During the summer, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) announced the finalists for the 2023 West Virginia Teacher of the Year and School Service Personnel of the Year award. “Our educators have been heroes under difficult circumstances over the past few years. No matter the circumstance, these individuals continue to rise above and exceed expectations. They are dedicated educators with a heart of gold spreading knowledge to the students of West Virginia,” said WVEA President Dale Lee. Congratulations to our WVEA members who are highlighted below.
Watching them grow and learn
Glenna Johnston has been employed by the Lewis County Schools for over 27 years. She was a school cook for 16 years before changing her career path to the classroom. “I wanted to be able to help kids the best way I could,” said Johnston. She is currently a kindergarten aide.
The most rewarding part of her job is watching the little ones grow and learn. Johnston lives by her motto by bringing her positive attitude to school every day. “Be a good person, love who you can, help where you can, give what you can, and just be kind,” she said. Johnston is thrilled to be a finalist for the 2022-2023 School Service Personnel of the Year award.
Other announced finalists for School Service Personnel of the Year are Michelle Clark, Ritchie County; Susan Clark, Morgan County; Jeff Coleman, Marshall County; Marketta Crum, Mason County; Wendy Dodson, Jefferson County; Melissa Fuller, Wyoming County; Jessica Grose, Upshur County; Kaare Mejias, Berkeley County; and Hannah Rexrode, Mineral County.
A calling to teach
At a young age, Lisa Bryant had a calling to teach. “My grandmother had an Adult Family Care Home where she kept three ladies who had Down syndrome. I grew up with them and became their ‘teacher.’ Almost daily we played school – ABCs, writing our name, counting, etc. I knew at an early age this was my calling,” she said. Bryant is a 26-year veteran educator who teaches second grade in Mason County. She is truly amazed by her students who work hard and show off their best work. Bryant and her students enjoy working on science projects and they also find ways to care for the earth. “Every year we have ‘Community Day’ where we become good citizens and work on cleaning up the playground and area around the school. We then plant new flowers and trees. Students also plant their own seeds and watch them become flowers,” she said.
Bryant is humbled to be named Mason County’s Teacher of the Year and a finalist for the state award. Other awards she has received are 2011 Mason County Reading Teacher of the Year and 2009 VFW Post 9926 Teacher of Year. She has also been nominated for Arch Coal Teacher of the Year twice. Beyond the classroom, Bryant plays the piano and gives piano lessons to students. She also enjoys walking and playing with her two furry friends, Trixie and Chief, which are both Dalmatians.
Making a difference
Tanya Stewart went into teaching because she has always liked working with children and making a difference in their lives. “As a preschool teacher, I set the foundation not only for their school career but also to try to help them know that they can succeed in whatever they set out to do in life. I am creating a lifelong learner,” said Stewart. She has been a preschool teacher in Gilmer County for almost 19 years. Stewart is most proud of her students, who continue to surprise her. “I had a student with special needs several years ago, who still comes up to me when he sees me in the community and tells me about what is going on in his life. Moments like these make me proud of my profession and the difference that I make,” she said. Another way Stewart makes a difference is by teaching her students the importance of giving back to the people in their community. Her students become involved by making cards and artwork for the local nursing home.
Stewart is Nationally Board-Certified, which has been her goal since she first started teaching. She is a 2023 West Virginia Teacher of the Year finalist and was chosen to receive the Ann Nutt Memorial Bench for her professionalism in early childhood. Outside of school, Stewart loves watching her two sons play golf, basketball, and baseball. She also enjoys spending time with family and friends.
Seeing the best in every child
Inspired by several teachers, Angel Reed made the decision to become an educator. “I felt that education gave me an opportunity to make a difference for another child,” she said. This school year will be her 23rd year teaching in Jackson County as a Title I Teacher. Reed’s work is so meaningful because “every child needs someone to see how awesome they are or can be.” She is very proud of her students, who are each unique and special in their own way. “I have watched my students outgrow my help, become honor students, graduate and join the workforce, join the military, and start their own families!” said Reed. She also takes pride in the work she has done with parent involvement programs such as Mo Williams Family Night, One Book One School, and Fairplain Fresh.
Reed is a finalist for the 2023 West Virginia Teacher of the Year award and is Nationally Board-Certified. Her other awards are 2023 Jackson County Teacher of the Year, 2023 Jackson County Elementary School Teacher of the Year, 2023 Fairplain Elementary Teacher of the Year, 2018 Jackson County Elementary School Teacher of the Year, 2018 Fairplain Elementary Teacher of the Year, and 2007-2008 Fairplain Elementary Teacher of the Year. Outside of her classroom, she loves watching her children play volleyball, soccer, and basketball. She also enjoys reading and baking.
The other finalists for the WV Teacher of the Year are Sarah Bailey, Wayne County; Charity Marstiller, Jefferson County; Amber Nichols, Monongalia County; David Patrick, Kanawha County; Shawna Safreed, Ohio County; Cameron Shannon, Raleigh County; and Shari Tonkery, Harrison County.
The WV School Service Personnel of the Year and Teacher of the Year will be announced at a ceremony in Charleston on September 13.