Service employee of the year nominees, from left: Tonja Armstrong, Sondra Vaughan, Joe Warder, Heather Simmons and Sarah Hedrick. S. Stewart photos
Teacher of the year nominees, from left: Shannon Alderman, Elaine Sheets, Teresa Rhea, Kristy Tankersley and Jennifer Nail.

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

The students may have been the main focus last week at the Super Scholars event, but the administration knew it was also a time to honor the best of the best staff members from each school.

Service employees and teachers of the year from each school were recognized for their endless dedication to creating the best learning environment for the students.

Each school nominates a service employee and teacher to represent the school and one of each is selected to represent the county.

This year’s service employees of the year were: Sarah Hedrick, cook at Pocahontas County High School; Tonja Armstrong, aide at Marlinton Middle School; Heather Simmons, aide at Marlinton Elementary School; Joe Warder, custodian at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School; and Sondra Vaughan, custodian at Hillsboro Elementary School.

Warder and Vaughan tied as the county employee of the year, but only one could represent the county at the state level, so a tie breaker was held, and Vaughan was the winner.

HES principal Becky Spencer recognized Vaughan for her continued dedication to the students, the school and the community.

“She goes above and beyond, and has meticulous attention to detail,” Spencer said. “She is the epitome of the phrase ‘every job is everyone’s responsibility.’ Sondra jumps in and helps whenever and with whatever is needed. Because of the example she sets in taking pride in our school, staff and students alike strive to meet her expectations.”

Along with working at HES, Vaughan is also a member of the Hillsboro Volunteer Fire Department and she helps out in the town of Hillsboro with landscaping and simply helping a neighbor in need.

“She is a hard worker and she doesn’t know how to say ‘no,’” Spencer said. “Sondra Vaughan is the example of the perfect Service Personnel of the Year.”

GBEMS principal Ricky Sharp spoke about Warder and all he does for the school, in good and bad times.

“Joe is one of the most dedicated and hardwoking people I know,” Sharp said. “He’s worked in the Pocahontas County school system for six years, and he’s been the head custodian at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School for the last two. Two of the characteristics that I value very much about Joe are that first and foremost, he is a family man. He puts family first, and he values his wife. The second thing I value about Joe is his ‘can’t stop until the job gets finished attitude.’”

PCHS principal Joe Riley honored Hedrick and how she strives to keep the students healthy and happy in a positive environment.

“We’re talking about a dedicated employee,” Riley said. “One thing is for sure, Sarah makes it a point to make the kids feel welcome and feel important and make sure they are getting fed. I can, at any point in time, say, ‘Hey we need snacks for this or that,’ and they will put something together. Definitely, the kids are a priority, and I can truly appreciate that about Sarah.”

MMS principal Dustin Lambert recognized Armstrong for consistently providing help at the school.

“Tonja is highly motivated and passionate about our students and their success,” Lambert said. “She is dedicated to the content of our core classes and is often taking materials home ahead of time to fully understand the curriculum. Tonja is more to us than just an instructional aide. She serves as more of an academic interventionist. She consistently works one-on-one with struggling students and brainstorms new ideas about organizational and academic procedures. We are overjoyed to have Tonja as our very own.”

MES principal Phillip Anderson spoke about the many ways Simmons serves her school and the community.

“Heather Simmons is a mom, a wife and all around wonderful person,” Anderson said. “She has been a kindergarten aide at Marlinton Elementary School for eight years. Aside from working full-time at MES, she is also one of the archery coaches, assists during school functions and is a leader for the Buckeye Winners 4-H Club. She continues to do a great job every single day and has much integrity for it.”The nominees for Teacher of the Year were: Shannon Alderman, Hillsboro Elementary School; Kristy Tankersley, Marlinton Elementary School; Elaine Sheets, Green Bank Elementary-Middle School; Jennifer Nail, Pocahontas County High School; and Teresa Rhea, Marlinton Middle School. Rhea was named the Pocahontas County Teacher of the Year and will represent the county on the state level.

Spencer explained that Alderman has the ability to engage her students, no matter their skill level, and helps them stay focused in class.

“Students in her class are motivated and intellectually stimulated from her successful teaching techniques,” Spencer said. “Shannon makes learning in her classroom fun. As a perceptive teacher, Shannon recognizes right away when a student is struggling in her class and takes the steps to give the student extra help to get them caught up. She cares deeply for each child in her class and works hard to make sure no one is left behind.”

Anderson spoke about how Tankersley focuses on the students and her fellow staff members – making sure they are all happy and healthy.

“Kristy strives to create a sense of community and belonging within our school,” Anderson said. “She’s active with special celebrations, unique educational experiences and provides additional support to students who might not normally cross her path. As a friend and colleague, she is one you can bring your concerns to and know they will be kept confidential and that you will receive not only a supportive answer, but an honest one, as well. She’s a cheerleader for the teachers at our school and wants to see them do their best, and feel good while doing it.”

Sharp kept it short but impactful as he recognized Sheets for her dedication to GBEMS.

“I promised her earlier today that I would keep it very brief, but there are no amount of words that could be said to represent what she means to Green Bank,” Sharp said. “Mrs. Sheets has worked twenty years within the Pocahontas County school system. What many of you might not know is after a lot of thought and tribulation, she has decided to retire at the end of this year. Without a doubt, Green Bank is going to miss her professionalism, knowledge base and also dedication that she shows with the students.”

Riley spoke of the great leaps the math department at PCHS has made since Nail joined the faculty. He began by saying he was worried Nail would leave the county, but after she bought a house, he knew she was here for the long haul.

“I said, ‘Jennifer, this means we get to keep you,’ and she said, ‘you should be happy,’” Riley recalled. ‘I said, ‘I am, why?’ She said, ‘Well, you recruited me. I was at Concord College, and you were there recruiting teachers, and you gave me an application. You said Pocahontas County is the best place you can be, and you need to teach here, and I thought of that.’ “I’m really glad she stuck with that and came to Pocahontas County to teach.

“Jennifer has started many new classes,” Riley continued. “She is our college algebra teacher. She teaches engineering and robotics with Laurel Dilley. She is taking on the AP computer science this year. She has helped out with the STEM club and math field day. She has taken a robotics team to the competition this year for the first time for Pocahontas County High School, and she is the math anchor for after-school tutoring.”

The Service Employee and Teacher of the Year nominees are selected by the staff of each school and are nominated for their hard work, dedication and accomplishments.

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