This year, Franklin County schools will consider 18 nominees to represent the county in the long-running Mary V. Bicouvaris Virginia Teacher of the Year Program.

The awards recognize educators who “exemplify superior classroom abilities, effective communication for a broad audience, community and school leadership and are inspirational for students of all backgrounds and abilities,” according to the Virginia Department of Education.

Pre-K- 12 licensed teachers, as well as school librarians, guidance counselors and reading specialists who have been with the county for at least three years are eligible. The nominees are put forth by the principals of their schools.

One county winner will be chosen from these 18 nominees, and that educator will represent the local school system on the state level. The chosen nominee will be honored at the county’s Educator’s Banquet on May 3.

The school system has until May 25 to submit a candidate for the state award, according to the Virginia Department of Education.

The winner of the overall state award will compete in the National Teacher of the Year Program, which is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Virginia has participated in the national awards since 1964.

In 2006, Virginia’s Teacher of the Year program was renamed in honor of the late Mary V. Bicouvaris, the 1989 Virginia and National Teacher of the Year. Bicouvaris was a teacher of government and international relations in Hampton City public schools and became Virginia’s first National Teacher of the Year.

This year’s Franklin County schools nominees are:

Allison Guilliams, pre-K teacher, Windy Gap Elementary

“Allison Guilliams is one of those teachers that leaves an impression on not only the students she teaches but also the building she works,” said Matt Brain, principal at Windy Gap Elementary. “Her hard work and dedication is infectious to not only the Pre-K which she teaches but also throughout the building. She is an excellent advocate for Windy Gap and her students and works well with students of all academic levels, backgrounds and family struggles.

Amelia Pagans-third grade teacher, Ferrum Elementary

“Ms. Pagans works hard to meet the needs of her students every day,” said Jennifer Talley, principal at Ferrum Elementary. “She gets to know her students and capitalizes on their strengths by designing lessons that engage her students. She also works as a team player with her colleagues to benefit the overall climate of our school. When her students enter her classroom, they are greeted by a caring teacher who has created an environment where learning is fun, exciting, and challenging.”

Angela Huebschman, fourth-grade teacher, Glade Hill Elementary

“Mrs. Huebschman contributes to the total school as a teacher and as a team member with colleagues throughout the school,” said Kim Poindexter, principal at Glade Hill Elementary. “She has lead school initiatives like growth mind set and created a Professional Learning Community among the math teachers at Glade Hill. Her passion for teaching and learning can be seen in her patience and persistence in creating life-long learning opportunities in her classroom each day.”

Cara Spivey, chemistry teacher, Franklin County High School

“To be called a good teacher one must excel in helping her students grow, in being a positive force among her colleagues and in having a passion for her field. Cara Spivey excels in these three areas,” said Kevin Bezy, associate principal at FCHS. “She expects her students to work hard to achieve mastery in chemistry, she does not accept less from them and she mercilessly harangues them to succeed. Her passion for the subject is exhibited daily.”

Carrie Walton, sixth-grade teacher, Benjamin Franklin Middle School

“Mrs. Walton is patient and kind-hearted. She is dedicated to the well-being of the school and works diligently for the success of everyone,” said Teresa Sanders, sixth grade administrator for Benjamin Franklin Middle School. “Mrs. Walton is known for bringing history to life in her social studies classroom as she dresses in character and provides learning opportunities that are hands-on and relevant to the students.”

David Campbell, journalism and electronic music recording teacher, Franklin County High School

“In the classroom Mr. Campbell is always trying new techniques and strategies to improve the success of students,” said Robbie Dooley, supervisor of career and technical education at FCHS. “Mr. Campbell has a strong desire for students to be his/her best and he will settle for nothing less. David brings experience from working on a major newspaper, energy that is unmatched and a thirst for knowledge to every endeavor he takes on at Franklin County High School.”

Donna White, fourth-grade teacher, Snow Creek Elementary

“When you see a group of people smiling and laughing, whether it’s students, faculty, or parents, Donna White is usually in the middle of it,” said Ken Grindstaff, principal of Snow Creek Elementary. “Because laughter is one of the quintessential elements in developing relationships, her students love being in her class. In addition to this, she utilizes multiple instructional and behavioral strategies to help her student succeed. Her students know how much she values them, and that brings out the best in them.”

Gina Simpson, architecture and energy design teacher, The Gereau Center

“Mrs. Simpson works to support our school as a whole in addition to managing her instructional duties,” said S. Jerome Johnson, Sr., principal of the Gereau Center. “She helps her students learn and in many cases appreciate all of the facets of architectural design. Mrs. Simpson helps them see that our homes and surroundings can be designed to thoughtfully use money, space, and energy. She works well with her students, attends to details, and contributes to the total school without the need for great fanfare.”

