FEATURE VIDEO: Celebrating the 2016 City-Wide Teachers of the Year

Join us in celebrating our 2016 City-Wide Teachers of Year and all who teach, coach, motivate and engage.

This video shares the teaching experiences of the 2016 Teachers of the Year for Suffolk Public Schools.

Click here for the video: https://youtu.be/vOSGLfNRD08

The video made its debut at the 2016 Teacher of the Year Banquet, celebrating all school-level and division-level Teachers of the Year, held Thursday, April 28 at the First Lady of Suffolk.


TOY banquet_group




Congratulations to Michele Waggoner, Suffolk Public Schools’ 2016 City-Wide Teacher of the Year, who serves as the library media specialist at Oakland Elementary School.

Now in her 20th year of teaching, Waggoner is known for her innovation, creativity, enthusiasm, and outstanding work ethic.

Waggoner has worked with all grade levels as a school librarian for nine years, and previously was a first- and second-grade classroom teacher. The Oakland Elementary School library is more than just a place to check out books. Waggoner has created a space where students develop hands-on projects and regularly use drama, music, and art in weekly resource lessons.

This top teacher shared her approach in encouraging life-long lovers of reading: “I believe reading is the key to success in all academic areas. Knowing all children are different and come with various strengths and weaknesses, my goal is to create a positive learning environment where students can feel safe taking risks. A student’s love and excitement about reading is contagious!”

As part of the school’s resource team, Waggoner works with the music, art and physical education teachers to create unique grade-level learning experiences through special day-long celebrations, where students have fun with SOL-related and real-world activities. Early Start preschoolers have a Shapes & Colors Fair. Kindergarten students have Five Senses Day. First-graders have Patriotic Day. Second-graders have China Day or Egypt Day. Third-graders have Greek Celebritas. Fourth-graders have Colonial Days. Fifth-graders have Civil War Days. These special days culminate several weeks of classroom lessons on the topic, and they include a fun activity in the music room, the art room, the gym, and the library. For example, Waggoner’s library activities include first-graders learning about Benjamin Franklin’s printing press, and then creating their own books with paper, paint, and stamps. Fourth-graders read “Stone Soup” and then create their own soup to share with apple cider and pie. Fifth-graders read about Civil War soldiers, and then taste beef jerky, dried fruit, hard tack, gingerbread and peanuts.

Waggoner has also been successful in securing grant funding to supplement the library book collection. In the past nine years, she has increased the number of books from 5,200 to 7,600 and updated the average copyright date from 1983 to 2003.

She believes family engagement is crucial to student success in school, and she encourages regular communication with parents, interactive homework assignments to encourage teamwork at home, and volunteer opportunities at school to provide parents the chance to be part of their child’s day. At Oakland, she coordinates the school’s partners-in-education program, its Volunteer Connect program, career days, book fairs, and many PTA events.

Principal Temesha Dabney said she sees “the dedication and commitment Ms. Waggoner has for all students, staff and families. She continually works to ensure she only gives our students the best. Throughout teaching and modeling the importance of reading, her hope is that students will gain an interest and passion for reading.”
Oakland music teacher Rena Long added that Wagonner “is extremely dedicated to teaching the whole student. Her concern for her students’ learning and well-being surpasses that or the average teacher-student relationship.” Part of that unique connection is that resource teachers get to know students as they grow up and advance through the grade levels – often for six years from kindergarten to fifth grade.
Wagonner earned her bachelor’s degree from Christopher Newport University and her two master’s degrees from Old Dominion University.

Tracy Halvorson, a social studies teacher at John Yeates Middle School, has been named the 2016 Middle School Teacher of the Year for Suffolk Public Schools. This year, she is teaching both sixth-grade history and seventh-grade civics and economics.

In the classroom for 12 years, Halvorson is known for her dedication to students and her willingness to step up to a challenge. Principal Daniel O’Leary praised Halvorson for agreeing to start teaching seventh-grade civics as well as sixth-grade history this year. Students in civics must take a state SOL assessment, and their performance accounts for the entire social studies portion of the school’s accreditation status.

Halvorson explained her teaching philosophy: “I believe a good teacher most importantly should be confident in what she is doing, should be someone all children can look to as a good role model, should have the ability to relate to students, and not only teach them, but inspire them. I believe education is a treasure – a treasure that should be freely accessible to everyone. Teachers should develop classrooms that practice fairness, trust and equality. Students need a sense of community in the classroom in order to feel more confident about their work and to be in a comfortable atmosphere for learning.”

