Lynchburg Living Top Teacher Award Winners 2014-2015

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More than ever before today’s teachers are tasked with ever-lengthening “To Do” lists. They face pressure from myriad directions and in the midst of busy schedules they seek to establish challenging, productive learning environments for their students every day.

Though they are entrusted with our most valuable resource—our children—teachers often go unrecognized outside the walls of their own classrooms. The work of a teacher may seem never-ending but so is their influence; the right teacher can be remembered decades later for a gesture of kindness, an uplifting word or an encouragement in a better direction. In this, our first ever Top Teacher Awards issue, we hope to bring some well-deserved attention to this community’s own quality teachers.

We found inspiration in reading the words and stories of the teachers nominated and selected by our community. May they be a reminder of the truly great work our educators do and a motivation to thank the teachers past and present who have influenced each of our lives.


top-teacher-Harry-Farmer-jrName: Harry Farmer, Jr.
School: Forest Middle School, Lynchburg College and Randolph College
Years as an educator: 19 Years—All at Forest Middle School

Grades / Subjects / Courses taught:
I teach 6-8 Instrumental Music…I am the Jazz Band Director at Jefferson Forest HS and have been the Assistant Director for the Marching Cavaliers. I’ve also taught K-4 General Music at Forest Elementary and 5th grade General Music at FMS (when it housed grades 5-7). Also, I currently teach private saxophone lessons at LC and private saxophone and clarinet lessons at Randolph.

Special Recognitions/awards:
I was a Young Artist Award winner at West Virginia University for music performance in 1995. I’m in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers…Recognized by Virginia Music Educators Association for Outstanding Musical Performance…Recognized by the Virginia Band and Orchestra Association for outstanding Contributions to the Forest Middle Band Program. Citation of Excellence from the National Band Association for outstanding contributions to Bands and Band Music.

Do you have a doctorate?
I completed my Bachelor of Music (with Cum Laude honors) from West Virginia University in 1996 and my Master of Music with an emphasis in Music Education from George Mason University in 2009. I’ve done additional course work at James Madison University and Illinois State University. I have not started on a doctorate.

Why did you choose teaching as a career?
I choose to become a teacher because of the impact my high school band and choir teachers had on my life. Their influence gave me the confidence to pursue my degree in music. While at West Virginia University, I decided that I wanted to give others the same experiences that I had and I would do that best by teaching beginning band at the elementary or middle school level.

What do you appreciate the most about being a teacher?
I have the ability to watch students move from little or no musical experience to an accomplished player with a great understanding of reading music and being able to communicate composer’s intent to a listener.

What’s the most important thing you have learned during your teaching career?
Patience.

What do you most want your students to learn?
I want my students to learn that through practice and hard work their personal goals, in music and in life, can be achieved.

What is one accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I am most proud of the FMS 8th Grade Symphonic Band being selected to perform at the Virginia Music Educator’s Conference at The Homestead in November 2013. This is the highest honor that the FMS Band Program can receive at the state level. The students worked very hard in preparing for the performance by starting the rehearsals three weeks before school started, rehearsing for three hours on teacher work day (which are days off for the students) and coming before school one day a week for 12 weeks. Their willingness to do this made that performance a great success and also made it something that they, their parents and the school division can remember and be proud of.

What is one thing you would like others to know about teachers / teaching in general?
Teachers are driven, well-educated professionals who care deeply about their students’ education and deserve everyone’s respect for the challenging job that they do.

From His Students: “[I appreciated] going out in town with him and being stopped repeatedly by former students and/or parents of students who wanted to say ‘hi’ and wish him well or thank him for his help.”

“He teaches middle school, works tirelessly with concert and marching bands, teaches college level performance at L.C., plays in stage bands and at local churches.”


top-teacher-Krista-Rawls-FanningName: Krista Rawls-Fanning
School: E.C. Glass High School
Years as an educator: 7 Years

Grades / Subjects /Courses taught:
8th grade Civics, 9th grade Ancient World History, 12th grade US Government, Cheerleading Coach

Why did you choose teaching as a career?
I wanted to be a teacher from the time I was in middle school. I was hooked after I had Mr. Wray in seventh grade at Linkhorne: I scored the highest on my SOL and felt very confident. I solidified I was going to do this for a career in my sophomore year at Glass when I had Dr. Richardson as my World History II teacher. I never saw myself being anything else. I wanted so badly to emulate these teachers who had made an impact on me.

What do you appreciate the most about being a teacher?
I love seeing my students express themselves and going on the journey with them over the course of the school year. I love learning their stories and building relationships with them, laughing with them—they teach me so many things.

