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May - June 2012






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Letter From the Editor and appreciation for the faculty and students.

How did you learn the difference between “principle” and “principal”? I was taught that the principal of a school ends in “p-a-l” because the principal is your “pal”. Really? When I was in school the principal was the stern person who sat behind a big desk in a dark office with a paddle hanging from the wall! In my eyes the principal was the disciplinarian, not your pal! It wasn’t until I had school aged children of my own that I began to realize the true merit of a principal. I didn’t have to visit the principal’s office to meet him or her. All I had to do was enter the school building and the principal would be found in the hallways interacting with the students and greeting parents. At school functions the principal was always present showing support

As a teacher, my admiration and respect for the principal only broadened. I have been very lucky to work with some amazing principals that make going to work every day challenging and rewarding. Furthermore, each principal I have worked under has made me feel appreciated as a person and a teacher. I’ve always known that if I ever have a problem, his/her office door is always open – and no paddle would be hanging on the wall! In this issue of Virginia Teacher, you will meet four standout principals from across Hampton Roads and Central Virginia that exemplify the qualities needed to be an effective leader. I hope this small sample will give you an appreciation for the incredible accomplishments of administrators. While the responsibilities are sometimes overwhelming, each principal highlighted handles his/her leadership role with determination and a positive approach. Moreover, each principal contributes his/her success and their school’s

achievements to one thing – the fact that they are surrounded by quality teachers and staff that are willing and able to implement their initiatives and above all, put students first. Virginia Teacher will continue to honor key members of the educational society with each May/June issue. For it takes an entire community to educate a child. This community includes teachers, principals, teacher assistances, parents, volunteers, assistant principals and even superintendents. Next May/June Virginia Teacher will honor “Guidance Counselors We Love”. If you would like to recommend a guidance counselor from your school, go to and look for the nomination form. I look forward to hearing from you and continuing to highlight all the good happening in Virginia schools. Yours in Education,

Editor & Publisher

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Contributors Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Dory Suttmiller

PHYLLIS JOHNSON Phyllis Johnson is the author of four books; one being titled, Being Frank with Anne, poetry about Anne Frank. She's a freelance photojournalist for The Virginian-Pilot and Designed to Flourish magazine in addition to writing for Virginia Teacher Magazine. She and her husband, Don, live in Chesapeake with their black lab, Maggie. She's currently marketing, Inkblot, a YA suspense novel, co-written with award winning writer, Nancy Naigle. Phyllis serves on the annual literary panel at the Paul D. Camp Community College's Literary Festival and works with a creative writing club at Western Branch High School in Chesapeake. Phyllis belongs to four writing groups locally. MERVYN J. WIGHTING, PH.D. Mervyn, originally from the south of England, is a full professor in Regent University’s School of Education. He holds a Ph.D. from Old Dominion University, and has taught in a variety of institutions in England and in Europe. Mervyn has lived in the USA for the past 16 years where he has worked in public and independent K-12 schools as well as in higher education. At Regent he has taught in the Educational Leadership and Curriculum & Instruction programs, and conducts research into different aspects of how a sense of community impacts the learning process. Dr. Wighting is the chair of the university’s award-winning Career Switcher program that is available face to face on campus and also online throughout the Commonwealth. BUD LIVERS, PH.D. Bud is the Learning Standards Officer at the Center for Naval Intelligence in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and is senior adjunct faculty for Cambridge College, Chesapeake Virginia Campus, in the M.Ed., Special Education program. He taught students with an emotional disturbance at a regional public day school, and was an Assistant Professor in the department of Teacher Education at Chowan University in North Carolina. He headed the Jails Education Program in Virginia Beach, Virginia, tasked with providing special education services for incarcerated youth and young adults. Bud received his BA from University of California, Berkeley, and his M.S.Ed. in elementary education with endorsement in special education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He received his Ph.D. in Educational Planning, Policy, and Leadership, with emphasis in Special Education Administration from The College of William & Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia.


