Congratulations to Andrae Riddick, a special education teacher at King’s Fork High School, who has been selected as Suffolk Public Schools’ 2017 City-Wide Teacher of the Year.
Congratulations also to Emma Neave of John F. Kennedy Middle School, who was named Middle School Teacher of the Year … Natalie Street of Creekside Elementary School, who was named Elementary School Teacher of the Year … and Sabrina Hayes of John Yeates Middle School, who was selected as Rookie Teacher of the Year.
Now in his fourth year of teaching, Riddick is known for his creativity, charisma, leadership, and teaching style. But it is his connections with students that bring him the most praise from colleagues, and the most personal pride. “I live by the saying that every child is just one caring adult away from being a success story,” Riddick said.
A 2006 graduate of Nansemond River High School, Riddick has worked at King’s Fork High School for six years – first as a special education paraprofessional and now as a classroom teacher. He co-teaches geometry under the inclusion model, where students with special needs are included in a regular math class. Colleagues said a classroom visitor would find it difficult to discern between him and the general education teacher because both work with all the students in the classroom as “true co-teachers.” Riddick explained that he shows students how “geometry is not just a random math class they have to take,” but how geometry concepts are used every day.
Principal Dr. Ronald Leigh said Riddick’s role as the school’s Service Learning Coordinator is “where he has done his best work … where he has brought pride and distinction to our school through the outreach he has provided” to two local elementary schools. Service Learning integrates academic work with community service, allowing students to apply classroom knowledge to real life by getting hands-on experience in the community. This year, Riddick revived the “K9 Konnection” program through the Service Learning class he now teaches. KFHS Bulldogs in this program volunteer weekly at Elephant’s Fork Elementary and Hillpoint Elementary as lunch buddies, classroom helpers, recess monitors, and role models for future Bulldogs.
Assistant Principal Kimberly Warholak said Riddick’s “commitment to success for his students is demonstrated on a daily basis when he uses his planning time to work one-to-one with students who are struggling academically or with students who are dealing with a social situation and need someone to listen and offer sound advice.” Fellow teacher Brendy White added: “He has been an influential part in the successful improvements of many students’ attendance, behavior, and overall attitude. Being a mentor and positive male figure is very important in our school environment, as well as in the community, and he has taken on this challenge with great dignity and honor.”
Riddick earned his bachelor’s degree from North Carolina A&T State University and his master’s degree from Old Dominion University.
Emma Neave, an 8th-grade English teacher at John F. Kennedy Middle School, has been named the 2017 Middle School Teacher of the Year for Suffolk Public Schools. In the classroom for four years, Neave is known for her determination, leadership, and quiet but passionate enthusiasm for teaching.
A colleague said that Neave has a special ability “to take a struggling student and make them shine. When a student leaves her room, they know they have learned and accomplished way more than they thought they ever could.” According to a current student who also had Neave in 7th-grade: “Each and every lesson that takes place in our classroom is dynamic and stimulating … She effectively teaches us everything we need to know and more.”
Principal Vivian Covington said Neave is “the type of person that would never draw attention to herself or to the work she has completed over the years … a testament to her humble countenance.”
In describing her teaching philosophy, Neave said she firmly believes “every individual has the ability to learn, and as educators, it is our responsibility to ensure that each child has the proper scaffolding, support, tools, and encouragement to reach their full potential. Every student is smart in their own way, and it is up to the teacher to draw upon each students’ strengths while helping them improve in areas of weakness.”
She wrote in her application: “No one is in teaching for the monetary or material rewards, which we know are few. Instead, I find my joy in the intrinsic rewards of teaching. Many days are a struggle with multiple forces that threaten to derail my students. I have learned to find my peace in the small victories: a special needs student’s explosive joy at achieving mastery on a benchmark test, being able to write feedback on a student’s writing that shows remarkable growth, or a comment from a colleague that my students were raving about a recent lesson.”
Beyond the classroom, she mentors new teachers and sponsors the Junior Beta Club. Neave earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Sweet Briar College.
Natalie Street, a third-grade teacher at Creekside Elementary, has been named the 2017 Elementary School Teacher of the Year for Suffolk Public Schools. In the classroom for eight years, she is known for her dedication and optimism, and has been called a natural born leader.
A colleague applauded Street’s high standards for all students in her class, while also creating a positive, family atmosphere in her classroom: “She doesn’t allow excuses by students for not meeting or exceeding goals. Her organizational skills, thoroughness, and willingness to collaborate with colleagues makes her the perfect teacher leader.”
In describing her efforts to show that learning can be fun, Street says she’s taught on top of tables, done cartwheels down the hall, spoken in funny accents, “made fun of myself, said I’m sorry a thousand times, and even cried with my students. I’ve told students my hardships and mistakes, while teaching them how to set goals and overcome mistakes. My philosophy of teaching is expressed through using a motivating balance of engagement, strong work ethic, and a sense of belonging.”
A parent said that Street “not only taught my son the third grade curriculum, she taught him that learning was fun, and the harder you work the bigger the reward. She taught him that a great work ethic and mastering the fundamentals will make you a success at anything you do.”
Street has worked hard to rebuild the Suffolk Reading Council, an organization dedicated to the promotion of literacy in schools and the community, and currently serves as its president. The Council has hosted two Saturday mini-conferences for local teachers and sponsored a division-wide book drive to donate books to homeless shelters, day care centers, and doctors’ offices.
Beyond the classroom, Street sponsors the Gator Gardening Club, helping students learn about plants first-hand as they work in the community garden at their school.
Street earned her bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University, and her master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, Maryland.
Hayes started in January 2016, taking over for a teacher who left. A veteran teacher told her “there is only one first-year of teaching.” Hayes said that advice “served as a constant reminder for me to establish a solid baseline for the following years to come, and to learn as much as I could. I knew that going into the first year of teaching would have a number of daunting barriers and challenges, but going into the middle of the school was difficult. It forced me to adapt and overcome quickly.”
Principal Shawn Green said Hayes is “highly motivated, reliable, and always willing to extend beyond what is expected of her.” Because of her youth, she quickly become a peer leader in instructional technology, helping her colleagues get comfortable with the school’s new “Bring Your Own Device” program. This option allowed students to use mobile technology for learning.
A fellow teacher said Hayes “created a comfortable but structured atmosphere in which students can learn, and a very positive but professional relationship with her students. They feel comfortable coming to her with concerns or problems and she is kind and firm with them as a teacher, not a ‘friend’ which is difficult for many first-year teachers to accomplish.”
According to one of Hayes’ students: “It is painstakingly obvious that she loves teaching, which inspires others to learn because of how passionate she sounds when teaching. She tells us that she could never see herself doing anything else.”
Beyond the classroom, Hayes sponsors the student recycling club and started an after-school writing club. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Old Dominion University.