Educators and school support staff members around the globe have survived an unprecedented year of challenges and creative solutions—and Greene County is no exception. As the school year drew to a close, Greene County Public Schools (GCPS) solicited input from parents, community members and staff to nominate educators for the annual Educator of the Year and Support Staff Member of the Year awards.
“Selecting a single person to receive this recognition during a typical school year can be challenging,” according to a press release from the school board. “This year, the process required much more consideration at each stage, as every member of our school community worked tirelessly throughout the year.”
After carefully reviewing the nominees’ application materials, the committee selected fourth-grade teacher Emily Thompson as Educator of the Year and functional skills instructional assistant Cassandra Baker as Support Staff Member of the Year.
“The Greene County school system is grateful that these dedicated educators are members of our school community,” according to the press release. “Their level of commitment to our students’ lifelong success is an inspiring example for anyone involved in education.”
Thompson took on a completely new role this year, serving as virtual teacher for fourth-grade students at Nathanael Greene Elementary School. She has been with GCPS for four years.
“Ms. Thompson has presented at the State Reading Association’s reading conference, helped facilitate professional development courses for first-year teachers, and was the fourth-grade representative for the NGES innovation team,” said School Board Chairman Leah Paladino. “She assisted as a member of the GCPS curriculum pacing team, was a collaborator on the 2020 Return to Learn instructional taskforce and most recently was selected as the elementary representative to attend a (Virginia Department of Education) science deeper learning conference to learn more about … integrating science across curriculum.”
According to NGES Principal Adam Midock, Thompson “is always the teacher that is keeping her teammates up to speed with changes to SOLs and upcoming pacing needs. She is meticulous in her planning and is always willing to share ideas and resources with her fellow teachers. … She is frequently a calming presence when others are having a hard time as she is level headed and often puts a lot of thought into her reactions as a teacher. When teaching in-person she always worked to build student relationships and this has been even more evident in the virtual environment.”
One of Thompson’s current students had this to add: “You could always tell Ms. Thompson something and she will always listen. If you have a question or you don’t understand something, Ms. Thompson will always explain it again. She always has the most fun and coolest activities, even though she has to work with Zoom.”
Baker has been a functional skills instructional assistant with the county for 26 years and works at the middle school. Additionally, she works with students outside of school through the Youth Development Council, helps with Vacation Bible School in the summer for her church, and volunteers her time for the local food pantry, according to Paladino.
“Mrs. Baker is a compassionate and patient member of our middle school family,” said WMMS Assistant Principal Karin Graham. “In her years here, she works closely with students to support their needs in a loving but firm manner. She ensures that her students know she loves them through her actions and words. Mrs. Baker is an essential member of the functional classroom and is appreciated greatly not only by the students but also by the teachers she works with.”
According to one colleague’s nomination, “Ms. Baker’s knowledge and passion for her students is astounding. She goes above and beyond and gives them the love and structure needed to have success later in life. I’m so blessed to have her in my classroom and have learned so much from her.”
Another colleague said, “There has not been a challenge Ms. Baker has walked away from or a day she does not give 110%. She is a true model for every student, teacher and staff member in our building.”
The full slates of nominees from each school were honored at the school board’s May 12 meeting. In addition to Thompson, Instructional Assistant Erika Sharp was selected for Nathanael Greene Primary and Elementary schools (NGPS/ES); fourth-grade instructional assistant Ruthie Scupp and second-grade teacher Debbie Day for Ruckersville Elementary School (RES); Baker and Language Arts teacher Pam Collier for William Monroe Middle School (WMMS); and SPED instructional assistant Amanda Mills and English teacher Philip Lamb for William Monroe High School (WMHS).