Production, Design and Distribution Breeger Media Group Writers Phyllis Johnson Bud Livers, PhD Mervyn J. Wighting, Ph Mission Statement The mission of Virginia Teacher Magazine is to inform and inspire educators in Virginia by providing current and relevant information on career development, educational enrichment and personal growth. Disclaimer The views and opinions of writers and contributors that appear in Virginia Teacher Magazine do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Virginia Teacher Magazine’s publisher, editor, staff and affiliates. The information in Virginia Teacher Magazine is provided as a service to the readers of Virginia Teacher Magazine for information purposes only. Virginia Teacher Magazine is not responsible for problems arising out of reference to the included material. Information on a commercial product or service does not imply an endorsement by Virginia Teacher Magazine. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. All photographs are property of and credited to Virginia Teacher Magazine, unless otherwise noted. Advertise To advertise or to obtain a current rate card call 757-620-2631 or email at Editorial Submissions Virginia Teacher Magazine accepts news releases from credited organization. Submit material for editorial consideration to Extra Copies For extra copies call 757-620-2631 Virginia Teacher Magazine 325 Flax Mill Way Chesapeake, VA 23322 Phone 757-620-2631 Fax 757-410-0783 Web

Table of Contents Principals We Love


What does it take to be an effective school leader? Find out from four standout principals chosen from Hampton Roads and Central Virginia.

Partners in Education


College savings made simple with Virginia529

Beyond the Classroom


University of Richmond’s Sustainability and Nature Institute: helping K-12 teachers bring the classroom outside

Making the Grade


Voice to the World: A global vision seen locally

Class Reunion

Virginia Teacher would like to thank the following sponsors for donating prizes during National Teacher Appreciation Week.


Dr. L.D. Britt, Chairman, Department of Surgery, Eastern Virginia Medical School

On the cover: Cheryl Burke, principal of Chimborazo Elementary School, spends some time with a Virginia Preschool Initiative class. (Cover photo credited to the Richmond Times-Dispatch)

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PRINCIPALS WE LOVE By: Phyllis Johnson and Mervyn Wighting Teachers are the most visible part of a school environment. However, it is the principal who develops the entire tone for the culture of the school. The school principal is the one who must set a clear vision and articulate it in a manner so that it is well understood, accepted and implemented by teachers, students, parents and the community. Without effective educational leadership, true learning cannot take place.

who have gone above and beyond their typical responsibilities have been selected by Virginia Teacher. Each principal has overcome a unique set of challenges during his/her career. But the end results are all the same: despite varying circumstances, each principal has managed to create a learning environment where every teacher feels appreciated and every student can be successful.

Principals vary in strategy, temperament, and leadership style. However, according to, great principals have the following four characteristics in common: ■ Great principals take responsibility for school success ■ Great principals lead teaching and learning ■ Great principals hire, develop and retain excellent teachers ■ Great principals build a strong school community

Stephen Cunningham, Principal at Matoaca High School in Chesterfield

One of these standout principals is Stephen Cunningham, principal at Matoaca High School in Chesterfield. Mr. Cunningham was one of four principals in the Richmond metropolitan area who received the 2012 R.E.B. Award for Distinguished Leadership. This honor is given to principals who go beyond their dayto-day demands to create an exceptional educational environment. But these four characteristics are Each recipient is given a $7,500 cash merely a blueprint. With the current grant and an additional $7,500 for economy putting many school systems school projects chosen by the in crisis, administrators now have principal. Mr. Cunningham plans to use his award to establish and the added burden of maintaining a support the Friends of Rachel Club. school’s hard-won academic This club was named after the first progress in the face of increasing student killed at Columbine High pressures and declining resources. School in Texas and recognizes Today’s principals must exceed the students who help with anti-bullying minimal requirements. But how efforts and encourage kind acts might they do this? throughout the school. To help answer that question four Wanda Noland is the office manager outstanding principals from across Hampton Roads and Central Virginia who works alongside Stephen