What’s the most important thing you have learned during your teaching career?
To have a sense of humor, and be able to go with the flow, since nothing goes as you originally planned, and that is okay. You need to always be willing to adapt, adjust & overcome.

What do you most want your students to learn?
I want them to know they are valuable and that they have a voice, and how to use that voice in a way that makes people want to listen. I want them to know they are capable no matter their circumstances. Never put the lid on the jar, they should always continue to fill it and be willing to grow.

What is one accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I am a board member of the Central Virginia Holocaust Awareness Foundation. We have brought many survivors to Lynchburg (Gerda Weissman-Klein, John Dau) , and educated countless young students about their stories and how they persevered when the conditions seemed impossible. I also was fortunate enough to take a group of young men in a group called Boys to Men to hear Maya Angela Lou speak; they were so excited they got to experience that. Those were very proud moments for me as an educator.

What is one thing you would like others to know about teachers / teaching in general?
It is genuinely a work of heart. It is some of the hardest work you will ever do emotionally and mentally, but the end result is so worth it. To know you have improved a child’s outlook on school, or at least provided them a safe place to speak their mind, and be heard. If you do not make students feel that they are valued you will never get them to respect you nor learn from you.

From Her Students: “I love seeing how happy she is at all the sporting events. She just brings wonderful energy into the school. She’s bright and always ready to teach.”


top-teacher-Dr-Randall-HubbardName: Dr. Randall Hubbard
School: Liberty University
Years as an educator: 10 Years

Courses taught:
College undergraduate Microbiology & Immunology, Graduate level Immunology

Do you have a doctorate?
Ph.D. in Immunobiology, from Iowa State University

Why did you choose teaching as a career?
I never thought about being a teacher, but after 15 years doing pharmaceutical research I had the opportunity to teach microbiology at community colleges, a private Christian college and a state university. I found that I loved teaching and interacting with the students.

What do you appreciate the most about being a teacher?
I appreciate the opportunity to get to know and to have some influence on the futures of my students. I hope that I can help them to learn to love their science subjects, and that they will also learn to love Jesus more.

What’s the most important thing you have learned during your teaching career?
When I was an undergrad I remember having the thought that if I was ever a teacher I wouldn’t treat my students like I was treated. When I became a teacher I remembered my vow and I have tried to teach and treat my students with love and respect, and to test them only over what I have covered in class.

What do you most want your students to learn?
My greatest goal is to help students learn information that will help them in their lives and that they can use to help others.

What is one accomplishment that you are most proud of?
When I came to Liberty I was allowed to develop both the microbiology lecture and laboratory exercises to include what I thought were the most important things to learn, which I hope have been a blessing to the students. I was also allowed to do the same thing for the immunology lecture and laboratory course.

What is one thing you would like others to know about teachers / teaching in general?
The best thing about teaching is having the opportunity to get to know the students and to help them prepare for life, not just academically but spiritually as well. Liberty students are phenomenal people. They are interested, honest and sincere and they have dreams for their future that you have a chance to influence, and to move them along the path to fulfill their dreams.

From His Students: “He always seeks to build [his students]up and make us learn from our mistakes rather than tearing us down. He cared so much for each student and made everyone in the class feel important.”

“He is compassionate about overseas disease prevention and medical care. He has a tender heart not only to those overseas but also to anyone around him.”


top-teacher-Richard-S-Brown-JrName: Richard S. Brown, Jr.
School: Liberty University
Years as an educator: 12 years (in addition, 20 years in professional youth ministries)

Courses taught:
Survey of Youth Ministry; Foundations of Youth Ministry; Campus Ministries; Youth Ministry Communications; Programming in Youth Ministry

Books include:
Student Ministries Essentials (Moody Press); Survey of Youth Ministry (Academx Publishing); Youth Ministries Communications (Academx Publishing); Programming in Youth Ministry (Academx Publishing)

Special Recognitions/awards:
2002 Center for Youth Ministries
Alumnus of the Year (Liberty University)

Do you have a doctorate?
Yes, Doctorate of Ministries.

Why did you choose teaching as a career?
I majored in Youth Ministries (Liberty University) in the early 1980’s. Upon graduation, I served as a youth pastor for almost twenty years. Throughout this time, I had a desire to pursue higher education in an adjunct role of teaching university students about ministry while continuing to stay in the professional field of being a youth pastor. I never dreamed I would be asked to return to my alma mater to teach some of the same courses I took many years earlier. Currently, my students know my love for adolescents has never waned; hence, as my role has transitioned from being a pastor of middle and high school students to being a professor of university students, my passion for adolescent ministry remains. This pathos of ministry is what not only led me into higher education but also causes me to say, “I have the best job in the world!”

