GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND FOR OUR STUDENTS, SCHOOLS, AND COMMUNITY
Ten remarkable individuals have been selected as Dawbarn Education Award recipients and will receive a $10,000 cash award each. For 29 years, the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge has awarded individuals for going above and beyond their formal job responsibilities to make a real and lasting impact on the lives of students in the public schools of Augusta County, Staunton, and Waynesboro.
The Dawbarn Education Awards were created in 1992 when the late H. Dunlop “Buz” Dawbarn established an endowment at the Community Foundation. Buz said “the single most important thing we’ve got to do as a society is educate people. Democracy isn’t going to work in the long run if we don’t produce educated citizens.”
The Foundation presented the first awards on Monday October 10th in 1994, and a total of 287 awards over 29 years. The accompanying cash awards have totaled over $2 million.
The 2023 Dawbarn Education Award Recipients are:
CHESNE BASKA, LIBRARIAN AND MEDIA SPECIALIST. WILSON MIDDLE SCHOOL
Chesne Baska has been the Librarian and Media Specialist at Wilson Middle School for almost three years. In that time, the student book check-out rate has increased by 110%. Her principal Sarah Davis shared, “For some of our English Language Learners, the library has become a safe place of reflection and a place to learn how to play Uno. For shy students, the library has become a place of congenial conversation and a platform for courage. For some of our struggling readers, the library has become a place where they experience success – sometimes for the first time! This is ALL attributed to Mrs. Baska. She is sunshine personified.”
BRADLEY DEWITT, BUSINESS TEACHER AND COACH. STUARTS DRAFT HIGH SCHOOL
Mr. DeWitt goes above and beyond his formal job responsibilities each day in the classroom, and on the field and court as he coaches football, basketball and tennis. In the classroom, along with working with each student to help them succeed in their academic studies, he is a voice of encouragement.
He is the guy students go to if they need help with school, sports, or life in general.
DIANE LUNDSTROM, “RETIRED” YET STILL TEACHING 5TH GRADE, BERKELEY GLENN ELEMENTARY
Diane Lundstrom served Waynesboro City Schools for 33 years as a fifth grade teacher, all in the same room. Day in and day out, you could find her in room 8 in Berkeley Glenn Elementary School.
Hundreds of students walked through her classroom door and were immediately enveloped in a loving and caring environment. Watching Diane in the classroom is like taking a master class in teaching.
Diane officially retired in 2021. This year, when the call came that Berkeley Glenn was short a fifth-grade teacher, she agreed to job share – once again back in Room 8.
FONDA MORRIS, SCHOOL PRINCIPAL, E.G. CLYMORE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Clymore’s current theme for students, “Throw Kindness Like Confetti,” is a theme principal Fonda Morris models well. She encourages her staff to show great effort, enthusiasm and creativity, and she fosters in them a sense of pride in school and community.
Despite the long nights being a principal, she still found time to coach a Junior Olympic travel volleyball team when the team was left without a coach. After taking first place in a tournament where trophies were not distributed, she took it upon herself to create and purchase T-shirts celebrating her team’s success.
Fonda is well respected in so many communities throughout Augusta County because of her strong leadership and dedication. She is truly like no other. She gives 100 percent of herself 24/7. Even when experiencing challenging circumstances, she continues to be a champion.
BARRY NELSON, HEAD CUSTODIAN, WILSON MEMORIAL HIGH SCHOOL
Barry Nelson became the head custodian at Wilson Memorial High School in 2019.
Barry stands by the front door as many mornings as he can and greets students as they enter the building. Seeing these students take their first step in the building each morning – with a smile on their faces because of Barry’s warm greeting – is deeply heartwarming.
Barry regularly works beyond his set work hours. He also works weekends and holidays.
There is not a time during Barry’s day that he’s not thinking about others and doing everything he can to make sure everyone in the building has their needs met.
CHARLES NESMITH, BAND DIRECTOR, SHELBURNE MIDDLE SCHOOL.
Mr. Nesmith consistently goes above and beyond. He’s incapable of not investing his heart and soul into every activity that he prepares for students.
He is committed to equity in the band room – which entails making sure students without financial means are also able to participate in band events that other students enjoy.
His absolute love for music and his dedication to reaching as many students as possible is evidenced by this year’s sixth grade class having over 50 percent participation in the band program, the largest class of musicians to ever come through Shelburne.
To increase participation in district band tryouts, he volunteered to let students shave his head if 35 students auditioned for districts. As a result, over 50 students auditioned. He held true to his word.
LORI PELTONEN, MEDIA SPECIALIST, TEACHER, STAUNTON HIGH SCHOOL
Ms. Peltonen was one of eight finalists for the Mary Bicouvaris Virginia Teacher of the Year Award.
She is an experienced master educator who is essential to the success of students at Staunton High School. Her impact goes far beyond her formal responsibilities as the school’s library media specialist.
On a daily basis, Ms. Peltonen ensures students’ technology needs are met to support their learning. She’s also active in co-teaching with her colleagues and offering classroom-based learning opportunities for students.
She has an expansive, positive, school-wide impact.
DAWN PRYOR, COOK, LEADER IN THE WAYNESBORO HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETICS BOOSTER CLUB, CONCESSIONS CHAIR
Dawn is a line cook at Waynesboro High School. She is also part of the Booster Club’s Executive Committee, and she is the chairperson for concessions for all sports.
Dawn is simply a one-of-a-kind person. Everyone at Waynesboro High School and in the community knows her, and what she is all about.
She’s been doing this for 30 years. Most days, you have to force her to leave the building. She cooks. She cleans. She works the concession stands every night there is an athletic event and does it all with a huge smile on her face, which is usually accompanied with a tremendous hug.
ANGELA SMALL, VETERINARY SCIENCE INSTRUCTOR, VALLEY CAREER AND TECHNICAL CENTER
Angela is a two-time Valley Career & Technical School teacher of the year.
She has always demonstrated an understanding that out-of-school and in-school struggles can evoke emotions and behaviors in students that present a challenge to students’ education and ability to learn.
She enjoys not just being a great teacher, but a mentor that her students can look up to for guidance, and someone who will lend an ear and listen to what her students have to say.
MATTHEW SNYDER, 6TH GRADE MATH TEACHER, KATE COLLINS MIDDLE SCHOOL
Students in Mr. Snyder’s class are engaged and on task. He has high expectations for his students and establishes procedures that ensure a safe learning environment in which he can engage students in multiple learning experiences.
He also serves as the junior varsity baseball coach. Mr. Snyder has taken his baseball team to read to elementary school classes, and he works with his players to build community beyond the baseball field.
He is always attending his students’ concerts and other activities and showing his support. He will sit at the lunch table and talk with students, even when he’s not on lunch duty. He comes to hear the elective assembly about class choices, even though it’s not a requirement for him. He is simply interested in the lives and success of his students.