Five Educators Honored for Teaching Excellence

Five Educators Honored for Teaching Excellence
Posted on 11/16/2023
HCPS LogoFour Hanover County Public Schools teachers have received the 2023 R.E.B. Awards for Teaching Excellence and another teacher was a finalist for the esteemed award, which recognizes them as outstanding teachers who demonstrate a sincere passion for teaching while also serving as mentors, coaches, and champions for their students.

Dr. Michael Gill, Superintendent of Schools, announced each winner at their school during faculty meetings on Monday, November 6. Combined, the four winners will receive cash grants of $47,000 to travel the world to continue their own learning and bring it back to the classroom. Nominated by students, parents, and colleagues, the educators are among 16 winners from across the Richmond region chosen by the Community Foundation and the R.E.B. Foundation as being considered among the best in their field.

“I could not be more proud of the exceptional efforts of our talented and dedicated teachers who were nominated for this prestigious award. Their commitment to the students of Hanover County Public Schools and our beloved profession of teaching is admirable and worthy of celebration,” said Dr. Michael Gill, Superintendent of Schools. “I cannot wait to see how the unique opportunities that are afforded by these grants will provide our students with even richer learning experiences.”

Melissa Lowder, a second grade teacher at Cool Spring Elementary School, received $13,200 to explore historical sites in Rome, Venice, and Athens to gain a better understanding of how people of the past lived to compare and contrast with how we live today.

“I am honestly at a loss for words after being recognized with an R.E.B. Award. I do what I do for my students because during the time they are with me at school, they are my kids. It means so much to know that what I do inside the four walls of my classroom extends far beyond each and every day,” said Lowder, who has been a teacher in Hanover County Public Schools for 19 years and previously taught at Kersey Creek Elementary School and Pearson’s Corner Elementary School. “I am truly humbled to even be nominated for the award. I am so excited to be able to learn about the past first hand and bring all that I discover back to my students and my colleagues!”

Marc Moran, the agriculture, turfgrass, and landscaping teacher at Atlee High School, received $12,800 to explore some of the major turf science facilities in Great Britain, such as St. Andrews Links, Wimbledon, and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, that have helped to shape the major sporting venues across the world.

“To just be nominated is in itself an honor, especially when it comes from the students I teach and their parents. I think every teacher wants to feel that what they do on a day-to-day basis has a positive impact on the lives of the students that we teach, so the nomination certainly drives that home. As I went through the application process, I felt lucky to be in the same company of so many accomplished educators from around the region and knowing that each one of them was worthy of this award made that feeling even more special,” said Moran, who is in his 25th year of teaching, all at Atlee High. “I feel fortunate that the work that I have done over my career has made a positive impact on my students and their careers. This award is a great reminder that you never know how you can impact the life of a student and that each day is an opportunity to make a difference.”

He added: “Without the amazing mentors I have had in my career, this would not have been possible. When I was in the 8th grade, I had an agriculture teacher, Grayson Balderson, who took the time to make a positive impact on me and it shaped the rest of my life. I have also been fortunate to work, for 24 years, with one of the most influential agriculture teachers in Virginia, David Balderson. His work ethic and leadership helped to shape me into the teacher I am today and if it were not for the two of them, I would not have had the success I have had over the course of my career. I am forever grateful to both of them and the impact they had on me.”

Dana Randolph, a second grade teacher at Pearson’s Corner Elementary School who is in her 12th year of teaching, received $11,000 to become immersed in the diverse habitats of U.S. National Parks to bring lessons to life for students across all academic areas.

When asked what it means to be recognized with this distinguished award, Randolph shared: “It means I have been blessed with an amazing opportunity. I don’t just mean the opportunity the grant will provide, either. Through this entire process, I have been able to reflect on who I am as a teacher, what I can do to improve my teaching and make an even better learning experience for my students, and that I truly do love what I do.”

She added: “Thank you to my family and my school family for being there, not only to celebrate this day with me, but for supporting me on ALL the days. I am surrounded by some pretty amazing people. A huge thank you to the family that made the nomination. They have been my biggest cheerleaders throughout this whole process and have celebrated with me at each milestone. Finally, thank you to the Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond for offering a way to recognize teachers through the R.E.B. Awards!”

Sara Salvato, an adaptive curriculum special education teacher and certified athletic trainer at Mechanicsville High School, received $10,000 to explore accessible employment, training, and recreational opportunities for people with cognitive disabilities to further implement school based vocational and recreational programs.

“It is a great honor to be recognized by my students' families, the Community Foundation, and HCPS for the R.E.B Award for Teaching Excellence! It is my life's mission to create an environment for my students that they want to come to each day to learn new things and grow,” said Salvato, a 13-year teaching veteran who was the 2017-18 HCPS Teacher of the Year. “I am excited for the opportunity to travel around the U.S. to learn new skills to bring back and teach my students!”

She added: “I am grateful for the instructional assistants that work in my classroom day in and day out to help me create a welcoming environment and learning space for our incredible students.”

In addition to the four winners, Faith Phillips of Atlee High School was named a finalist for the award and will receive $1,000 in recognition of her achievements in the classroom.

The awards program, which is a partnership between the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond and the R.E.B. Foundation, recognizes excellence in public education by awarding cash grants to outstanding public school teachers from the City of Richmond, the counties of Chesterfield, Henrico, and Hanover, and the Department of Correctional Education.
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