What do you appreciate the most about being a teacher?
That is a simple answer—students. To do anything in academia apart from my connection with students would be devastating. My desire is not to be behind a desk but to be engaging with students.

What’s the most important thing you have learned during your teaching career?
To live in the balanced world of: instructing yet relating; being a professional while being engaging; giving necessary feedback while giving encouragement; seeing the realistic potential of each student and learning to push them without breaking them.

What do you most want your students to learn?
As one who has given his life to youth work, I want my students to love God, love adolescents, and to see the intersection of both.

What is one accomplishment that you are most proud of?
While I have been blessed to write a number of work texts, develop courses, and be involved in a number of public speaking opportunities, seeing my students graduate and go into their own youth ministries as competent professionals is my accomplishment I treasure most. It is such an overwhelming experience when I visit them “on site”, i.e. as I speak at their camps or churches and see them in their own ministry context. Additionally, I now have many current university students who were the teenagers of my former students as they are pursuing careers in student ministry. People, not a program, are my greatest accomplishment.

What is one thing you would like others to know about teachers / teaching in general?
Teachers go beyond the value of dispensing knowledge; teachers value their students. We do not want students to fail; rather, we want them to succeed.

From His Students: “I loved his honesty that he just wants to glorify God, and I loved his consistency to point back to God at all times.”


top-teachers-Doug-BrownName: Doug Brown
School: Linkhorne Middle School
Years as an educator: 8 Years

Grades / Subjects / Courses taught:
6-12 Concert Band, Jazz Band

Special Recognitions / awards:
Winner of the 2010 Ultimate Music Room Makeover Essay Contest presented by In Tune Magazine. I was awarded over $40,000 worth of new equipment for my classroom.

Why did you choose teaching as a career?
The most influential people growing up were my music teachers. Music Education instills valuable life lessons and I wanted to be able to help today’s youth become better people through music.

What do you appreciate the most about being a teacher?
I am grateful for the support from my co-workers and peers, but most appreciative of the passion that my students show everyday.

What’s the most important thing you have learned during your teaching career?
No matter how much you think you know, there is still much more to learn from both your colleagues and your students alike.

What do you most want your students to learn?
I want my students to use the skills learned in my classrooms to shape their lives into becoming the best versions of themselves.

What is one accomplishment that you are most proud of?
To me, there is no one grandiose accomplishment because the true reward comes when a student
has the “Light Bulb” moment and everything just clicks. Being able to witness that—[the process of an]individual learning—that personally is the greatest feeling one can get from teaching

What is one thing you would like others to know about teachers / teaching in general?
The greatest tool that a teacher can have for effective instruction is the support of the community and families of the students.

From His Students: “Doug Brown taught me what it meant to play music. As I was preparing for college auditions he stayed after school and gave me free private lessons. He was always quick with a joke and ready to make someone laugh even on his bad days. Mr. Brown’s classes were always my favorite time of day. After I had a family crisis, he was there as a supporter and knew that music classes would help me. Mr. Brown has been my biggest inspiration in pursuing music education. He was willing to help me prepare for college and has acted as a role model in the way I want to teach. The man believed that what he taught was a necessity for the student’s day and would always pepper in his “cross-curricular learning” moments. He was always supportive and still continues to be even in my junior year of college.”


top-teachers-Kelsey-MabesName: Kelsey Mabes
School: Bedford Hills Elementary
Years as an educator: 3 Years

Grades taught:
4th grade

Why did you choose teaching as a career?
When I was in early elementary school I struggled significantly with learning how to read. I failed many classes through third grade. In fourth grade I had a fantastic teacher, Mrs. Scott, who worked with me and taught me how to love learning. I went from failing to straight A’s. It was in that moment that I realized that I wanted to become a teacher.

What do you appreciate the most about being a teacher?
I love the moment when a student truly understands a concept they have been struggling with. Watching them become confident in themselves and their ability to learn is the most incredible experience.

What’s the most important thing you have learned during your teaching career?
That teaching is not simply about academics. If you don’t build a relationship with the students learning is lost. They need to know that their teacher trust, respects, and cares about them, before they can invest in learning.

What do you most want your students to learn?
I want them to learn that anything is possible, as long as they are willing to work hard and never give up. I want them to understand that life is not easy, however they have the ability to change the world.

