Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

While the Super Scholars event last Monday at Pocahontas County High School was an evening of recognition for third through 12th grade students who have excelled academically, superintendent Terrence Beam and the schools’ principals used the event to honor the Teacher of the Year and Service Employee of the Year nominees and winners.

A few years ago, the Service Employee of the Year award was changed from an employee representing each school to an employee from each trade – bus driver/mechanic, secretary, aide, cook and custodian.

The 2018 Service Employee of the Year is Joann Estep, secretary at Marlinton Elementary School.

MES principal Phillip Anderson introduced Estep and explained how she keeps momentum going at the school.

“Mrs. Joann Estep has worked as a secretary for twenty-two years for Marlinton Elementary School, with a total of thirty years of service for the state of West Virginia,” he said. “She keeps the school in check by the way she offers advice to administration, teachers and service personnel – not only at Marlinton Elementary School – but also all over the county.”

Anderson added that Estep is always ready to assist fellow employees at a moment’s notice and has become a comforting presence during stressful times.

“[MES] is very fortunate to have such a wonderful school secretary,” he said. “She wants to see people be successful. She loves her job, and it shows. She provides a security blanket for all the staff. If someone needs something, she’s the first to help and pitch in.”

Joining Estep as Service Employee of the Year nominees were bus mechanic Ian Bennett, Marlinton Middle School aide Tonja Armstrong, Green Bank Elementary-Middle School cook Tina Jackson and Pocahontas County High School custodian Pam Bennett.

Director of transportation Ruth Bland spoke about Ian Bennett’s accomplishments and his success as a bus mechanic.

“I wanted to let everybody know that Mr. Bennett is also the recipient of the 2018 Tech and Inspect Award from the West Virginia Association of Pupil Transportation,” she said. “So we have such quality mechanics. If you recall, last year or the year before, Justin Taylor [was recognized], so we have quality mechanics that are manning our garages.”

MMS principal Dustin Lambert gave insight into Armstrong’s impact on the school and its students.

“We are very thankful to have Tonja Armstrong in our school,” he said. “Not only does she have  a strong academic understanding of mathematics and ELA, but she really does take to heart the students in our school and I think that’s something to be commended of any service personnel in our schools.”

Introducing Jackson, GBEMS principal Ricky Sharp said she has always gone above and beyond for the school and the students she serves.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with her for five year at Green Bank and during those five years, she’s always been willing to help out,” he said. “Anytime I needed a little extra – never, ever has she told me no. I appreciate her and all her efforts she has given to the county for the past ten years.”

PCHS principal Joe Riley spoke about Pam Bennett, who is in her first year as custodian at the school.

“I want to explain a little bit about Pam,” he said. “First of all, people come to me a lot of times and say, ‘you’ve got an impossible job,’ and I think sometimes that is the truth, but then I see Pam Bennett and I think ‘my job’s not impossible at all. Pam is the one who has the impossible job.’ She’s just in her first year in this school. She has to learn all the little tweaks and bad habits in this building, but she’s learning fast, for sure.”

Riley recalled a day when he saw Bennett carrying a large bag full of supplies around the school. When he asked her why she had the bag, she said it made doing her job easier because she doesn’t have to make multiple trips back to the storage closet.

“The one thing about Pam is – why she was selected as our service person [of the year] – is because of her grit, her go and her determination,” he said. “We appreciate her.”

The 2018 Teacher of the Year is Brooke Dickenson, a special education teacher at GBEMS. She was featured last week among the Super Scholars.

Joining Dickenson as Teacher of the Year nominees were: Diane Delfino, HES; Pam McCurdy, MES: Jessica McLaughlin, MMS; and Stephanie Poppe, PCHS.

HES principal Rebecca Spencer introduced Delfino and spoke about her work with the students.

“I have been working with the Hillsboro Teacher of the Year for several years at both Marlinton and Hillsboro and I can honestly say she’s the most passionate teacher in the county,” Spencer said. “She does a phenomenal job with our special ed program. I am very honored to have Diane Delfino as Hillsboro’s Teacher of the Year.”

MES principal Anderson talked about McCurdy and shared a special story of her classroom habits.

“Her chants and songs get her students energized and ready for the challenges that she presents each day,” he said. “I’ve seen this first hand as I would go and do walk-throughs. For her transitions, she would sing a song for going from math to ELA and she doesn’t miss a beat with the children. Mrs. McCurdy’s expertise and her reaching out to motivate students of all backgrounds to achieve their potential is amazing.”

McCurdy also serves as a team leader on the Leadership Team, she is faculty senate vice chair and was organizer of the school’s Harvest Festival last fall.

“Mrs. Pam McCurdy has many great qualities to make her a teacher that every child wants to have in class,” Anderson said.
MMS principal Lambert recognized McLaughlin and thanked her for her dedication to the students and the staff at the school.

“She’s always focused on making children feel welcome at Marlinton Middle School,” he said. “Mrs. McLaughlin stays after school for tutoring once a week and students say she makes learning fun and staying after school with her is a happy time. A detail that came from one of our students at Marlinton Middle School, this student says, ‘Mrs. McLaughlin is a great role model and makes everything fun. We enjoy being around her. Even though she is not our direct teacher, she still tries to get involved. She is a great mother and she initiates conversation with students during lunch and makes us all feel important.’”

