stancliff makes it fun by using video examples of phrases that we don’t understand.”

A third-grade teacher at Gale-Bailey Elementary School, Brandi Brown brings enthusiasm, communication skills, and a professional demeanor to her classroom. She is also reliable, dedicated, and upbeat. “Ms. Brown is a natural leader with a take-charge attitude,” Principal Tangie Scales said. “She wants to get it right for students, her colleagues, and herself.” Brown makes learning fun for her students, who strive to do more in class. “She is so good at teaching fractions. She is also good at teaching multiplication,” student Aria Mooneyham said. “She tells me what I need to do to get better at reading and math. Ms. Brown is the best teacher ever.”

Kate Kolbe is a kindergarten teacher at Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary School with more than 13 years of experience teaching young students. She has been at Higdon since 2014 and previously taught first grade at Barnhart. Kolbe is aware that for many students, kindergarten is where most start their education journey. “She recognizes the importance of creating a climate that encourages a love of school and learning,” Lisa Barrett, a parent of a former student, said. The memories of being in Kolbe’s classroom stay with students. Ava King, a fifth-grader, remembered her time as a student in Kolbe’s classroom. “She was fun and enthusiastic every day,” King said. “When I think of her class, I just think of great memories.”

As a fifth-grade teacher at Indian Head Elementary School, Robyn Dalton collaborates with colleagues, makes connections with students, and supports all school and county initiatives. “She is such a natural when it comes to teaching,” Principal Shane Blandford said. “She creates a community in her classroom that is rare.” Dalton’s students said she is patient and engaging. “Mrs. Dalton is a nice teacher because she goes through the work with us and if don’t understand she never goes ahead,” student Savanna Proctor said. “Mrs. Dalton also teaches us how to calm down if we are angry and she also tells us to never disrespect other classmates.”

A reading recovery teacher at Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School, Anita Richardson strives to compel students to want to read. “I make it so they always want to learn,” Richardson said. She also ensures she is available to help her colleagues in the area of reading. Richardson began her teaching career in California and came to CCPS in 2003. She taught first and second grade for six years. “I really saw the importance during that time of laying the foundation for reading,” she said. “I worked with first- and second-grade students to develop a love for reading by introducing them to all types of literature, but also empowering them to understand how to unpack words by learning to unlock sounds and letters.”

Michele Brucculeiri is a second-grade teacher at Malcolm Elementary School where she’s known as “Mrs. B.” Parents really got the chance to see her shine during virtual learning. “I never thought as an adult I would spend so much time in a second-grade class, but I was there nearly every day,” Luke Lyon, a parent who worked from home during the 2020-21 school year, said. He said he saw creative ideas that always kept the kids engaged and eager to learn. Liam Cowan, a former student of Brucculeiri’s who is now in eighth grade, remembered his time in her classroom as engaging and fun. “She taught with confidence and kindness,” he said. “She taught me how to count, even when I had my own idea of how it should be done. She was able to connect with her students and be not only a teacher, but we all thought she was a true friend.”

With more than 23 years of teaching experience, first-grade teacher Juliana Herscher of T.C. Martin Elementary School is dedicated, experienced, and enthusiastic. “From Day 1, Mrs. Herscher has helped instill a love of learning in her students,” Kimberly Hudler, content specialist for elementary reading, said. “She understands that first-grade students need to be actively involved in their learning.” Addison Huffer, a fifth-grade student at Martin, is a former student of Herscher’s. “Mrs. Herscher will always be a kind teacher and my favorite teacher,” Huffer said. Carly Birmingham, another fifth-grader who was in Herscher’s first-grade class, also counts Herscher as a hall of fame teacher. “She always found a way to make learning fun. I still remember the little tricks that she used to spell some difficult words. As I prepare to leave T.C. Martin and go to middle school, I know that I will be ready because of the lessons I learned in first grade and built upon in second through fifth grade.”

Elizabeth Chotkowski is a special education teacher at Mary H. Matula Elementary School where she is known for her leadership, work ethic, and commitment to children. She works with students who have unique challenges. “They might struggle to learn in a traditional way, or they simply don’t view school and learning as important to their future,” said Suzanne Grund, a second-grade teacher who has worked with Chotkowski. “Beth embraces these learners and demonstrates a commitment to them every single day.” Her students take what they have learned from her as they advance. “Even though she isn’t my teacher this year she still checks in on me,” Isaiah Lancaster, a fifth-grade student, said. “I still use strategies that Ms. Beth taught me in a reading group and it helps me in school.” Heather Takeuchi, a special education teacher at Matula, has worked with Chotkowski for five years. “She sees the best in students and wants them to see the best in themselves,” Takeuchi said. “Progress is seen in all her students because of the determination and genuine care she has for them.”