Jeff Short, fourth-grade teacher, Burnt Chimney Elementary

“I have seen a continual growth for Mr. Short from the time I first met him 14 years ago as a fresh start adult until the present time,” said Jason Guilliams, principal of Burnt Chimney Elementary. “He is a perfect example of ‘keep trying, I can get this, I might make some mistakes but together we will learn and move forward.’”

Jennifer Brubaker, instructional coach, Callaway Elementary

“Mrs. Brubaker is a shining example for any teacher,” said Pam Brown, principal of Callaway Elementary. “She tirelessly supports the teacher’s at Callaway Elementary through resources, staff developments, mentoring and personal connections. It’s her commitment to teacher and student learning that makes Mrs. Brubaker an outstanding educator who empowers the staff and students at Callaway. Mrs. Brubaker’s efforts go beyond her job description. She is dedicated to helping with any task, project, activity, or idea that will get the students and teachers excited about learning. “

Jessica Slough, athletics coordinator, Benjamin Franklin Middle School

“Mrs. Slough is one of many individuals who tirelessly help to create a caring and nurturing environment for all students,” said Bernice Cobbs, campus administrator for BFMS. “Mrs. Slough was and continues to be an integral leader in our implementation of the Positive Behavioral Initiatives and Supports which began four years ago to increase student achievement and decrease student office referrals. She has a passion for teaching and learning, cares about every child regardless of background, economic status, or race; and she dedicates herself to their betterment every day.”

John Young, family liaison, Sontag Elementary

“John is always willing to help a teacher, whether she/he needs a break or needs a student tutored. No job is too small for John,” said Gail Brendle, principal of Sontag Elementary. “He works with students to not only provide for their basic needs, he tutors, checks in on and talks with them daily. John is most valued and appreciated by Sontag staff, students and families.”

Maryann Mitzel, fourth-grade teacher, Dudley Elementary

“Mrs. Mitzel has a spirit of openness and genuineness that allows her to build strong relationships with her students,” said Dana Ayers Kelley, principal of Dudley Elementary. “Mrs. Mitzel recognizes that if her students see that she truly cares about them, without judgment, she can make a positive educational impact on their lives. Through her ability to get to know her students academically, personally and socially, Mrs. Mitzel creates a positive learning environment where students take chances and choose to work cooperatively.”

Sheree Thomas, guidance counselor, Lee M. Waid Elementary

“Ms. Thomas’ role in the school is not an easy one and is not for everyone,” said Tressa Camidge, principal of Lee M. Waid Elementary. “She has to be flexible at a moment’s notice when a student or family is in crisis during a school day. Her ability to reach all learners, find those who are struggling in more than just academic ways, and reach out to them in a kind, professional and very comforting manner allows all students to feel safe and taken care of whenever in Ms. Thomas’ presence.”

Tara Gable, health and physical education teacher, Franklin County High School

“Tara is a wonderful teacher and colleague,” said Crystal Worley, assistant principal at Franklin County High School. “Tara engages with her students and all students in a friendly, upbeat and professional manner. She makes children feel welcome and wanted in her class regardless of their level of ability. Tara has the knowledge of a great teacher, but the extra adjectives of engagement, innovative and caring are truly what sets her apart from many teachers.”

Tara Riddle, fourth-grade teacher, Rocky Mount Elementary

“Tara Riddle is an impressive master teacher and educator that inspires the children and colleagues on her team,” said Lisa Newell, principal of Rocky Mount Elementary. “She greets every child with a personal connection every morning. She holds very high expectations for them and keeps the interest level high throughout the day. She works to make sure our student leadership skills are honed. She mentors new teachers on a daily basis.”

Treva Kent, first-grade teacher, Henry Elementary

“Mrs. Kent is an example of what it means to be a life-long learner,” said Robin Whitmer, principal of Henry Elementary. “She willingly seeks out ways to improve her craft. She infuses each day with her infectious positivity. Mrs. Kent understands the need to build relationships with not only her students, but her colleagues, to provide the best possible education for our Henry students.”

Tyler Duncan, physical education teacher, Boones Mill Elementary

“Mr. Duncan is completely committed to serving the needs of every student,” said Amy Shaver, principal of Boones Mill Elementary. “He works hard to coordinate his lessons with grade level expectations so that his students not only have increased physical activity and knowledge of overall health and wellness, but he incorporates the grade level educational standards into his lessons on a daily basis. He is enthusiastic about his job and genuinely cares about our children.”

Want to see the teachers? Check out the April 27, 2018, print edition of The Franklin News-Post. Subscribe at

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