Stephen Cunningham

Cunningham. “I can attest to Mr. Cunningham’s commitment to our students, parents and his colleagues. Mr. C., as we affectionately call him, has made it his mission to prepare all students at Matoaca High for life after high school, whatever that may be. He sits down with students in a nonjudgmental and relaxed setting to discuss their goals. He then, with their interests at heart, guides them on a path to obtain those goals.” “His passion for kids is palpable,” Wanda continued. “He is proud of our students and is always a positive voice in the community, sharing our success. It is difficult to paint a picture on paper of the commitment and investment that Mr. Cunningham has in the students and staff of Matoaca High School. You simply have the walk the halls of MHS to experience his leadership and to see how that leadership has evolved into a source of pride. Every day is ‘A Great Day to be a Matoaca Warrior!’” Jenny Pulley, an English teacher at the school is also proud of Matoaca’s principal. “He has energy to spare and genuinely cares for the day-today operation of the school. Because of his continuing dedication to the quality of education the students of Matoaca High School receive, he is the epitome of a leader deserving of

the R.E.B. Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership.” According to Jenny, thanks to Mr. Cunningham, the school now has a school improvement plan that has culminated in a school environment that is a totally integrated professional learning community. He also began the CRISS, a strategic learning process that enables better student literacy and pushes for higher critical thinking skills. His Lunch and Learn program encourages students to meet with teachers, mentor others and participate in a host of activities. They have instituted the Covey philosophy, The Leader in Me, which incorporates the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People into their daily lives at the high school. “We have seven habits posters around our school and are fostering a common language and philosophy to prepare a generation of children to truly lead their own lives and meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century,” said Jenny.

and community well. Chimborazo Elementary is the fifteenth poorest of 276 public schools in central Virginia with almost ninety percent of the students receiving free or reduced price lunches. Despite these demographics, Chimborazo is a fully accredited school as recognized by the Virginia Department of Education. When Chimborazo began the journey towards accreditation, the school had in excess of 700 students in a building designed for less than 500. The SOL scores were in the single digits in some areas. The support of Governor Warner’s PASS Initiative (Partnerships to Achieve Successful Schools), afforded Chimborazo the opportunity to implement data driven strategies co-developed by Richmond Public Schools and VA Department of Education. Additionally, PASS enabled the purchase of much needed supplies and equipment to enhance instruction, get volunteers for tutoring, and secure the aid of mentoring schools to help fine-tune instruction.

interaction. A mobile food pantry distributes fresh produce, dairy, and meat monthly. The school even hosts a clothing closet sponsored by Communities in Schools filled with donated clothes for students who need them. There have been times when Ms. Burke was offered jobs to work elsewhere for a higher salary. But she has turned those jobs down. Her success in working at her school with students has been about relationships. “In fifteen years, you get to know people. I have a lot of second generation students coming through now. I can make a difference here. I have made a difference. I could have made more money elsewhere but I have all the riches I need right here.” (Cheryl Burke’s quotes are from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.)

Dr. Marjorie Stealey, Principal at Norview High School in Norfolk

Dr. Marjorie Stealey is the principal of Norview HS in Norfolk, an innercity school with 1900 students, 158 Stephen Cunningham is enthusiastic “It takes at least three to five years to teachers and 38 staff members. Dr. Stealey is not only the principal, for over being selected for the award. see change, to really implement the past nineteen years, she has also “This award is a testament to all of change, to really determine the the professionals that I have worked impact. When I got here, I thought I been the very visible and undisputed leader of the whole school and its with in the past and from whom I could change everything in a year. have learned so much. It’s also a But it takes time,” said Cheryl. testament to the outstanding work The school’s vision statement done by the students and staff of Ma- specifies that Chimborazo will be a toaca High School. I’m grateful to “learner centered” school where the R.E.B. Foundation for their sup- thinking, learning and creating port of education and schools. The thrive. But Cheryl realizes that this money will be put to good use to mission cannot be accomplished benefit student learning. ” without first meeting the distinctive social and emotional needs of her Cheryl Burke, Principal at students. For this reason, Chimborazo Elementary Chimborazo offers many School in Richmond nontraditional programs. Fifth grade (pictured on the front cover) students learn how to cook through the Chefs Move to Schools program. In her fifteenth year as principal of Third grade students attend Say It Chimborazo Elementary School, with Heart, an anti-bullying program Cheryl Burke has served her school which promotes positive peer Dr. Marjorie Stealey VIRGINIA TEACHER MAGAZINE | MAY • JUNE 2012


