Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Thank You to our School Principals!

This week is Principal Appreciation Week, one of the many Appreciation weeks where we celebrate a group of individuals for their work in education. Let me be the first to say that I am a big fan of our school administrators.  Their days are filled from beginning to end...and usually it's difficult to know when they end.

They serve as the Instructional Leader in their building, which means they are responsible for how content is shared with every child in every classroom.  They supervise a school full of employees, from teachers, to nurses, to instructional assistants.  They ensure students and staff have a safe and secure environment in which to work and to learn.  They support student growth and success in academics and in life skills.  Principals and Assistant Principals realize their plan for the day can quickly change based on the type of day one of their students is having.  They stay late to address the emails, phone calls, and paperwork they were unable to get to during the day.  They go home exhausted, many times without even eating lunch, and often take with them more unfinished work they hope to tackle.

So why do they do it?  For the same reason as teachers and others in education--they love their students.  All of their students.  And they appreciate their employees.  They know that they are the main champion for every child in their building, and for every one of their staff members.  They accept that responsibility and are rewarded with hugs, smiling faces, thank yous, and other little gifts.  Usually these expressions of gratitude come at just the right time and make a difficult day not so difficult.

We wanted to give our principals a big Thank You and let them know that we appreciate them every week, not just this one.  But it is a good time to publicly acknowledge all that they do and to tell them how glad we are that they chose to work in Isle of Wight County.

We created a special video for our principals so they could hear from their staff, students, and parents who share how much their principal means to them.  I encourage you to share your own message of appreciation with your child's principal and assistant principals during this week, and any time throughout the school year.  As Mother Teresa noted, Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”  

We Appreciate Our Principals! (Video)

Monday, December 9, 2019

Celebrating our 2019-2020 Teachers of the Year

Congratulations to all the teachers who were recently announced by their schools as Teacher of the Year.  Over the next few months the finalists will complete a portfolio that will be reviewed by the division's Teacher of the Year Committee.  The committee, composed of former honorees, will review the portfolios and select one teacher from each level as the Elementary, Middle, and High School Teacher of the Year.  Those three finalists will be further evaluated and the committee will select the overall Teacher of the Year for IWCS.  
The nine teachers announced as this year's honorees are excellent representatives of the quality educators in all of our schools.  To learn more about these outstanding individuals, you can scroll down to see a brief bio for each of them.  


Isle of Wight County Schools
2019-2020 Teachers of the Year

Christine Rosenberry is a preschool teacher at Carrollton Elementary School.  She has taught preschool for 21 years.  Prior to teaching at CAES she taught one year in Portsmouth Public Schools and just completed her 20th year at Carrollton Elementary.  She is originally from Chesapeake and attended Chesapeake Public Schools.  She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s degree is in Early Childhood Psychology.  Mrs. Rosenberry has been part of the school leadership team at CAES, as well as a mentor to aspiring teachers from the Teachers for Tomorrow program at Smithfield High School.  She provides classroom experiences that help build a solid learning foundation for some of Carrollton’s youngest learners.  Her goal is to create a classroom where children feel accepted and loved.  She feels that once that goal is achieved, learning will take place.  Mrs. Rosenberry lives in Isle of Wight County with her husband and two sons.




Karen Reeder is a reading specialist at Carrsville Elementary School.   This is her fourth year at Carrsville Elementary, previously serving as a reading specialist at Windsor Elementary for thirteen years.  Prior to teaching in Isle of Wight, she taught for three years in the Shenandoah Valley.  Originally from Sandston, Virginia, she attended Bridgewater College and earned her undergraduate degree with an elementary education certification.  She later earned her master’s degree in reading education from James Madison University.  Mrs. Reeder constantly looks for opportunities to serve others in her school community.  She is an administrative aide who actively works with parents and teachers to provide academic resources for students in the building.  She loves watching her students become confident readers.  Mrs. Reeder and her husband reside in Suffolk. 


