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For Immediate Release
October 7, 2004

Contact: Charles Pyle
Director of Communications
(804) 371-2420

Julie Grimes
Public Information Specialist
(804) 225-2775

Surprise Announcements Reveal Regional Teachers of the Year
One to Be Named Virginia Teacher of the Year on October 29

The Virginia Department of Education (DOE) today informed eight teachers of their selection as the Virginia 2005 Regional Teachers of the Year. DOE representatives made the announcements during surprise classroom visits this morning and the eighth learned of her selection during a school division function this evening.

“The love of learning and enthusiasm for teaching of these educators fills their classrooms and touches all areas of their lives,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Jo Lynne DeMary. “All of these teachers are recognized by peers and students as educators who care about children and achievement.”

The regional teachers of the year announced today are:

  • Pamela K. Edwards, a chemistry teacher at Matoaca High School in Chesterfield County (Region One). Believing that every child can be successful, Edwards takes pride in doubling the size of the chemistry program at her school and adding Advanced Placement and forensic chemistry to the course offerings. With the philosophy, “I don’t teach chemistry, I teach kids,” Edwards crafted tactile graphs, diagrams, and other manipulatives, and learned Braille for a blind student. As evidence of her teaching abilities, her students recently won the American Chemical Society’s Chemistry Olympiad in the large-school category.

  • Elizabeth M. O’Brien, a mathematics teacher at Grafton High School in York County (Region Two). A veteran teacher, O’Brien has taught in schools in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. She enjoys interacting with students and mentoring prospective teachers. Her many professional accomplishments include earning National Board Certification in 1998.

  • Rita K. Truelove, a physical science teacher at John J. Wright Middle School in Spotsylvania County (Region Three). Truelove turns her students on to science with engaging labs in her interactive classroom. She incorporates social skills within her science curriculum to not only show students how the “world works” but how to “work in the world.”

  • Joseph Hills, a world studies teacher at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Fairfax County (Region Four). An educator for more than four decades, Hills takes pleasure in finding ways to “boggle minds with exciting ideas.” He challenges students into “thinking deeply and thinking differently” through his use of the Socratic method and inspires his students to ponder the larger truths that history reveals.

  • Christy M. Davis, a fourth-grade teacher at Thomas C. McSwain Elementary in Staunton (Region Five). Incorporating her love of the arts with technology, Davis encourages creativity in her students. Several of her favorite annual projects include making gingerbread houses for raffling to support an independent reading program and producing video portfolios of students to foster public speaking skills and self-evaluation, while improving communication between the classroom and home.

  • Joseph L. Salmon, a third-grade science teacher at Roanoke Academy for Mathematics and Science in Roanoke (Region Six). As the son of parents who didn’t finish high school and after a career in retail sales, Salmon enrolled in college and decided to become a teacher. An educator for 14 years, Salmon earned National Board Certification in 2001. He enjoys implementing partnerships promoting science and technology for elementary students, and is credited with helping to increase science Standards of Learning test scores by 48 percent over three years.

  • Gail A. Gilland, a librarian at Damascus Middle School in Washington County (Region Seven). In her 16 years as the school’s library media specialist and technology coordinator, Gilland has worked to create an inviting environment and a source of unlimited information for students. She extends her love of learning outside the media center as a teacher’s assistant once a month at the nearby elementary school and through efforts to provide additional student services in the community.

  • Andrea W. Verschaeve, an eighth-grade English teacher at Prince Edward County Middle School in Prince Edward County (Region Eight). From bringing in a childhood doll to explain the difference between dependent and independent clauses to dressing as a princess to teach formal and informal tone, Verschaeve seeks to create a “classroom of excited learners.” Voted by students as the teacher with the highest expectations, she continually challenges her students to succeed.

The eight teachers were selected from among candidates chosen by their school divisions. The candidates prepared and submitted portfolios highlighting their professional accomplishments, educational philosophies, and community activities. A panel of representatives of professional and educational associations, the business community, and 2004 Virginia Teacher of the Year Laurie Sullivan of Arlington County reviewed the portfolios.

The panel will interview each of the eight Regional Teachers of the Year on October 29 to determine the 2005 Virginia Teacher of the Year. The decision will be announced that evening during a celebration in Richmond.

The 2005 Virginia Teacher of the Year will be the commonwealth’s nominee in the National Teacher of the Year program, which is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic Inc. Two previous Virginia teachers have gone on to become National Teacher of the Year: B. Philip Bigler, the 1998 Virginia Teacher of the Year, and Mary Bicouvaris, the 1989 Virginia Teacher of the Year.

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