What is one accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I am most proud of my participation in an amazing local organization, Urban Mountain Adventures. Many of the children that we serve go to Bedford Hills. Being able to connect with these students both in and out of school has created some remarkable opportunities. It has been amazing playing a part in their personal, spiritual, and academic lives.

What is one thing you would like others to know about teachers / teaching in general?
I would like people to know that we cannot be successful without the support of families and communities. Teachers work extremely hard in the classroom, however it is all lost if a student’s learning is not continued by the community. Take some time to invest in a student and their learning. Little things like reading, studying multiplication facts, or reviewing study skills with a student can change their entire academic career.

From Her Nomination: “Kelsey has a gift that is evident from the moment you meet her—she cares. I hear it in her when she is talking about her school, and I hear it when her students are telling me about her. She is so appreciated and loved, and I hope this nomination lets her know that!”


top-teachers-Jenny-Biondi-AndersonName: Jenny Biondi Anderson
School: Virginia Episcopal School
Years as an educator: 17 Years

Grades / Subjects / Courses taught:
Spanish I-AP, ESL I-III (Boarding School Grades 9-12)

Special Recognitions/awards:
Paul Fulton Master Teacher Award, Fulton Grant, Strom Grant, Smith Family Award “recognizing a member of the faculty for achieving excellence in teaching, either in the classroom or beyond, and for making connections with young men and women.”

What is your education background?
M.Ed. – University of Virginia (Curriculum & Instruction)
B.A. – James Madison University (International Affairs and Political Science)

Why did you choose teaching as a career?
I began working for the Department of Defense as an analyst and attaché. [However] I longed to pursue a career that could provide more tangible results of my day’s work. Therefore, I desired to inspire young people to become citizens of the world.

What do you appreciate the most about being a teacher?
Although I always hope that my students become passionate about world language and cultures, I realize that I am an educator of more than the subject I teach. Spanish is merely a platform to contribute to the holistic growth of a student, giving them competencies that will enable them to thrive in a complex world.

What’s the most important thing you have learned during your teaching career?
We are more than educators. Teaching is … a lifestyle, and in boarding school it is 24 hours, seven days a week. I’ve learned how important it is to model life-long learning, passion, curiosity, and a willingness to take risks.

What do you most want your students to learn?
I most want my students to learn how to be empathic citizens of the world that think on their own. … I want them to learn how to embrace challenges and serve in some capacity because knowledge is power, but not employing it is a disservice.

What is one accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I am proud of my 2011 run across Spain for a World Record (508 miles in 9 days) because I was able to marry the things that I love to do (Spanish, traveling, running, being outdoors) with an important cause as I raised money for the International Rescue Committee. In addition, it was an opportunity for my students and my children to see me in a different dimension. I have also learned to inspire perseverance …[and]that nothing is achievable without the help and support of others.

What is one thing you would like others to know about teachers/teaching in general?
Working to inspire real world problem solving is an enormous responsibility. To a student, a teacher is not only an educator but also a mediator, coach, role model, organizer, cheerleader, and tear wiper.
But, with all of its challenges come the most unimaginable rewards.

From Her Students: “I believe teaching Spanish is one of her many passions and it shows. You could tell she really wanted me to succeed. By her wanting me to succeed, I wanted to succeed for myself.”

“Being in Mrs. Anderson’s class was fun; she really tried to make everyone feel at ease. She expected a lot out of her students, but she knew how to balance it with lightening the mood every now and then.”


top-teachers-Westray-NowlinName: Westray Nowlin
School: Recently, I left teaching to raise my baby daughter. I worked at Rustburg High School from 2006-2014.
Years as an educator: 8 Years

Grades / Subjects / Courses taught:
9th grade English, honors and Pre-AP

Why did you choose teaching as a career?
I have always loved kids and my high school experience was so positive. During my 11th grade year at E. C. Glass, I had Dr. Locke for AP English; he ignited a love for literature and learning that I did not have before. Teaching English was a natural career choice.

What do you appreciate the most about being a teacher?
When I see “the lightbulb” go on for a child that has previously struggled, I really appreciate the opportunity teaching affords me to witness that.

What’s the most important thing you have learned during your teaching career?
Often lessons do not go as planned. I learned to go with the flow and improvise pretty quickly.

What do you most want your students to learn?
If my students learn how to treat one another, I feel like I have done my job. If they learn something about English, that is a bonus.

What is one accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Every year my students groan when we start the Shakespeare unit. The boys think Romeo and Juliet is all about love. The girls think Romeo and Juliet is all about love. They all think it is an inaccessible work of literature. Once we have completed our study of the play, all of my students understand the play and know it is so much more than a love story. At the end of the school year, most of my kids say Shakespeare’s work was their favorite, but even the ones that do not love it, admit they have developed an appreciation for the masterpiece.