For the past 25 years, Marty Margolis, a physical education teacher at Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School, has kept students on their toes. He is also known for his willingness to help colleagues and assist where he is needed. “As an educator, Marty is a true role model to me,” Keah Mason, fourth-grade teacher, and past Teacher of the Year nominee for Mitchell said. “He treats his colleagues like family, always there to lend a hand. And he takes great pride in watching students grow and seeing them excel in all areas.” Margolis has a knack for connecting with people of all ages, especially students, said Corey Specht, a fifth-grade teacher, and parent of a Mitchell student. “His ability to connect with his students and his talent to teach both simple, as well as the difficult and more advanced topics and skills required in teaching physical education, is what truly makes teaching skills superior,” Specht said. Hannah Smigal, a fourth-grader, is in her second year at Mitchell. She didn’t like PE because she didn’t think she was good at sports. “Now, PE is my favorite special area class because Mr. Margolis is nice and takes the time to teach me how to play each sport and encourages me to do my best,” she said. “He is strong and encourages us to use what we learn in PE to be healthy outside of school.”

Before becoming the intermediate science teacher at Mary B. Neal Elementary School, Heather Shumate was the third-grade gifted cluster teacher at the school. Her ability to work with students at all levels and meet their individual needs is outstanding, Kelly Craft, learning resource teacher, said. “Her classroom is full of engaged and excited students, and as a fellow teacher, it never ceases to amaze me how the kids react to her.” Students appreciate Shumate. “We are always busy,” Jenna Droter, a fourth-grade student, said. “Ms. Shumate makes learning more interesting.” At Neal, Shumate is a leader in the area of mindfulness, Principal Deborah Brown said. “She is very attuned to the needs of her students, and she teaches students to be mindful. … She clearly adores teaching and the children she teaches,” Brown said.  

Jamiee Parks has been a prekindergarten teacher at J.P. Ryon Elementary School for nine years and is the current team leader. She greets all prekindergarten students by their names, not just her students. “She greets them all by name in the morning and this is a fantastic way for everyone to start their days,” Michelle Colbert, a Ryon teacher, said. “It is the little things like this that she does that make the scholars feel special and create a warm and inviting learning space.” Parents see the influence Parks have on their children. Danielle Skidmore’s daughter, Makenzie, stops by Park’s classroom each morning to say “Hi.” “I think it just might be her bright, welcoming smile that’s just a great way to start the day,” Skidmore said. “Mrs. Parks was definitely supposed to be a teacher. She has such a natural calling for teaching.”

Before coming to Eva Turner Elementary School, first-grade teacher Sabrina Stark was a teacher at the National Christian Academy. At Turner, Stark works to establish relationships with her students, Principal Gary Lesko said. “Mrs. Stark means a lot to me,” fifth grader Keilah Smith said. “When I was in class, she inspired me to keep going and to never give up.” Stark spends hours planning rigorous and effective lessons, Shelaine Beaver, a first-grade teacher and past Teacher of the Year nominee for Turner, said. Not only does Stark cultivate relationships with students, but she also develops them with parents as well. “She works with them as partners in their child’s learning,” Beaver said. Turner parent Cherice Smith agreed. “She worked closely with me to ensure that my children had the necessary skills and were prepared to move on to the next grade,” Smith said. “She encourages her students and always provides positive feedback to her class. I know that with my children, especially, this encouragement created in them a desire to excel in their schoolwork.”

At William B. Wade Elementary School, Susan Sweeney keeps students in tune as an instrumental music teacher. She previously taught band and orchestra in Prince George’s County. When CCPS began offering orchestra 22 years ago, Sweeney was one of the teachers who started the pilot program at the elementary level. Her teaching isn’t limited to students. “She regularly invites me into her classroom for mini-performances and even teaches me how to play the instruments along with the students,” Principal William Miller said. Over the years, Sweeney has taught more than 2,000 students how to play the violin, viola, or cello. “Although learning to play a string instrument is a complicated endeavor, saying ‘I can’t do it,” is not allowed in Mrs. Sweeney’s classroom,” Andrew Blumhardt, instructional specialist for fine and performing arts, said. “Instead, you must say ‘I can’t do it — yet.” She frequently reminds her students of the ‘power of yet.’ Simply put, she believes in her students so that they can believe in themselves.” Students develop a love of music by being in Sweeney’s class. “She makes me feel like I’m awesome at playing the cello,” fifth grader Dakotah Alston said. “I will for sure play it next year.”

