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Community Foundation Celebrates Dawbarn Education Award Winners
Nov 9, 2017

At a ceremony on November 8th, the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge presented awards of $10,000 to each of ten individuals during the 24th Annual Dawbarn Education Awards Ceremony.  With nearly 200 guests in attendance, the Community Foundation celebrated the inspiring contributions to local education offered by each of the recipients.

H. Dunlop “Buz” Dawbarn established a permanent fund at the Community Foundation in 1992 to support the Dawbarn Education Awards.  Since that time, the Foundation has distributed over $1.6 million, through 237 Dawbarn Education Awards, to recognize extraordinary commitment to the education of youth in the public schools of Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County.

“It was Mr. Dawbarn’s wish to reward individuals for their efforts to inspire youth in our public schools,” noted Dan Layman, the Foundation’s CEO.  “In doing so, he also hoped that others would follow in their footsteps for the good of our community.”

The Foundation’s Dawbarn Education Awards Committee selects ten recipients from dozens of nominations submitted each year.  Specifically, the committee endeavors to identify those nominees who have gone above and beyond the requirements of their assignment to encourage students to reach their full potential, inspire young people to set educational goals, and foster a lifelong appreciation of learning in our youth.

Mr. Dawbarn was born June 14, 1915 in New York City. After earning a degree in political science from Princeton and studying engineering at Johns Hopkins, he founded Dawbarn Brothers in Waynesboro, later known as Wayn-Tex. While Mr. Dawbarn experienced much professional success, it was his philanthropic and community contributions for which he is best known, including his determination that led to the establishment of the Community Foundation in 1992, since which time the Foundation distributed $10 million over its 25-year history serving the independent cities of Staunton and Waynesboro, and the counties of Augusta, Nelson, and Highland.

2017 Dawbarn Education Award Recipients:

Vincent E. Banks – Technology & Engineering Education Teacher, Stuarts Draft Middle School

Mr. Vincent E. Banks is the Technology & Engineering Education Teacher and serves as Advisor to the Technology Student Association (TSA) at Stuarts Draft Middle School.  Throughout the years, he has been a recipient of many awards such as Teacher of the Year, the Virginia Technology & Engineering Education Association Middle School Technology & Engineering Education Program of the Year, and the Augusta County Education Association’s Whole Village Award among others.

In class, and through his work with the TSA, Mr. Banks regularly provides students with instruction, encouragement, and a learning environment to tap into their potential in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and also business. He cultivates creativity and fosters thinking and problem solving.

Outside the classroom, Mr. Banks is a “difference-maker” to the community through his involvement with various committees and ministries that promote the advancement of education and families.  With his wife, he co-founded and directs ACTSports, a community sports program in the area that had 400+ participants last year. Advancing Christ Through Sports provides sports activities, free homework assistance, and free leadership and nutrition workshops to its participants.

The greatest value a teacher can share among students is to model moral character.  Mr. Banks’ contribution to the character of our students has a distinct impact not only on each individual life, but on the families of his students and the community as a whole, as these students invest their lives in the world around them.

Carol Bright – Director, Pygmalion School

For the past 22 years, Ms. Carol Bright has created a trusting and safe environment that allows children to rebuild their confidence at the Pygmalion School.  As their current Director, she strives every day to educate and works to understand how ‘success’ may be defined for each individual student.  As her nominator said in her application, “She teaches [that] we are here for you and if you fall, and you will, we will be right there to pick you up.”

The Pygmalion School works with children identified as having an emotional disability, a specific learning disability, an intellectual disability, or other health impairments.  Ms. Bright has been the recipient of the J. Lewis Gibbs Award—the local mental health community’s most prestigious award for those who work with mental illnesses.  Her work at Pygmalion School allows youth to return to a traditional classroom setting with the skills and self-confidence to succeed.

In addition to being a special educator, Ms. Bright has taken her mission to a higher level with families, the local school systems, universities, and the greater community. She has left no stone unturned in creating an atmosphere that encourages learning in and outside the classroom. She has conducted countless parenting courses, social skills classes, and after-school educational courses. She goes above and beyond in dedicating her time to youth in the community, whether directly or through the education of others.

Debbie Conner – Office Manager, Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School

As stated by one of her recommenders, Ms. Debbie Conner “is truly the life force behind Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School (SVGS).” She has been the Office Manager for the past 10 years.  Not only does she support the daily administration of the school, but she serves as a liaison for seven high schools, six middle schools, and twenty-one elementary schools in three school divisions. With 28 years in the education field, Ms. Conner distinguishes herself through an incredible ability to make personal connections with staff, students, families, and alumni as a means of transforming SVGS from simply a school to a well-rounded community of learners.