community. She was Norfolk’s first female high school principal, named the 2010 Virginia High School Principal of the Year by the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals, she is the 2011 MetLife/NASSP Principal of the Year for the Commonwealth, and was one of three finalists for the National Principal of the Year in 2011. Dr. Stealey’s leadership success is based upon getting away from her desk and computer and finding out firsthand what is actually happening in her school. It is virtually impossible to visit Norview HS without seeing her in action somewhere, whether in a hallway talking with a student, in a classroom observing a teacher’s instruction, or in a sports arena where she is rooting for her beloved Pilots. Having the experience and confidence to delegate authority (and not micro-manage subsequently) enables Dr. Stealey to leave the routine running of the school to her assistant principals. Consequently, issues such as discipline, absences and tardiness do not normally come her way. Neither do the routine evaluations of curriculum and instruction. This delegation enables her to stand back to view the bigger picture, and to analyze school data in order to help make decisions. Dr. Stealey designs innovations such as ensuring ninth graders are properly transitioned into their new and bewildering world of high school, and introducing new methods to try to lessen the dropout rate among her less successful students. Dr. Stealey will tell you her school’s success it’s not all about her – it’s all about her teachers. What she may not reveal, however, is that she has carefully selected talented teachers over a number of years and helped


them develop professionally with goal setting and ongoing training so that they understand the culture of Norview HS and help to improve it continuously. It may be no coincidence that a Norview HS teacher was Virginia’s Teacher of the Year in 2006 and a National Teacher of the Year finalist in 2007. If a teacher is struggling at Norview, she does everything possible to help rather than taking the easier route of just documenting everything that is going wrong. Her logic is simple: she hired that person and she feels it is partially her fault if things are not working out well. Strong and effective leadership is all about example. It is easy to “talk the talk” and tell tenth graders that they need to study hard and pass exams if they are going to be successful in the big wide world. When you are working full time and holding down the hugely responsible and time-demanding position of a high school principal it is less easy to “walk the walk.” Yet in 2010, lifelong learner Mrs. Stealey completed her Ph.D. dissertation and became Dr. Stealey – a great example to her students, her teachers, and to fellow administrators in Norfolk Public Schools.

Dr. Penny Schultz

Dr. Penny Schultz, Principal at Southeastern Cooperative Educational Program (SECEP) Dr. Penny Schultz is the principal of the Southeastern Cooperative Educational Programs (SECEP) in Chesapeake. SECEP’s organization provides a formal structure through which the participating school systems can plan and operate programs for children with special needs. Dr. Schultz’s school is a Re-Ed facility, founded on the belief that children can be re-educated to manage their behavior challenges in order to live successfully in their family and in the general community. A former police officer in Virginia Beach, Dr. Schultz recognizes all too well that if schools like hers are not successful the students can easily end up in the criminal justice system. Consequently she makes it her business to get to know her students as closely as possible, establishing relationships and doing her best to earn their trust. She lets them know she really wants them to succeed not only now, but also in their life after they have left school. Students do take SOLs at this

school, so the principal has to measure success in two areas: test related and behavior related. Dr. Schultz is demonstrably the academic leader in her school. She holds regular meetings with the staff who teach the core subject areas plus the special education teachers who team-teach in every classroom. These meetings are sometimes pre-planned and scheduled, other times they are as required in order to deal with specific challenges that might have arisen. Recognizing the value of coordinated teamwork she employs a support team comprising an Education Specialist, teacher assistants, and liaisons to help students who are ready to transition smoothly back to their regular public school. Penny Schultz is a hands-on leader who recognizes that her school’s greatest asset is its teachers. In order to meet her selection criteria prospective teachers have to demonstrate that they have the skills, patience and determination to be able to work successfully with alternative education students, some of whom can be very demanding. Each day, any number of the 110 enrolled students (ages range from 5-21) might feel unwilling to attend class and are reluctant to enter the building. It is not uncommon to see Dr. Schultz mediating these children – outside of the facility in all weathers – until they realize that it would be more sensible if they came in to join their class. She understands well that forcing them will not be a long term solution. She does all she can to develop a sense of community among all the stakeholders so that eventually these troubled children feel sufficiently secure and confident that the school is there to support them and help them to function successfully in society. VT

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Partners in Education

COLLEGE SAVINGS Made Simple with Virginia 529 account owner must be a Virginia resident at the time the account is opened. A VPEP account can be opened with as little as one year of community college, all the way up to a five year university contract, or a combination of community college and university years. Families may choose between a lump sum payment and monthly payments, and can make a down payment to lower monthly costs.