Mallory Bradley is a coding teacher at Hardy Elementary School and is currently in her thirteenth year of teaching in Isle of Wight County Schools. Prior to teaching coding, Mrs. Bradley taught second grade for ten years at Hardy Elementary School. Originally from Mansfield, Ohio, Mrs. Bradley received her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Michigan. She will complete her master’s degree in Educational Leadership in the spring of 2020 from Regent University. Mrs. Bradley currently serves as an administrative aide, resource department chair, new teacher mentor, yearbook committee chair, and a Great Computer Challenge coach. She provides creative, authentic, and interactive instruction that challenges students to dig deep, think critically, and take chances. Mrs. Bradley values the relationships she creates with her students and their families. She currently resides in Smithfield with her husband, who also works for the school district, and their two children, one of whom is a student at Hardy Elementary School.


Rachel Batts is a fourth grade Special Education teacher at Westside Elementary School. This is her eighth year at Westside Elementary School and her fifteenth year as a special education teacher, having taught students from Kindergarten to sixth grade.  Mrs. Batts grew up in Portsmouth, Virginia and attended Old Dominion University, earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Therapeutic Recreation and a Master’s of Education in Special Education. She is a certified trainer in the Handle with Care program, where she is currently partnering to train all Westside staff. She has been an active participant in the Westside Relay for Life team, as well as a leader for the Community Service Kids club.  She is an active collaborator with special education and general education teachers and served as a professional mentor to both groups.  She believes that all students have the ability and the drive to learn, and will 
grow when provided the right instruction in a compassionate environment.  Mrs. Batts lives in Suffolk with her husband, daughter and son.


Christine Byrum is a first grade teacher at Windsor Elementary School.  She is in her twenty-fifth year of teaching, having spent all of those years proudly at Windsor Elementary School.  Mrs. Byrum is a product of Isle of Wight County Schools and earned her teaching certificate and undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Psychology from Christopher Newport University. Mrs. Byrum has served as her grade-level chairperson, a steering committee member for Response to Intervention in Isle of Wight County Schools, and her building’s representative for the county’s Teacher Advisory Committee.  Her classroom encourages open communication and collaboration where students are empowered to be risk-takers and critical thinkers.  She loves the opportunity she has as an elementary school teacher in building the foundation for her students’ life-long love of learning.  Mrs. Byrum lives in Suffolk with her husband and three children. 

Jeff Hampton is a Health and Physical Education teacher at Georgie Tyler Middle School.  He is originally from Ocala, Florida and graduated from Liberty University where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education with a minor in Health. Mr. Hampton is in his 18th year of teaching, all at Georgie Tyler and the former Windsor Middle School, where he has served as the School Leadership Team chairperson for four years along with mentoring first year teachers at GTMS.  He has been leading a basketball club for the past 15 years, and also sponsors a handball club at the school.  He previously served as sponsor of the Spikeball and Handball clubs, taught beginner’s Tennis, and coached basketball at Windsor High School for six years.  His passion for education is simple…he loves kids, staying active, and playing sports, in that order.  He currently lives in Suffolk, Virginia and is married with 2 sons. 

Ericka Jurist is in her second year as a School Counselor at Smithfield Middle School. She attended George Mason University and earned a Bachelor of Social Work degree in 2014, and a Master of Education in School Counseling degree from Old Dominion University in 2018. Her transition from social work to middle school counseling was fueled by her love of working with youth during her experience assisting at a teen crisis shelter. She currently serves as a member of the School Leadership Team, 504 case manager, Response to Intervention facilitator, School Testing Coordinator and Drama Club sponsor. She is passionate about creating safe spaces for students to learn how to manage the ups and downs of life, as well as helping students prepare for their future. She was born and raised in Newport News, and now calls Yorktown home with her husband and beloved dog. 


Jason Henderson is math teacher at Smithfield High School, where he has spent his entire thirteen year teaching career.  He was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, where in eleventh grade he realized he wanted to be a math teacher, and is a graduate of Christopher Newport University.  Mr. Henderson is committed to student success inside the classroom and works to prepare students for life.  He strives to make connections with students with the hope that they will find their passion for learning.  In addition to teaching, he is the varsity boys’ soccer coach, co-sponsor of the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, and volunteers with the high school’s athletic program.  Mr. Henderson lives in Smithfield with his wife, son, and furry friends.



