Henry County Schools’ Superintendent surprises 14 teachers with ‘Teacher of the Year’ awards

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Penny Decker, 2021 Henry County Teacher of the Year (Courtesy of Henry County Public Schools)

HENRY COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) – Wednesday was a day of celebration for 14 teachers with Henry County Schools.

Division Superintendent Sandy Strayer awarded the teachers with the honor at their homes by presenting each one with a gift bag full of items donated from community partners and area businesses.

Penny Decker, 2021 Henry County Teacher of the Year being awarded with a vehicle to drive through the summer. (Courtesy of Henry County Public Schools)

The overall winner of Henry County’s 2021 Teacher of the Year, Penny Decker from Bassett High School was awarded a trophy as well as gifts from local sponsors. She will also represent Henry County in Teacher of the Year competitions across the state.

“I’ve always known, but I have definitely realized how blessed we are in Henry County. It’s an honor and a privilege to work for them.”

Penny Decker, 2021 Henry County Teacher of the Year

The teachers were recognized at their homes due to social distancing and gathering restrictions that prohibited the division from holding their annual banquet.

The top three honorees, Jerry Byrd, Adrienne Hiatt and Decker were also awarded with a vehicle to drive for the summer.

Below is a list of the Teachers of the Year as well as a comment regarding each teacher’s attributes as submitted by either a colleague, student or parent.

Samantha Wilds (Axton Elementary): “She has helped Axton create a positive environment that is very child-oriented and focuses on building positive self-esteem through high standards as well as designed instruction.” – Marcy Seay, Axton principal

Katie Mays (Campbell Court): “She contributes so much to this school by being a positive teacher. She doesn’t see deficits; she identifies areas for growth.” – Clifton Jones, Campbell Court school counselor

Toni Manns (Drewry Mason): “She is a responsible, trustworthy, and compassionate teacher who inspires other teachers and students to want to succeed.” – Sherri Lewis, HCPS diagnostician

Sara Morris (GW Carver): “Her ability to reach a troubled or struggling student with simple, yet profound empathy and compassion is a true validation of her character of freely offering love, acceptance and grace.” – Melanie Barrow, GW Carver parent

Kimberly Gibbs (Meadow View): “Mrs. Gibbs creates a classroom that looks and feels welcoming and comfortable for all who enter. Her students know they are in a safe place to try new skills and that making mistakes is part of the learning process.” – Judy Edmonds, Meadow View principal

Carissa Barbour (Mt. Olivet): “Her positive attitude and love for teaching is visible in both her instructional delivery and daily interactions with her students.” – Elizabeth Minter, Mt Olivet principal

N. Michelle Moore (Rich Acres): “Mrs. Moore displays high expectations for all students regardless of their background or past performance. She provides the encouragement, scaffolding, and motivation to inspire the most challenging of students.” – Renee Scott, Rich Acres principal

Casey Upchurch (Sanville): “Her mission to provide students with an excellent education while helping each and every child realize and achieve his or her full potential is visible daily in her classroom.” – Kelsey Gardner, colleague

Tiffany Moyer (Stanleytown): “The learning environment provided by Mrs. Moyer is challenging, yet engaging, and students feel confident and safe asking questions, seeking support, and participating in class due to the relationship she establishes with her students.” – Laryssa Hairston-Penn, Stanleytown principal

Candace Boyd (Fieldale-Collinsville): “Candace possesses an abundance of qualities that make her the best representative of our school division. She not only works diligently for her students; she also goes above and beyond for her colleagues.” – Jennifer Lester, colleague

Adrienne Hiatt (Laurel Park): “Mrs. Haitt’s biggest asset is her ability to build long-lasting relationships with her students. Her students know that she loves them and will go over and beyond to help them be successful in and out of the classroom.” – Jo Ellen Hylton, Laurel Park principal

Tina Hairston (Magna Vista): “Ms. Hairston approaches teaching with a seriousness and commitment which serves as an example to her colleagues. She makes no excuses about the problems facing us…instead, she fights hard to develop solutions.” – Gracie Agnew, former principal

Jerry Byrd (Career Academy): “The qualities of a great teacher are many as they have to have the ability to teach, be a social worker of sorts, be wise and insightful…Mr. Byrd holds these abilities and qualities helping each student understand that they have abilities beyond what they know.” – Michael Harrison, friend

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