Four veteran teachers who have consistently demonstrated creativity, rapport with students and colleagues and extraordinary community service have been named as the W-JCC School Division’s Teachers of the Year for 2008 at a ceremony and reception hosted at TowneBank in New Town by the Williamsburg-James City County Education Foundation.
The Teachers of the Year for Elementary Schools are D.J. Montague Elementary School first grade teacher Kelly Ann Kelly and Stonehouse Elementary School third grade teacher Sarah Lichtel.
The Teacher of the Year for Middle Schools is Berkeley Middle School drama instructor Marcia DiMattia.
The Teacher of the Year for High Schools is Lafayette High School learning disabilities/special education instructor Debra Todd.
W-JCC Superintendent Gary Mathews said two elementary school teachers were receiving the honor this year because the team of judges found both women to possess similar backgrounds, along with outstanding recommendations and achievements.
Kelly Ann Kelly, a native of Milwaukee, Wis., is an institution in the first grade wing of D.J. Montague Elementary School, having served there since 1991. Kelly has been the school’s science curriculum leader for the past 12 years, served on its Leadership Committee since 2000 and has worked with D.J.’s gifted and talented students since 1996. She holds masters degrees from George Washington University in Education and Human Development and in Early Childhood Special Education. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Boston College.
In her community, Kelly has been involved in fundraising for Relay for Life with the Williamsburg Legacy Soccer Club Youth 13 Auction and served as an elected member of the St. Bede Catholic Church Parish Council from 1995 to 1998.
Her nominators especially lauded Kelly for her partnership with Master Gardeners, with whom she worked to create a year-long science curriculum about trees that is now firmly established in the first grade at D.J. Montague. The curriculum includes field trips to tree farms, where children learn how tree farming is tied to local economic , material and natural resources.
Sarah Lichtel has been a third grade teacher with W-JCC since 1998. Just a few weeks ago, Lichtel was awarded the Eleanor M. Johnson Excellence in Reading Education Award, given by the International Reading Association, in recognition for her outstanding work in reading in the third grade classroom. She graduated summa cum laude from Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y., in 1997 with a degree in elementary education, with double minor in women’s studies and natural science.
Lichtel is a National Board Certified Teacher who is dedicated to research-based instructional strategies, enthusiastic and dynamic teaching as a means of creating and nurturing a lifelong love of knowledge in children. Her community work has included serving as a judge for the Odyssey of the Mind competition in 1998-99, serving with the United Way of Williamsburg since 2001 and working with DreamCatchers in Toano, which serves special needs children.
A charter member of the Stonehouse Elementary School team since the school’s opening in 2000, she has also been the third grade team leader.
Marcia DiMattia “is an instructor who knows that educating the whole child is our goal,” her nominator observed. “Connecting her curriculum to core areas, bringing in background knowledge and connections to strengthen student learning, and helping [Berkeley Middle School] students to understand that there is a unique gift within each of them that can be opened every day are the hallmarks of her success.”
DiMattia came to W-JCC in 2004 after having served with the York County School Division since 1991. Her teaching experience spans 26 years, including stints in Spokane, Wash., and Milford, Conn. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary/middle school education and special education from Boston College, graduating summa cum laude in 1982. In addition to directing dozens of school drama productions over the years, DiMattia has directed summer children’s theater workshops in the Williamsburg area.
The last two spring productions at Berkeley Middle School drew high praise from her nominator and others in the community. “Ms. DiMattia has had an amazing string of successful productions at Berkeley that have rivaled even the most superb of our high school performances,” her nominator stated. “[Administrators] knew the production [of "Godspell Jr."] would be a herculean task — not a choice for the faint of heart. She was able to take a cast and crew of roughly 50 students from the start to command three performances in March that were nothing short of amazing.”
Debra Todd has worked with special education students for her 25-year career. She earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from East Carolina University, and is nearing completion of a master’s degree from Old Dominion University.
Two years ago Todd changed her professional focus from teaching students with learning disabilities to the mentally retarded. Her main goal is to prepare them to live on their own when possible, teaching them life skills by taking them into the community on field trips. She develops their skills by having them work in their own café preparing food and providing customer service.
“Throughout her teaching experiences, Ms. Todd has demonstrated that she is a problem solver as well as a visionary,” her nominators note. “Her patience and ability to work with a variety of people and tasks demonstrate her clear understanding of individual learning styles and working with a diverse population. Her positive attitude, work ethic, leadership abilities and dedication speak volumes towards her deserving of this recognition.”
A parent of one of Ms. Todd’s students who joined in the nomination process added, “Debbie models what all parents want and respect in a teacher: professionalism, straightforwardness, concern for the child and the passion to find the best way they can learn.”