Virginia College Savings PlanSM (Virginia529SM) makes saving for college simple. Virginia529 provides four flexible, affordable and tax advantaged 529 college savings programs, giving families many options to choose from, depending on their individual savings goals and styles. The name for 529 Plans originated in 1996 with the passage by Congress of Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code. This Congressional action placed a stamp of approval on programs started years earlier by states, including Virginia, which wanted to help families meet the ever-rising cost of higher education. 529 Plans help families plan and save for future qualified higher education expenses at eligible educational institutions – both terms defined in Section 529. Virginia 529 offers one prepaid tuition program, and three savings programs, with different investment options, to allow families to save for qualified higher education costs. Each program is different in order to meet various objectives, risk tolerances, savings time horizons and budgets, but all four programs provide an important first step in saving for college. Earnings on all Virginia 529 accounts grow tax-free and are never subject to tax


if distributions are used for qualified higher education expenses. Virginia taxpayers also are eligible for a state income tax deduction of up to $4,000 per account each year. Benefits from all four programs may be used at eligible universities, colleges, community colleges and technical schools across the country and around the world. The Virginia Prepaid Education Program SM (VPEP SM) is Virginia529’s prepaid tuition program, and is the most unique program, with some restrictions not found in Virginia 529’s three savings programs. VPEP allows families to pre-pay today for their future cost of undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees at Virginia public colleges and universities. Benefits may

For families seeking more flexibility or not wanting to lock into a monthly payment, Virginia 529’s direct-sold savings programs may be attractive options. The Virginia Education Savings TrustSM (VESTSM) offers multiple investment portfolios, including age-based portfolios and Vanguard fund options, to meet various risk tolerances, investment objectives and college savings time horizons. It takes as little as $25 to start a VEST account, with no monthly obligation for contributions. Benefits from VEST accounts can be used for all qualified higher education expenses, including tuition and fees, room and board and books. VEST is open year round and contains no state residency or beneficiary age requirements. CollegeWealth® is Virginia 529’s other direct-sold 529 program and is provided in partnership with BB&T® and Union First Market Bank®. CollegeWealth provides savings accounts that combine the

Virginia 529 offers one prepaid tuition program, and three savings programs, with different investment options, to allow families to save for qualified higher education costs. also be used at Virginia private and out of state schools, but the full cost of tuition and fees is not guaranteed. VPEP has state residency requirements, beneficiary age restrictions and a limited enrollment period. A beneficiary must be in ninth grade or below at the time of account opening, and either the beneficiary or

tax benefits of 529 accounts with the protection of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), up to statutory maximums. This program also is available year round and has no state residency or beneficiary age requirements. Both VEST and CollegeWealth accounts may be opened online at

Virginia 529 makes it easy to learn about all four programs, either with the Program Guide, available online at, or first-hand through representatives at local community events. Free group presentations for PTAs, employers, churches, and many other organizations are offered upon request. Representatives are front and center to talk about the four programs with a factual yet fun spin at numerous events throughout Virginia at Virginia High School League (VHSL) events, the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K (featuring the Virginia529 Kids Run), the Colonial Athletic Association basketball tournament, Science Museum of Virginia (SMVA) events, select Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball games, and many other activities throughout the year. The opportunity to celebrate while spreading awareness of the importance of college savings is not taken lightly by Virginia 529. In fact on May 29, 2012, National 529 Day, Virginia 529 will turn up the college savings celebration. Lucky mothers whose infants are born closest to 5:29 pm at participating hospitals in Virginia will win a VEST account with an initial opening balance of $529. Virginia529 invites all community leaders to use 529 Day as an opportunity to educate families on the importance of college savings and encourage families to save with Virginia 529. Centrally located in Richmond, Virginia walk-ins are welcome to visit Virginia 529 for account opening, making deposits and account inquiries. For additional information about Virginia 529 please email, visit or call toll-free at 1-888567-0540. You may also find Virginia 529 updates, fun activities and contests at events and through online resources like Facebook, Twitter, and VT VIRGINIA TEACHER MAGAZINE | MAY • JUNE 2012