Just this past year, Ms. Conner was the inaugural winner for the Support Staff of the Year Award, a new program offered by the Augusta County School Division.  Mrs. Conner takes the time to have a personal relationship with every student.  She is intrinsically aware of others’ needs and how to meet those needs, doing so with professionalism and humility. By making students feel valued and validated, they in turn see the value in their education.  Another recommender stated that Ms. Conner “has never lost sight of why we’re all here: to prepare our youth for success as college students, professionals, and productive citizens.”

Jo Fields – Psychology, Current Events, and Advanced Placement Government Teacher, Buffalo Gap High School

Ms. Jo Fields has been a member of the Buffalo Gap High School community for 31 years. She has also taught at Shelburne Middle School and Robert E. Lee High School. With 48 years of experience, Ms. Fields’ commitment to her profession and genuine concern for her students is exemplary.

Ms. Fields has been recognized as Buffalo Gap’s Teacher of the Year and has been inducted into the Buffalo Gap Hall of Fame for her support of and dedication to the school.  She has been awarded a lifetime community service award for her dedication to community service through her church as well as her deep involvement in the school.

Creating a community feeling in her classroom is something she does best. One student commented that Ms. Fields “fosters a sense of community within each class by having desks in circles some days and having us switch seats all the time so we can talk to different people.” Her ability to connect with her students through extracurricular events and her school spirit makes her ability to educate so much easier because everybody already knows her, loves her, and respects her.  She is a teacher that students never forget.

As the founder of the New Teacher Program, she once stated that, “There is a uniqueness and goodness in each of our students, and it is our job to bring that out in them.”  Ms. Fields provides an atmosphere in her class that inspires reflective and creative thought.  She reaches and touches the most unreachable students and is sought after for guidance and support.  Education is much more than the simple sharing of content, it is about creating independent learners who have the critical thinking skills and the confidence to grow into productive citizens.

Matthew Grandpre – Special Education Teacher, Waynesboro High School

Mr. Matthew Grandpre has served the Waynesboro community as a Special Education Teacher for the past four years.  Earlier this year, he was recognized as Waynesboro High School’s Teacher of the Year and subsequently as Teacher of the Year for Waynesboro Public Schools.

There is no greater gift than someone who cares for others, especially our youth.  Mr. Grandpre has tremendous influence over his students because he has a deep understanding of how young people are motivated. Besides working in the Special Education Department, Mr. Grandpre contributes to the Waynesboro community in many other ways.  He helps coach the cross country team, teaches music lessons, and works with youth at Blue Ridge Community College teaching drama, choir, and writing. He guides students in finding strategies they can use to help themselves in their everyday learning and enables them to reach their full potential.  He gives them the confidence to stretch and reach for their personal goals.

When Matthew Grandpre was nominated for the Waynesboro Public Schools Teacher of the Year he was asked: “What makes an outstanding teacher?” to which he replied, “A teacher that establishes structure and routine, who conferences with and listens to their students… Students want to listen to a teacher who listens to them. In essence, the teacher becomes instructor, mentor, and role model. An outstanding teacher listens to, empathizes with, and helps mend the pain of broken students and aims to be focused on finding ways to help his/her students become successful citizens.”

Angela Humphrey – Kindergarten Teacher, McSwain Elementary School

Ms. Humphrey is one of the first people with whom young children establish a relationship as they begin their formal educational journey. As a Kindergarten Teacher at T.C. McSwain Elementary School, the year she spends with them sets the stage for a life-long love of learning. This year, Ms. Humphrey was initially recognized as McSwain’s Teacher of the Year and later honored as Staunton City Schools Teacher of the Year.

As stated by her nominator, “Mr. Dawbarn had the wisdom to recognize that educators have an opportunity to touch young people’s lives way beyond textbooks, instruction, learning, and grades. It is the caring and encouraging relationships that foster a child’s willingness to take learning risks, accept challenges, develop a caring attitude toward others, all the while coming to believe in themselves.”  Ms. Humphrey exemplifies these core values.

Ms. Humphrey’s enthusiasm toward her work, during such a pivotal point in a child’s life, creates a curiosity of the world and promotes a love for learning that encourages students to set high goals and work hard to achieve them.  She is insightful, goal-oriented, driven, and compassionate. She is a strong team leader and valuable team player. She is always willing to share ideas; to accept others’ ideas; to make changes; to listen to colleagues, students, and parents; to stay after hours; and to make sure each student is receiving what he/she needs to reach their educational goals.  The delight she finds in her profession and students is clearly witnessed in her smile and her eyes when she talks to them or shares about them with others.

Larry Landes – Principal, Fort Defiance High School

Mr. Landes has saved many starfish!  With 40 years of experience in the field of education, Mr. Landes has served students from their initial footsteps into their first elementary school classroom to their final steps across the graduation stage.  Mr. Landes is currently the Principal at Fort Defiance High School.  However, many students have also had the privilege of knowing him as their Principal at Wilson Memorial High School and at Hugh K. Cassell Elementary School.