What is one thing you would like others to know about teachers / teaching in general?
My colleagues are the most compassionate and passionate people I know. Teaching is probably one of the most difficult professions, but it is definitely the most rewarding.

From Her Nomination: “Mrs. Nowlin mentored a particular student throughout four years of high school (the young man lost his mother in middle school) and then helped him through the college search and admission process; he became the first person in his family to have the opportunity to attend a 4-year college. This student would have never been able to have this opportunity had it not been for Mrs. Nowlin’s care and commitment.”


top-teachers-Sundi-Donovan-M.AName: Mrs. Sundi Donovan, M.A.
School: Liberty University
Years as an educator: 17 Years

Courses taught:
Undergraduate College-level/Psychology/General Psychology; Developmental Psychology

Special Recognitions/awards:
Who’s Who Among College Teachers 2008-2011
Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers 2004- 2007

Do you have a doctorate?
No—currently working on Ph.D. in Counseling

Why did you choose teaching as a career?
God called me to teach full-time when I was in 11th grade. I had no idea He would lead me to teach on a University level to almost 1,000 students from all over the world each semester.

What do you appreciate the most about being a teacher?
Seeing students get that “aha” look and seeing them apply what they are learning in their own lives.

What’s the most important thing you have learned during your teaching career?
To ask for God’s wisdom every day—every class.
To be genuine with students.

What do you most want your students to learn?
How to understand and apply God’s love to their own lives, and then minister that love back to others through the tool of Psychology.

What is one accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I love mentoring students. This goes on outside of the classroom time, and is really a time for me to help students apply what they have been learning to their own lives in very practical ways. I mentor at least 4 girls each semester.
What is one thing you would like others to know about teachers / teaching in general?
It is a calling; it is a ministry; it is more than a lesson plan; it is more than an 8 hour day during the school year; summers off are earned and needed.

From Her Students: “She always makes the notes interesting and interactive by encouraging discussion from all students. Since she is so honest and open with her students, they are very open and honest, which makes for good discussions. She knows the subject well and gives many practical examples.”
“She is loving and gracious. She is always open to meet with students and be a mentor to them in their lives outside of class as well as academically.”


top-teachers-Stephen-B-PutneyName: Stephen B. Putney
School: Liberty University
Years as an educator: 10 Years

Grades / Subjects / Courses taught:
Biblical Worldview courses for undergraduate students

Do you have a doctorate?
Doctor of Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Why did you choose teaching as a career?
I served in local church ministries in North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia, and New Jersey for about 26 years as a youth pastor and then as a senior pastor. I always loved to teach God’s Word. As the years moved along, I really gained a love for college students and the Lord opened the door for me to come to Liberty in 2005. I believe that God designed and prepared me to teach.

What do you appreciate the most about being a teacher?
I love my students! I was so blessed to have many teachers pour their lives into me and now I am thankful to have the opportunity to pass on those blessings to the next generation. It seems like every day, I get to watch God do amazing things in the lives of my students.

What’s the most important thing you have learned during your teaching career?
I have learned that I primarily teach students. My subject matter involves teaching about worldviews and how to develop and implement a biblical worldview in life, but I do not primarily teach “worldview.” I teach STUDENTS!

What do you most want your students to learn?
I want to see them learn to really love God and love people. If they do that, they will be successful in life, no matter what their major field of study or what profession they enter after graduation.

What is one accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I am most excited when I am teaching or talking to students and see “the lights come on.” When I can tell they are really grasping important concepts and those truths are impacting their lives, I feel like all the training, time, and effort have been worth it.

What is one thing you would like others to know about teachers / teaching in general?
Teachers are able to impact the lives of their students in ways that help them expand their horizons so they see life beyond themselves. They are also sometimes able to impact their students in ways that last forever. How cool is that?!

From His Students: “The best memory I had with Dr. Putney was when I was able to ride the bus with him and was able to talk with him outside of the classroom!”

“Class was very interactive! He would pass the microphone around, and would ask us to state our opinion/argument on a certain issue, or would allow us to ask questions.”


Top Teacher Honorable Mentions:
• Alison Pettit, Liberty University
• Lindsay Klein, James River Day School
• Emily Morris, Perrymont Elementary School
• Carrie Dodge, Dunbar Middle School for Innovation
• Martha Clark, Perrymont Elementary School
• Misty Nolen, Appomattox Elementary School
• Kaye Watson, Virginia Episcopal School

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