Beyond the Classroom


While it’s a proven fact that outdoor learning spaces bring any number of benefits to children, many K-12 teachers face even more questions about where to begin building an outdoor classroom or even creating meaningful outdoor experiences for students. Cary Jamieson, program specialist with the School of Professional and Continuing Studies’ (SPCS) Landscape Design Program, knew the University of Richmond could offer the answers. That’s why she helped lead the way in launching the Sustainability and Nature Institute for Educators — one of the first programs of its kind — to equip teachers with the tools they need to build an outdoor learning experience from the ground up. “Students are spending a tremendous amount of time in front of a screen,” says Jamieson. “They don’t have the same freedom to explore nature as generations that came before them. It’s become the responsibility of the teachers to expose them to outdoor settings in the safety of the school.”

Teachers from schools in both rural and urban Virginia, and even as far away as Florida, gathered for one week last July to learn the art and science behind outdoor classrooms from John Hayden, professor of biology, and Steven Koprowski, instructor of landscape design.

Steven Koprowski, instructor of landscape design with SPCS, and Melinda Adamonis, a language arts and social sciences teacher at Three Chopt Elementary School.

Guest speakers, such as Gerry McCarthy, director of the Virginia Environmental Endowment; Carol Heiser, education coordinator from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; and Megan Litke, University sustainability coordinator, provided additional instruction on everything from grant funding sources to insect collection to community participation to sustainability initiatives. Field trips to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and local schools rounded out the program with a firsthand look at gardens and outdoor programs. At first blush, outdoor classrooms seem to apply only to biology and other natural science topics. However, participants learned how the concept can apply to a variety of subjects:

Outdoor classrooms don’t have to just be math and science, it can encompass all learning in a school, and all grades.


teaching Shakespeare is enhanced by writing nature-inspired poetry, creating a gourd orchestra brings life to music classes, and measuring trees and sidewalks shows the application of math principles. As Jamieson explains, the idea is “really just about engaging with the natural environment.” “[Outdoor classrooms] don’t have to just be math and science,” says Melinda Adamonis, a language arts and social sciences teacher at Three Chopt Elementary School in Henrico County. “It can encompass all learning in a school, and all grades.” The institute also addressed the disparities that teachers in rural versus urban schools face. “People in urban settings don’t realize all of the resources they do have on their school grounds,” Jamieson says. “Sometimes there’s just a natural element, like a group of trees, leaves and soil. [Meanwhile,] we had a

teacher who lives in a rural community and [her students] all have vegetable gardens at home. She was concentrating on how to use natural elements outdoors to foster more understanding.” Despite the breadth and depth of instruction during the weeklong session, Jamieson says the biggest message was to keep it simple. “You don’t have to have a huge vegetable or flower garden that takes a |tremendous amount of time and energy and money,” Jamieson says. “It can be just walking around school grounds and observing nature. We’re trying to make [the idea] as accessible to others as possible, and rethink the way that teachers utilize an outdoor space.” Admonis agrees with the simple approach. “Everybody should understand how not being outside is negatively impacting our children, and what we can do to help. [They

day, Book To itted. m i L is e n Spac dmissiio ay A Single-D


shouldn’t] look at an outside learning classroom as something that’s unattainable.” Registration is now under way for the 2012 Sustainability and Nature Institute, which will take place July 23-27 at the University of Richmond. Although initially conceived for classroom teachers, the institute is open to school staff members, education leaders, PTA representatives, and anyone interested to the beginning principles of design and science that support an outdoor classroom. The cost is just $798, which includes a 50% discount for educators. On-campus room and board options are available for participants travelling from outside the Richmond area. Participants earn three semester hours of graduate credit, which may be used for teaching licensure renewal. “We anticipate the 2012 institute to be a truly empowering experience,” says Jamieson. “One of this year’s

