For good. For ever.®


Jun 16, 2021

For 27 years, the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge has chosen up to ten remarkable individuals each year from the public schools of Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County, to honor with the distinction of being named a Dawbarn Education Award winner, and what has grown over the years to become a $10,000 cash award.  The Dawbarn Education Awards Committee, comprised of local citizens, select those nominees who go above and beyond the requirements of their assignments and who inspire and encourage students to reach their full potential.

The Dawbarn Education Awards were created in 1992 when the late H. Dunlop “Buz” Dawbarn established a $100,000 fund 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.” He later added substantially to the awards program through his estate.

The Foundation presented the first awards on Monday, October 10th in 1994 with the following purpose:

The purpose of the Dawbarn Education Awards is to improve public education in the area by recognizing and rewarding individuals who have demonstrated dedication and willingness to go beyond the expected level of service to students, consistently exceeding normal standards of performance, extraordinary commitment to finding effective ways to encourage students to reach their full potential, leadership in motivating, and inspiring young people to learn, to excel, to set high personal goals, and to value education as a life-long pursuit.

Since that time, $1.9 million and 267 awards have been distributed to Dawbarn Education Award recipients. The Foundation expresses its heartfelt gratitude to all of the area educators, parents, students, staff, administrators, and community members for their incredible resiliency and determination.  At this time, a public awards ceremony for 2021 has not been scheduled. To stay informed about this event and others, follow the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

The 2021 Dawbarn Education Award Recipients:

Lisa Cooper is a first grade teacher at Bessie Weller Elementary School. In 2019-2020, she was Teacher of the Year for both Staunton City Schools and Bessie Weller Elementary School. Her nominator wrote: “…Lisa has spent 12 years as a classroom teacher, and she strives to build and maintain meaningful relationships with each child. She wants them to know that they are important. They are loved. They are cared for. This is what matters to Lisa.”

Emily Hewitt is a first grade teacher at Stuart’s Draft Elementary School. For 2019-2020, she was Augusta County Teacher of the Year, and Teacher of the Year at Stuart’s Draft Elementary School. A colleague said about Ms. Hewitt: “Her dedication to her students is evident in the long hours she puts in to plan and implement the most incredible lessons. She brings her classroom to life with stunning room transformations.” Another colleague added: “Ms. Hewitt truly brings learning to life!”

Robert Hildebrand is a School Resource Officer at Buffalo Gap High School. He has previously offered “safety and security” at many of our area schools. In addition, he is a longtime little league football coach. His nominator writes that Mr. Hildebrand: “…volunteers his time to make sure events in our community are safe – from Homecoming Dances and Prom, to FFA Banquets and Graduation. This year he covered an FFA (with COVID mitigations in place) “parking lot” banquet…he stayed the whole time just to see the kids win awards and when it ran long into the dark he used his vehicle spotlight to light the event so it could continue until finished.”

David Holsinger is the Maintenance Director at Valley Career and Technical Center. He has held this role for thirty years.  He is described as doing every task from starting the day’s first pot of coffee, to coordinating custodial staff, to maintaining the facility’s grounds. A colleague writes: “Dave Holsinger is all about service and not about self, and I would consider him a “swiss army knife” in his role at VCTC.” Regarding awards and recognition, the same colleague states Mr. Holsinger “…is deserving of any and all, but does not expect them.”

Jennifer Knoxville is a social studies teacher at Staunton High School. She has been an educator for nineteen years. Her nominator writes that Ms. Knoxville: “…is enthusiastic about what she teaches and is constantly seeking better resources to ensure that all of her students not only have access to the content, but also that they find the specific tools that will help them continue to acquire knowledge far beyond the time they spend in her classroom.”

 Alexandria Lancaster is a kindergarten teacher at William Perry Elementary School. In 2020, she was named Teacher of the Year for William Perry Elementary School, as well as Teacher of the Year for Waynesboro City Public Schools. From her nomination: “to carry out her professional responsibilities, Ms. Lancaster gives generously of her valuable time, and her work extends beyond the school day. She sets high standards for herself and her students and then works hard to see that they are met.”

Megan League is a Special Education Teacher Assistant for Waynesboro City Public Schools. Ms. League is described as a creative problem-solver, and devoted to her job. A colleague notes: “…when Megan goes into classrooms, she often will end up working with students that aren’t even on her caseload. She will notice a student that is struggling and identify a way to help him/her to be successful and she ends up taking on extra kids because she wants to see everyone succeed.”

Mary Ann Plogger is a Transition Specialist at Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center (SVJC). She has previously been named Teacher of the Year for SVJC, and Teacher of the Year for Lee High School. Her position involves teaching, but she also “…works closely with students to determine their educational goals and set a path and timeline to reach them.” She maintains a classroom hydroponic garden, cares for the center’s therapy dog, and leads an annual holiday fundraiser. One of her students wrote: “She’s the only teacher that I’ve known that’s pushed me to be the best person I could be.”

Sarah Stoll is a music teacher at Wilson Elementary School. In addition to regular classroom instruction, she serves as director of music for the school play, leads several musical groups and choirs, helps run the annual talent show, and teaches piano. A parent said the following about Ms. Stoll: “She naturally exudes warmth and acceptance of students from any background. Whatever turmoil students may experience outside of school, it is clear that they feel safe, special, and ‘noticed’ in Ms. Stoll’s classroom.”

Lee Ann Whitesell is the Program Director at Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School. She was twice named Teacher of the Year for Central Valley Regional Governor’s School, and is a former Dawbarn Education Award winner in her role as a teacher. She is described as a diligent and dedicated leader who tirelessly works to improve and upgrade her institution. From the nomination: “Since taking the helm of SVGS in 2011, Lee Ann has reshaped the program to serve a broader and more diverse student body. Drawing on the input and expertise of professionals, educators, and community members, she designed and led a complex process to redefine the school’s mission and student goals.”


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