Teachers, staff honored as exemplary employees
The Board of Education honored six Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) employees during its February meeting for their dedication and commitment to teaching and learning, and for making a difference in the lives of students, according to a release.
Among those honored were Jennifer Brown, an art teacher at Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementar y School; Joy Fisher, an instructional assistant at William B. Wade Elementary School; Robin Riddick, a first-grade teacher at Arthur Middleton Elementar y School; Diane Smith, a media instructional assistant at Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementar y School; Heather Tonnessen, a language arts teacher at Matthew Henson Middle School; and Tiffany VanDyke, the coordinator of alternative programs at the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center.
Brown, a team leader at Jenifer for many years, enhances the learning environment by displaying student art work around the school. “Each season of each year, Mrs. Brown creates an elaborate display on a wall within the school,” Mike Hoffman, vice principal, wrote in a nomination letter. “This seasonal display of art is enormous, three dimensional and extremely creative. Her work is highly detailed and imaginative.” Brown is the treasurer for Jenifer’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and is the Paint Nite sponsor. Outside of school, she volunteers at Our Lady’s Little Christian preschool at Our Lady Help of Christian Catholic Church and at bingo nights. “Mrs. Brown makes Jenifer Elementar y shine with color and art projects throughout the hallways,” Hoffman wrote, adding that she and Jenifer were recognized at a County First Bank holiday art show. “Mrs. Brown also strives to meet the needs of students with special needs. She encourages students to come into her classroom to work on projects or explore their own creative talents.”
Fisher makes sure Wade stays green, the release states. She is the Go Green club’s coordinator, leads the Go Green Team, manages the Go Green Edline website, leads schoolwide recycling efforts, coordinates Earth Week activities and several other environmentally-friendly events. She is a volunteer and treasurer for Wade’s social committee and is a volunteer on the talent show committee. She volunteers for Relay for Life, the Wade dance team and for the basketball team. “Mrs. Joy Fisher has demonstrated a high degree of pride and excellence in her position as an instructional assistant,” Wade Principal Kevin Jackson wrote in a nomination letter. “She has gone above and beyond in her support of Wade having a healthy environment. She has performed in an exemplar y manner demonstrating Wade’s Team Excellence spirit.” Fisher encouraged the school’s staff and students to participate in paperless challenges. “She has motivated numerous students to reduce, reuse and recycle for the good of our environment,” Jackson wrote. “Wade has been recognized by a number of outside organizations due to significant work in contests and challenges supporting the Green School initiative.” Fisher provides coverage for various grade levels and provides instruction for a second-grade group, gets resource books for first and second graders and supports classroom activities. Fisher also helps with the morning car riders traffic line, afternoon daycare duties and the morning announcements.
Riddick teaches a first-grade inclusion class at Middleton. During the 2015-16 school year, her students achieved the highest growth increases on CCPS’s student learning objectives testing in both reading and math in the school, Louis D’Ambrosio, principal of Middleton, wrote in the nomination letter. “She works with staff and students to achieve impressive instructional gains,” he wrote. This year, Riddick is a the first-grade team leader, a position she has held in the past. She also is a member of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) committee which meets during the summer. She reaches out for support when working with students who need a bit more help. “Mrs. Riddick seeks out assistance when working with challenging students to ensure the students are receiving high quality instruction,” D’Ambrosio wrote. “Mrs. Riddick has worked with the school psychologist and counseling ser vices,” to better serve her students. Outside of school, Riddick teaches Wednesday night Bible class for elementary school-aged children at her church and co-teaches teens on Sunday mornings.
Smith has been at Dr. Mudd since 1997 and has served as a reading instructional assistant, special education instructional assistant and is currently the media instructional assistant. She began sponsoring the school’s History Club in 2002. The club meets at 7:45 a.m. Wednesdays to discuss histor y. There are guest speakers and field trips. “The amazing part is they go on these trips on Saturday mornings throughout the year,” Mudd Principal Kimberly Hairston wrote in a nomination letter. “She even gets six to 10 staff members to attend and help chaperone the students. They travel to Jamestown, Va., Williamsburg, Va., Washington, D.C., Gettysburg, Pa., Mount Vernon in Virginia and many destinations.” The trips are planned by Smith who makes them fun, engaging and inclusive, fifth-grade teacher Martha Peer wrote. “At the start of the year, fifth graders walk taller and feel privileged to join the histor y club,” Rebecca Van Brunt, Mudd’s music teacher wrote. “They learn so much from her and then they see and experience histor y firsthand on field trips.”
A language arts teacher at Henson, Tonnessen inspires her students to be lifelong learners, the release states. She prepares students for college and careers through her work with Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) and motivates Henson kids to learn chess and help the community. A 20-year teaching veteran, Tonnessen shares her love of learning with her students. “She regularly attends professional development opportunities with the desire to improve her teaching by always being open to learning,” Christina Caballero, Henson’s principal, wrote in a nomination letter. Tonnessen gives her time and talents by leading in many school opportunities and coaches the school’s chess club, which has more than 40 student members. She co-sponsors Henson’s student government association, a group that has raised money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Fairy Godmothers and the Southern Maryland Food Bank. Tonnessen, who creates awareness of journalism and broadcasting through her work with the school’s CNN club, gives students the opportunity to analyze news broadcasts in order to explore the structure and newsworthiness of events. They go on to investigate, write and broadcast reports on Henson’s weekly news show. Tonnessen is open to new ways to improve her teaching, including using technology in the classroom. “She believes that as educators we must never stop learning,” Caballero wrote. “She believes it is possible to find a way to connect to ever y student.”
VanDyke is a lifelong learner who is the coordinator of alternative programs at the Stethem Center. Overseeing the day-today operations of evening high school and the Virtual Academy, VanDyke works with students, parents and staff throughout the county to provide alternative educational opportunities for students, Stethem’s Principal Evelyn Arnold wrote in a nomination letter. “Her responsibilities include — but are not limited to — keeping parents informed of student progress and attendance, training staff and students on the use of APEX software, and being an integral part of the team that reviews applications for students applying to these programs,” Arnold wrote.
Each month, the Board honors several outstanding staff members.
SUBMITTED PHOTO The Board of Education honored six Charles County Public Schools employees during its February meeting for their dedication and commitment to teaching and learning, and for making a difference in the lives of students. Pictured from left are Joy Fisher, an instructional assistant at William B. Wade Elementary School; Tiffany VanDyke, the coordinator of alternative programs at the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center; Heather Tonnessen, a language arts teacher at Matthew Henson Middle School; Diane Smith, a media instructional assistant at Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School; Jennifer Brown, an art teacher at Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School; and Robin Riddick, a first-grade teacher at Arthur Middleton Elementary School.