guest speakers is Kelly Johnson, a 2011 institute participant, who will be speaking on the ecological identity as it relates to teaching environmental education and leading a hands-on workshop on nature journaling.” Johnson earned her M.A. from Goddard College in Vermont with a concentration in Environmental Studies. She brings a vast array of experience to the 2012 institute having designed and implemented several outdoor classrooms and planned events for educational development and programming for a Florida community children’s garden where she resides. In addition, Johnson is currently writing a book titled Wings, Worms, and Wonder. Those interested in attending the 2012 Sustainability and Nature Institute can find more information online at educators or contact Cary Jamieson directly at or (804) 248-7701. VT

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Making the Grade


A Global Vision Seen Locally

By:Bud Livers

“Life's most urgent question is:What are you doing for others?� Martin Luther King, Jr. Many of us dream (or maybe used to dream) about changing the world... someday. This month and next, in valedictory addresses the nation over, the torch will be passed to bright eyed dreamers, bent on fixing the ills of the world. Graduates will be challenged to make a difference in their neighborhoods, their nation, or even their planet. Teach for America, Doctors without Borders, and the Peace Corps are examples of such groups, made up of individuals who have risen to the challenge. Dominique Simon, a 2011 graduate of the University of Richmond, has accepted that challenge. Together with his friend and business partner Prayas Neupane, they hit upon an idea. Working as an intern, Simon came face to face with a very real problem facing many people in this age where technological prowess is considered a basic survival skill. Despite a recent infusion of technology assets in some schools and school divisions, there still exists a great Digital Divide in this country where many students and adults do not have the access or the skills needed to use that technology


in a way that will allow them to fully engage in contemporary society. Lacking basic computer skills, these individuals will be relegated to status as second-class citizens wherever they go. Working together, Simon and Neupane created Voice to the World as a way to help children and adults break through this Digital Divide. While the name may sound pretentious, the two visionaries who share ambitious and far-reaching goals are anything but. Their

Mission Statement notes that: Voice to the World (VW) addresses the digital divide by identifying voiceless, underserved groups and supplying them with the computer knowledge and skills necessary for social change. By offering a curriculum based on keyboarding, supplemented with other vital 21st-century skills, VW relies on its base of volunteer instructors and community partners to prepare its students for higher education and advanced career opportunities.

In practice, they teach targeted groups how to use computer technology and social media to address their concerns and challenges to the wider community.

HENDERSON MIDDLE SCHOOL: As part of the Communities in Schools Renaissance Program, Voice to the World designed an after-school program that couples technology literacy with reading literacy and education, allowing students to apply what they learn after school with what they are learning during school. Using a free, online website, VW volunteers provided keyboarding instruction to the students. Additionally, students are taught specialized skills in Microsoft Office, Internet safety, scholarship search, basic website design and programming, public speaking and presentation skills – all considered important skills for the 21st century.

communication, U.S. culture, 21st century skills and job preparation. Refugees and immigrants are taught a basic knowledge of computers while integrating them to American culture through open discussions and classroom activities. The program strives to provide essential services needed for participants to make an easy transition to a new society and way of life.

FUTURE VOICES? Not content to stay where they are, Dominique has plans that will allow his organization to help others cross the digital divide. They have already had interest from other groups in the area, including Richmond Public Library and the Boys and Girls clubs, inviting VW to partner with them to help even more people. And what about the next five years? “We see ourselves as focusing on the Richmond Area, but we may want to expand in the area of Adult Education,” Simon responded. “We want to help even more people work with computers and practice the technology skills they should be learning in the schools.”

needed capital. VW’s request to incorporate as a Non-Profit organization has meet with some difficulty. Challenges by the IRS have put a temporary hold on the plan, and VW had to let volunteers go until these problems are solved. Students working with VW started producing a documentary, chronicling the plight of the Bhutanese Refugees in Richmond. “That project has been put on hold, unfortunately,” Simon notes. “The red tape has been very successful in tying us down.” Despite these setbacks, Simon and Neupane are still working hard to keep the dream alive. Thomas Jefferson once said, “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal.” Working together, these young men will eventually put a noticeable crack in that great wall, the Digital Divide. Interested in learning more about Voice to the World? Contact Dominique Simon at (804)-723-8955, or VT