Middle school

Cameron Ashbaugh is a sixth-grade language arts teacher at Theodore G. Davis Middle School, where for the past five years he has taught various levels of learners. He is the sixth-grade team leader as well as a leader of the sixth-grade English/language arts team. “Mr. Ashbaugh leads by example, making learning engaging and bringing about a thirst for knowledge among his students,” Linda Forrest, a reading specialist at General Smallwood Middle School, said. Forrest’s daughter, Lilyana, who is a student of Ashbaugh’s, said his class is “fun and challenging.” Ashbaugh plays music during class and trusts his students to stay on task while letting them talk to each other. “He is always there for us, and he’s not too strict, so it’s easier for kids to express themselves,” Robesi Ojor, a Davis sixth-grader, said. Ashbaugh creates a calm and kind environment for students and is flexible with his time. “There is much more that Mr. Ashbaugh does every day out of kindness for that his students that do not go unnoticed,” Samuel Woods, a sixth-grader said.

At Mattawoman Middle School, LoWanda Buck, a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and Project Lead the Way teacher, ensures her students get every chance to experience STEM activities. She organizes and chaperones field trips, oversees STEM clubs, and finds creative ways to make learning fun. Buck continues to sharpen her skills by participating in workshops and training in the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Project Lead the Way program. Sixth-grader Noah Sturdivant — like most in his shoes — was nervous about starting middle school. “Ms. Buck made us feel great about coming to Mattawoman,” he said. “Her energy is always inviting and friendly which makes us feel safe in her classroom. She has high expectations for her students.” That energy expands to her colleagues as well. She is the related arts team leader serving as a liaison between related arts teachers and administrators. She oversees the yearbook and coordinates the school’s computer night, Hour of Code, and SeaPerch programs. “She is a phenomenal leader,” Nyesha Lanes-Sherman, sixth-grade administrator, said. “One who hones and brings out the skills and talents in others.”

Lauren Lavoie has been a special education teacher at Piccowaxen Middle School since 2007. She’s the department chair and is the advisor for Educators Rising, a group made up of students interested in teaching. “Our Educators Rising program is thriving because of the guidance of Ms. Lavoie,” Piccowaxen Vice-Principal Shana Gold said. “Her enthusiasm for all things learning rubs off on our future generation of teachers instilling excitement in the field of education.” Evan Harris, an eighth-grader, appreciates Lavoie’s help and kindness. “When I have a bad day, she comforts me,” he said. Her coworkers consider her an incredible teacher and colleague. “She is always willing to step in and support someone when they need or ask,” Caitlin Timko, a math teacher, said. “She is dependable and has a way about her that keeps things relaxed and entertaining.”

At General Smallwood Middle School, Elizabeth Adams teaches seventh-grade language arts and is known for having high expectations for her students. She holds lunch bunches and helps books come to life by dressing up as a character from the novel. “When I visit her classroom, I see students who want to learn,” Smallwood Principal Brenda Tillotson said. “They are engaged with their novels and ask questions.” Dana Freundel’s two children were students in Adams’ classroom. “Our son had Ms. Adams first and I can remember him telling our daughter how much she was going to love being in Ms. Adams’ class,” Freundel said. “To inspire a teenage boy to enjoy reading and writing is a gift. And yes, our daughter loved Ms. Adams too.”

Kristen Barrett is a social studies teacher at Milton M. Somers Middle School. In 2011, she was named the Charles County History Fair Teacher of the Year and a few years later, in 2019, she was named an exemplary employee at Somers. Barrett has been the school’s History Day coordinator for the past 14 years and sponsored many clubs at Somers. Colleagues said that Barrett makes her students feel welcome and accepted. “She makes it a point to create engaging lessons that share and celebrate each culture’s heritage month,” April Thompson, seventh-grade social studies teacher, said. “Students will research and then decorate the classroom with images that represent what they learned.” As a social studies resource teacher, Allen Hopkins travels all over the county, visiting classrooms. “Mrs. Barrett’s classroom is a hidden gem of a place,” he said. “Her calming, kind presence can transform the most disagreeable seventh grader into a student who is ready and eager to learn.”

Benjamin Stoddert Middle School language arts teacher Sherryle Jackson has more than 25 years of teaching experience and is a leader in her school, as evidenced by Principal Erica Williams. “She brings integrity to the discipline of language arts by developing a well-rounded approach to addressing literacy deficiencies, literary analysis and writing is an essential tool for effective communication,” Williams said. Students reap the benefits of Jackson’s talents. “She always helps us work through our questions,” Amira Ligonde, a sixth-grade student, said. “She also assists us in building our vocabulary of unfamiliar words.” Sixth-grader Kaylen Ameh said that Jackson has helped improve the way she writes. “She gives her time to sit down and explain,” Ameh said, adding that Jackson has introduced her to authors who have become some of her favorites.