Jessica Brannan is currently in her 6th year of teaching and second year with Isle of Wight County Public Schools. She teaches Spanish and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Windsor High School. In addition to teaching, Jessica is the Girls’ Varsity Soccer Coach and the Student Government sponsor.  Before joining the Windsor family, Jessica taught Spanish and ESL at Franklin City Public schools for four years. She grew up in Rochester, New York where she received her undergraduate degree in Spanish and Education from the College at Brockport. She completed her master's degree in English as a Second Language with a bilingual extension from Canisius College. She values the power of positive student-teacher relationships and strives to develop long lasting connections with each of her students. Jessica fills her instruction with hands-on activities and cultural experiences that make learning enjoyable and meaningful. Jessica lives in Suffolk with her husband and two dogs.

 







Sunday, November 24, 2019

A Time to be Thankful

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, it is an appropriate time to pause and reflect on everything we have to be thankful for. 

In addition to my family and my health, many of my thoughts are about all of the great things happening throughout our division.  As I’ve visited schools, I’ve seen caring, dedicated people whose actions, both big and small, are making a significant impact on the lives of our students.  I have met parents who entrust us to educate their children and prepare them to be successful citizens once they leave our doors.  I have listened to members of the community who know the importance of high-performing schools to the health of our county. I have interacted with students and heard about their hopes and dreams, and the high expectations they have for themselves and want us to have for them. For Thanksgiving, I am giving thanks for supportive staff, students, parents and citizens and their vision for Isle of Wight County Schools.  With these pieces in place, we are in a position to do incredible things to help every child discover their unique gifts and talents.

Over the break, I hope you will take time to think about everything you have to be thankful for and remember those who are less fortunate.  Finally, I wish you a wonderful holiday as you spend time with family and friends. 

Friday, November 8, 2019

Honoring our Veterans


Our schools and offices are closed Monday in honor of Veterans Day.  On Thursday, there were activities and ceremonies throughout the division to celebrate Veterans for their service.   The programs are distinguished events that include numerous student performances.  From songs by the school band and chorus, to student speakers, and theatrical performances, the schools celebrate the brave members of the Armed Forces and their family members who support them.  I have never seen a school division and community celebrate Veterans Day quite like Isle of Wight County!

Below is a video that highlights moments from our Veterans Day programs held last year.  It's a beautiful tribute to the men and women who serve our country.  We will also be sharing pictures from this year's events on our Facebook page.  If you know someone who served in the military, or someone who is currently a member of the military, please share the video with them.  I realize many of them may not be able to attend ceremonies taking place in their honor and I hope this video and pictures on Facebook can convey our appreciation. We owe so much to the men and women of our military for the sacrifices they have made to ensure our freedom. 

Honoring our Veterans (video)

Monday, November 4, 2019

Recognizing and Celebrating Alumni

Windsor High and Smithfield High both celebrated Homecoming during October.  The tradition has been around for decades and it originated as a way to welcome "home" the football team after several weeks of road games.  While that may not be the case anymore, it is still a time when alumni will make the trek back to their high school to see their alma mater and reconnect with their classmates and community.


Both SHS and WHS took time recently to recognize some of their alumni for outstanding accomplishments.  On Friday night, October 25, the Dukes introduced the Class of 2019-2020 Windsor High/Georgie D. Tyler High Alumni Hall of Fame.  The purpose of the award is to honor graduates from both of the Windsor schools, who have made their Alma Mater proud through career, community, military, and or/philanthropic accomplishments. 


The inductees included Carla Duck, and Mr. and Mrs. Drake.  Carla is a 1983 graduate of Windsor High School.  Carla was an employee of Isle of Wight County Public in the technology department, at Central Office, and as an ISS coordinator at WHS.  She is a member of Chapel Grove Faith Community Church. She spends much of her time serving others through meal preparation for those in need in the local community and visiting those that are house bound.  Linda and Jerry Drake are 1971 graduates of Windsor High School. Mr. Drake retired from Union Camp and Mrs. Drake currently serves as a school bus driver for Isle of Wight County Schools. They are faithful supporters of every program at Windsor High School and have served as ticket takers at WHS events for the last 25 years. The Drakes serve as the unofficial hospitality committee:  sharing a story and a smile with all members of the Dukes family on multiple nights a week.  