Key to bringing this dream to fruition is an infusion of much-

REFUGEE AND IMMIGRATION SERVICE (RIS): Simon and Neupane are changing lives of adults as well. At the Refugee and Immigration Service, VW has implemented a program specially designed for refugees and immigrants. Bhutanese refugees sometimes relocate to the U.S. after experiencing unrest, dislocation, and sometimes violence in their home countries. VW focuses on technology literacy with special attention given to English VIRGINIA TEACHER MAGAZINE | MAY • JUNE 2012


Class Reunion


By: Bud Livers

Dr. L.D. Britt

CHAIRMAN, DEPARTMENT OF SURGERY, EASTERN VIRGINIA MEDICAL SCHOOL Thinking about your school days, what was your favorite class or subject? I had many excellent teachers, but one who really stands out was Ms Maddie Vann. She taught me Shakespeare, grammar, all the basics of the language. She stuck with me most because of her emphasis on organization and discipline in writing. She maintained a standard of excellence that is so needed by today’s school children. I am teaching to my colleagues today English that she taught me in grade school. It is unfortunate that we need to teach adults the basic English skills they should have learned in grade school. Did you participate in any school sports or clubs? I played football, track and field, and basketball until I was injured in twelfth grade. I was really disappointed at the time, because I had expected my senior year to be my best year ever. While I was sad to have to give up sports, it did allow me to focus all my efforts on my education and devote more time to my studies. I graduated as Class Valedictorian. A surgical team is like a sports team – we have team captains, uniforms, a goal, and high stakes. But there are higher stakes in surgery, where life hangs in the balance. What motivated you to become a surgeon? When I was injured playing football, I was treated by a surgeon, Dr. O.W. Hoffler. I was inspired as he worked


to fix my injury, and decided I would like to be able to help others like he helped me. He mentored me throughout the process, and I really admired the man and his work. Unfortunately, in later years Dr. Hoffler had a problem while he was undergoing a surgical procedure, and he eventually succumbed to it. Had the surgical problem been detected earlier, he might have had a better chance. By the time I heard about it, I was too late. It really hurt that I was unable to help him because he had been so instrumental in my own career choice. If you could do your school years over again, what would you do differently? I think most people would say they wouldn’t change a thing, that they would do things exactly the same. I think those people are being disingenuous. I’d like to talk to those people. I would study harder. I would have prepared better. Knowledge doubles every decade, so we could all do better if we went back again. As far as specific preparation, I would increase my medicine literacy. I would not repeat any grade, but I would consider doing the third grade because I skipped it. I come from a family of educators. My mother worked for Suffolk County Public Schools for 53 years. She taught the one grade that I skipped – third grade. I got so much from mother that when I was tested in 2nd grade, they decided to move me directly into 4th.

What one thing did you learn in school that has served you well in your post-school years? Writing and English. I still use what I learned there. I would put my writing skills and grammar up against anyone. You cannot navigate through academics without that. I am a product of the segregated public school system. I think I got the best training, because teachers really paid attention to the ones who were willing to do the work. I never miss the opportunity to thank teachers. My real spring board was home first, then the public schools. My first-ballot Hall of Fame nomination would be the teachers in Suffolk Public Schools. VT

BIOGRAPHY: Dr. L. D. Britt, from Suffolk, Virginia, has strong southern roots and is the product of the public school system. He received his BA from the University of Virginia. A graduate of Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Britt is the Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School. He has authored over 200 scientific publications and 3 books. He is the recipient of the nation’s highest teaching award in medicine – the Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teaching Award. Atlanta Post recently highlighted him as one of the top 21 black doctors in America. Ebony magazine recently listed him as one of the most influential African Americans in the nation.

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Virginia Teacher May/June 2012 Issue  
Virginia Teacher May/June 2012 Issue  

Virginia Teacher May/June 2012 Issue: Principals We Love Voice to the World Sustainability & Nature Institute College Savings with Virginia5...