Outside of the classroom, Halvorson organizes the school’s United Way student campaign, and she supports the school’s team to raise money for the March of Dimes and Relay for Life. She said as a civics teacher, she wants to model civic responsibility and giving back to the community.

Halvorson earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Longwood University, and her master’s degree from Old Dominion University.

Ariane Williams has been named the 2016 High School Teacher of the Year for Suffolk Public Schools. A 14-year classroom veteran, she teaches English at Lakeland High School.

She has been applauded by her colleagues as diligent, thoughtful and gracious. This year, Williams stepped forward as senior class sponsor. Principal Douglas Wagoner said “the patience she demonstrates is sincere but always limited by appropriate boundaries. Her blend of love and toughness reaches her students and creates an environment where students can and do learn.”

Williams shared in her application: “I believe that building a great rapport with my students and parents means I must have an open line of communication. I must be willing to make adjustments. I must be willing to listen. Although my classroom is firm, there is a sense of freedom in my class that gives students the room to learn from their own mistakes, accept responsibility, make wise decisions, and monitor their own growth.”

Outside of school, Williams is active in her church’s mission work, drama team, and praise dance. She is a published author of the book “Images of Destiny.” The senior pastor at Restoration Christian Church said she “possesses remarkable versatility in that she can transition from instructing teens and children, to providing insightful teaching to adult leaders as well.”

Williams earned her bachelor’s degree from Old Dominion University, and her master’s degree from Norfolk State University.

Congratulations to Cierra French, a fourth-grade teacher at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, who has been named the 2016 City-Wide Rookie Teacher of the Year.
She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Meredith College.
More information coming soon.

STEMABILITY – Exploring Science & Engineering

STEMABILITY is a college transition program for rising high school juniors and seniors with disabilities and their parents. Scheduled for July 15-16 at Virginia Tech, the program will offer students the opportunity to explore career majors in engineering and science, try out assistive and learning technologies, and use self-advocacy skills to plan for accommodations.

Parents are also encourage to attend. Simultaneous sessions will help parent prepare for changing roles including moving from IDEIA to ADA, assistive technologies, college accommodations, career possibilities, and networking.

Link here for more information and an application, which is due April 30.

The program is sponsored by Virginia Tech and the National Science Foundation.

Youth Leadership Forum Accepting Applications

The Virginia Board for People with Disabilities has extended the deadline to receive applications to Youth Leadership Forum 2016! Rising juniors and seniors with disabilities are encouraged to submit their application by Monday, April 11. Applications are available at www.vaboard.org/YLF.htm

The YLF will be held on the campus of Virginia State University (VSU), July 25-28! Students selected to attend the YLF will engage in personal, leadership, and career development training (skills needed for students in transition to the next level of their education and life after high school). The YLF will offer students the opportunity to learn from each other, as well as from state and national experts.

Students with disabilities applying to the YLF do not have to receive Special Education Services to be eligible to apply. Every student with a disability, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, may apply.

YLF FLYER-Deadline Extended

Students Profit from Non-Traditional Extravaganza …

Suffolk Public Schools’ Career and Technical Education Advisory Council recently hosted its 7th Annual Non-Traditional Extravaganza on Thursday, February 18 at the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront. All sophomores and juniors were invited. This event provided the students the opportunity to meet and interact with professionals in non-traditional occupations in the Suffolk and Hampton Roads area. “Non-traditional” refers to occupations or fields of work for which individuals from one gender comprise less than 25 percent of the workforce. More than 25 representatives from non-traditional occupations were scheduled to participate.

Home Access Center – Warning

SunGard, the parent company of Suffolk Public School’s gradebook program, Teacher Access Center and Home Access Center, has notified the division of an issue that needs to be shared with parents and students.

Sungard has discovered that an app in the iTunes store called easyHAC is being marketed to parents and students as a cheap, advanced application that will allow easy access to student data. SunGard has notified the division about this app because the app is not provided by, nor endorsed by Sungard. SunGard has additionally shared that they can not make any assurances about the security of information provided to the third party provider of easyHAC. As a result, Suffolk Public School is discouraging parents and students from using the app, easyHAC. Any information provided to the third party provider of easyHAC by parents or student is at the user’s own risk.