McLaughlin is the faculty senate president and was instrumental in redoing the school’s master schedule two days after school started.

“We had to completely redesign our whole master schedule two days into school and there in the middle of all of that was Mrs. McLaughlin, trying to make this work and I can’t tell her – I don’t think I’ve expressed enough how much I appreciate the work you put into that master schedule,” Lambert said. “I really do appreciate that.”

PCHS principal Riley introduced Poppe and shared an interesting look at her teaching style as he read from her nomination.

“It says, ‘Stephanie,’ which is Mrs. Poppe, ‘is both respected and well-liked by students, teachers and administration,’” he said. “‘She is always looking for new ways to deliver curriculum and the best way for each student to learn in her class.’ I’ve been a principal for quite a while and every now and then, you walk into a classroom and whenever you see a teacher teaching, you just kind of go, ‘what in the world is going on here?,’ and I had that with Stephanie Poppe.”

Riley explained that when he first became principal at PCHS and observed Poppe’s classes, he didn’t understand her methods, but he has since learned that her methods work for her students.

“Since that time, I realize that she definitely thinks out of the box in the way to teach the kids, and I really like her teaching style, and realize that she’s got a lot of good things going on,” he said. “The one thing I did realize is she believes in the kids. She believes in the students with all her heart and she also believes in Pocahontas County Schools. Sometimes, you don’t always get that out of a staff member. They believe in maybe just the school, but in talking with her, she believes in the whole system.”

Instead of receiving plaques or trophies, the nominees and winners were each presented with gift certificates to the local business of their choosing.

Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, above. Front row, from left: Amber Defibaugh, Maddie Ray, Mackenna Shinaberry, Olivia Vandevender, Allyson Taylor, Mileya Bircher, Ashley Bussard, Miranda Gumm, Trenton Brock, Willie O’Ganian and Florian Baudler. Second row, from left: Principal Ricky Sharp, Mason Solliday, Hunter Curran, Max O’Ganian, Iam Johnston, Makayla Ervine, Makayla Vandevander, Emma Riffe, Emily Rimm and Grace Beverage. S. Stewart photos
Hillsboro Elementary School – Front row, from left: Kaylee Pritt, Kenslee Lane, Riyan Gladwell and Molly Cook. Second row, from left: Mallori McCoy, Hannah Beverage, Aylah Manahan and principal Rebecca Spencer. Not pictured: Trevor Tuskan, Asa Marks, and Ramona Hardy.
Marlinton Elementary School, above. Front row, from left: Devon Burgess, Abigail McClure, Carter Faulknier, Tanner Smith, Trenton Harwell, David Reed, Allison Fitzgerald, Kaidence Cutlip, Leanne Green and Anthony Bennett. Second row, from left: principal Phillip Anderson, Nolan Street, Luke Gainer, Gavin Malcomb, Miya Johnson, Caleb Ritter, Dillon Dunz, Riley Pollack, Eden Smith, Courtney Waugh, Brooklyn Moyers, Kirsten Friel, Addisyn Waddell, Shaylee Landis and Ryleigh Parker.
Marlinton Middle School, above. Front row, from left: Waylon Lucabaugh, Elizabeth Friel, Taiylor Hoke, Cameryn Moore, Hannah Forks, Kynlee Wilfong, Jessica Armstrong, Michelle Yingling, Danielle Yingling, Sydney Puffenbarger, Jordan Faris, Cassandra Moats, Sarah Warder, Rayna Smith, Amanda Burns and Allyson Alderman. Second row, from left: Samuel Williams, Rachel Ames, Jaryd Friel, Clayton Burns, Kassidy Long, Christy Casey, Haley Spencer, Bracie Sheets, Maxine Puffenbarger, Eden Lester, Makenna McKenney, Haylee Smith-Hayhurst, Ben Dunz, Jonathan Valido, Braedan Hayhurst, Hazel Riley, Macaden Taylor, Daphne Hilleary and principal Dustin Lambert. Third row, from left: Nathaniel Evans, Max Ervine, Ethan Armstrong, Jaylee Doss, Gareth Ryder, David Gibb, Ryan Robertson, Delania Luikart and Robert Pritt. Not pictured: Mary Pauley.
Pocahontas County High School, above. Front row, from left: Charity Morrison, Sienna Bircher, Brody Buzzard, Kira Bircher, Jennalee Meck, Savannah McMillion, Chloe Hardesty, Cassidy Hardesty. Autumn Lane, Emily Henderson, Maria Workman, Emmalee Dean and Tasia Davis. Second row, from left: Dylan Workman, Hunter Tankersley, Catlyn Sparks, Cora Hedrick, Katie Gibson, Hadden Mick, Silas Riley, Glenn Malcomb, Brandon Burns, Charity Warder, Sydnee Butcher, Alexa Taylor, Faith Johnson, Alexandra Lane, Peyton Coleman and Kylian Dennison. Third row, from left: Brian Wilfong, Charles Hunter Wilfong, Caitlyn Keatley, Jeremiah Grimes, Marley Brust, Elijah Colt Beverage, Logan Woodruff, Taylor Tegtmeyer, Mathias Solliday, Jarod Liptrap, Jacob Jones, Noah Barkley and principal Joseph Riley.