Mr. Landes is a three-time recipient of the JMU College of Education’s Partnership Award for Teacher Preparation, two-time recipient of the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America Administrator Award, and recipient of the Woodmen of World Youth Award, and the Virginia Honorary State FFA Degree.  As such, his colleagues seek his advice and counsel regularly. In his role as Principal, he has fostered a strong relationship with the local colleges and universities; and with business and civic leaders in the community to give students a glimpse into the possibilities that exist in their own futures.

Mr. Landes has spearheaded the development of “The Indian Way”, a mantra that challenges students to become contributing members of the community by making a positive difference every day through honoring traditions, being respectful, and taking responsibility for themselves and the world around them. He sees his students not just as a student in his school, but as young people full of potential.  He spends each school day strengthening his relationship with students and intentionally seeking out the responsibility to support each and every one of them and making a difference in their lives.

Amber Loyacano – English Teacher, Waynesboro High School

Ms. Amber Loyacano has worked at Waynesboro High School for 12 years and has been the Head of the English Department for half that time.  She was nominated for a Dawbarn Education Award by a former student who remembers how Ms. Loyacano worked tirelessly to go the extra mile to remind her students that they are important, loved, and capable of the highest success.  “She is an advocate for every person whose voice is not always heard.”

Ms. Loyacano was instrumental in creating a diversity coalition at the school, the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), in order to give students affected by stereotypes and discrimination a welcoming community to come together in support of each other.  It allows students of all identities to come together in a safe place free from judgement.  Her nominator remembers walking into her class one day and reading what was on the board: “Students! I am participating in the National Day of Silence. Bullying is a real problem and deserves to be recognized. I will answer questions if you need me—there is always someone available to talk if you need help—always”.

One of her recommendations stated: “A great teacher is often made, not through strategies in delivering content, but in efforts developing and maintaining meaningful relationships with students. A great teacher identifies the needs of her students and finds ways to best address those needs in order to create an environment for them to grow. A great teacher learns as much from her students as they learn from her. And a great teacher works for the benefit of the entire student body, not just those in her classroom.  Amber Loyacano is a great teacher.”

Wendi Shorkey – Physical Education Teacher, Hugh K. Cassell Elementary School

Ms. Wendi Shorkey has been a keystone member of the Hugh K. Cassell Elementary School for the past ten years where she teaches Physical Education and provides instruction to 550 children every week. With 27 years of experience she is also the Founder and Director of the Musical Theatre Program and the Caballero Club, an after-school fitness group.  This year, she was recognized as Hugh K. Cassell’s Teacher of the Year and later named Augusta County Public Schools Teacher of the Year.  In the past, she has been honored with the Whole Village Award for being an outstanding community member.

Her influence extends far beyond the classroom.  Besides being a remarkable physical education teacher, she is a reading instructor and provides extensive in-service training to the faculty in research-based reading instruction, and has tutored many students struggling in reading over the years.  She has also been instrumental in the highly successful Musical Theater Program for her school.  Through this program, students gain confidence, become aware of self-presentation, learn how to collaborate and work together as a team, understand the importance of time management and organizational skills, become self-aware and have self-discipline.  All attributes that contribute to being a well-rounded student.

For many students, theater is a foreign concept. They have not had the exposure nor the opportunity to see, much less participate in, such a production. She understands how theater can have positive and lasting impacts on all who are interested in having an opportunity to participate. Ms. Shorkey says that, “Every year as the show opens and I watch them perform, I am amazed. It is like magic. All the volunteer hours just wash away and I am speechless. For that moment, they are bigger than something other than themselves. And I think to myself, this is what life is about! How lucky am I to be a teacher!”

Julie Stevens – Physical Education Teacher and Cross Country Coach, Waynesboro Public Schools

With 15 years’ experience, Ms. Julie Stevens is currently the Physical Education and Adaptive Physical Education Teacher, Head Cross Country Coach, and Athletic Director for Kate Collins Middle School in Waynesboro, a position she has held for the past five years. She leads, educates, coaches, and mentors the youth of our community and considers her students and athletes as part of her family.

Ms. Stevens goes the extra mile with building her Cross Country Program as well as building community at her school.  Several of her athletes have competed at the state level. Lifelong health is very important to Ms. Stevens. As a physical educator, she sensitively loves and encourages overweight students to be active and think about how to manage their food and exercise.  She has helped write the middle school Physical Education/Health Curriculum for Waynesboro Public Schools and has co-written a grant with the school nurse to promote an after-school exercise program for 20 teenagers.

In her classes and her practices, she gives children the strategies they need for lifelong fitness. She also stresses nutrition as she organizes healthy snacks and team dinners to ensure that her athletes are ready to run and addresses other ways to take care of the body. She utilizes the Virginia Health Curriculum and teaches her students and her athlete’s healthy practices.  When a student was asked what separates Coach Stevens from other teachers and coaches, she stated, “She cares more than anyone, she is the one adult I can always turn to for support.”


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