High schools

A math teacher who sets high expectations for her students, Christina Laverty of Henry E. Lackey High School embraces a growth mindset when it comes to teaching. “You may not get it … yet. But you will,” Principal Kathy Perriello said of Laverty’s philosophy. Laverty, the math department chair at Lackey, emphasizes fundamentals and thoroughly explains concepts and problems,” Shelley Culhane, a parent of a Lackey graduate, said. She stays busy outside of the classroom while staying immersed in the Charger culture. Laverty is the sponsor for Educators Rising, she tutors students and has participated in many school improvement initiatives.  “Ms. Laverty goes beyond good teaching and has always been a trusted adult a student can go to in times of need or concern,” Tyne Kidd, a Lackey senior, said. “I could not imagine my high school career without her.”

Jessica Cook is a social studies teacher at La Plata High School where she is an advisor for the Minority Student Union and the Model United Nations team. She is also the class sponsor for the Student Government Association (SGA) and is a facilitator and group leader of in-service and professional development opportunities. As a classroom teacher, Cook “steps outside of traditional pedagogical methods to bring her classroom to life and immerse the students in the curriculum,” Nicole Deavers, testing coordinator, said. She positively influences students and builds relationships. “Dependable, trustworthy, competent, and driven, Mrs. Cook personifies what any school would categorize as a role model,” Principal Douglass Dolan said. “Her students love learning in her classroom, and Mrs. Cook never shies away from a challenge.” Parents appreciate the effect she has on their children. “My daughter learned from Mrs. Cook that you can go as far as you want in this world and work becomes passion when you believe in yourself,” Jennifer C. Harris, mother of Jordan Harris, a La Plata graduate, said.  

Joseph Burton is a math and student leadership teacher at North Point High School where he is also the Gradebook coordinator, a new teacher mentor, is the school’s public relations coordinator and coordinates the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) teams. Previously the assistant junior varsity baseball coach, Burton currently assistant coaches the varsity golf team. “Mr. Burton is always a very positive person in the classroom and on the golf course,” Marlene Annoni, parent of Bailey Davis, a North Point graduate. “Mr. Burton’s door is always open if a student wants to come in for extra help or just to talk.” Students appreciate Burton’s patience and positivity. “In his rigorous college-level calculus class, he teaches with enthusiasm to engage students in his lessons,” Shayla Pankey, North Point senior said. “While this is only his second year teaching the class, he has become a great role model for students, exemplifying what it means to be a great leader.”

At St. Charles High School, Michelle Craig teaches the science and is the science department chair. While teaching at North Point in 2004, she was named an Outstanding Science Teacher of the Year in the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) awards program. Craig helped St. Charles implement the Project Lead the Way Biomedical Studies program after moving from North Point to the new school when it opened in 2014. “Since that time the program has grown to include three additional courses and two additional teachers,” Principal Richard Conley said. Craig teaches the capstone course — biomedical innovations — and has built partnerships with hospitals and groups in the community to ensure seniors have exposure to careers in the medical field. St. Charles senior Brianna Cusick remembered her freshman year meeting Craig. “As soon as I walked into her class, she was the most welcoming teacher,” Cusick said. “She is an extremely helpful teacher; she will go over something with you until you cannot get it wrong.”

Sabryna Valen is an English as a Second Language (ESOL) teacher at Thomas Stone High School. She works as a Spanish interpreter and translator for the school system, works collaboratively with others to develop ESOL math curriculum and has been an afterschool tutor. “Her students respond well to her creative and engaging approach to education,” Principal Shanif Pearl said. “Her lessons are oftentimes geared to be of genuine interest to the students, making them relative to the world around them.” Michael Bermundez Funes, senior, has been a student in Valen’s ESOL class for the past three years. “When I first walked into Mrs. Valen’s class, I didn’t really care about learning,” he said. “Mrs. Valen saw me as a person, not just another student, and knew what I needed.” Valen recognized the various learning styles of her students and made learning fun. “She encouraged us to help each other if we didn’t understand anything,” Bermundez Funes said. “She decorates her room so that it looks like a home, not just another boring classroom. She always displays our work on the walls of her classroom, which makes us proud of ourselves,” he said. “While I didn’t care about learning when I first met Mrs. Valen, it wasn’t long before I was excited and looking forward to going to her class every day to learn.”

As a U.S. government and history teacher at Westlake High School, Gregory Kane strives to instill confidence in his students while teaching them to evaluate primary and secondary sources, using what they glean to reach their own judgments and conclusions. “He provides lessons that take our thinking to another level, all while keeping us engaged and on topic,” senior Myles Jackson said. Kane proudly displays students’ work around his classroom. “A simple example of this is hanging up students’ work for everyone to see — especially one-pagers. He loves one-pagers,” said Jackson of the creative, brief and concise response using words and images. Beyond the classroom, Kane has found his footing at Westlake as a teacher leader, Principal Diane Roberts said. “Mr. Kane has coordinated substitutes, assisted parents in resolving student concerns, and participated in many professional development opportunities. He is a student’s advocate who believes that hard work pays off and who fosters an increase in student confidence,” Roberts said.

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