That same night, Smithfield High recognized members of the 1969 undefeated football team, along with members from earlier undefeated Westside High football teams.  In 1969, Isle of Wight County Schools integrated and students from the all-black Westside High moved to SHS.  There were vocal groups throughout Smithfield who worried about the impact of desegregation.  The young men who played on the football team that year rallied the community as they continued winning game after game, finishing their season a perfect 10-0.  The members of that team helped to ease concerns and brought people together as they sat with each other in the stands and rooted for the Packers. 

Both Windsor High and Smithfield High have a rich history within the county, but we must also remember the other high schools that were part of this county that live on in the names of some of our current schools--Westside High School and Georgie D. Tyler High School.  One of the things I have seen from our emphasis on deeper learning and authentic experiences has been more connections with the community.  The recent recognitions at both high schools are excellent examples of making those connections and honoring those who are forever a Duke or a Packer.
Smithfield High/Westside High Football Team

WHS Hall of Fame Honorees (photo courtesy of Stephen Cowles, Windsor Weekly)

Friday, October 25, 2019

Celebrating Academic Excellence

During the months of October and November,  students throughout the division will be honored for academic excellence.  Students who finished the 2018-2019 school year with All As for their final grades will be recognized with an academic medal during special evening ceremonies.  Over 700 4th through 12th graders will receive a medal for their exceptional achievement.  In addition, seniors who maintained a 3.75 Grade Point Average though their Junior year received an Academic Jacket.  The personalized Varsity Letterman jacket is presented to the student by their parents, or someone special, who actually get to place the jacket on the student.  This is usually followed by several hugs and lots of pictures.

This was the fifth year of the medal and jacket ceremonies for Isle of Wight County Schools.  It was a tradition I started in my previous divisions and I wanted to make sure the students in Isle of Wight County had this same opportunity.  With the assistance of a great sponsor, SSC, I am pleased that IWCS was able to present an academic jacket to over 150 extraordinary seniors. 

The history of wearing a varsity jacket originated over 100 years ago. This time honored tradition is an outward symbol of hard work, determination and perseverance. Often the letter, pins and stars recognize athleticism and great accomplishments in a sport. The Superintendent’s Academic Jacket honors our students who have demonstrated great achievement in the classroom.

Honoring accomplishments in academics lets students know that we appreciate the many hours of studying, note taking, reading, writing papers, listening to lectures, working in groups, and staying up after everyone is asleep to finish a project. The jacket not only honors the students, but also their parents and loved ones, as well as the educators, that have supported them throughout their academic journey.  
We have posted pictures from the ceremonies at Windsor High and Smithfield High on our Facebook page.  We still have medal ceremonies coming up for our Hardy Elementary, Westside Elementary, and Smithfield Middle students.  It is a special moment for the students and their families and one that is well deserved.  

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Learning More about eSports and the New Team at SHS

The Virginia High School League (VHSL), the group that oversees public school sports, approved a one-year pilot program for esports at its May 2019 meeting.  Esports competitions have grown in recent years and many high school students are engaging in cooperative, collaborative, and competitive activities on their own.

Smithfield High School (SHS) is piloting an eSports team and the program has already generated a lot of interest from students.  Last week, the coach for the SHS team, Chris Borum, was invited on to the WTKR News Channel 3 Coast Live show, along with a VHSL representative, and talked to host Cheryl Nelson about the new program.

As you hear Mr. Borum talk about eSports, you will realize that it isn't about students sitting around playing video games.  The division's mission is to help all students discover their unique gifts and talents.   With more colleges organizing eSports teams, and offering scholarships to students to come play for them, it is another opportunity I'm glad we can provide our students.

Watch the segment below to learn more about eSports from the SHS coach, Chris Borum, and Darrell Wilson from the VHSL.


Bringing Varsity eSports to Virginia High Schools (link to video)