School staff honored

Published 8:53 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Jennifer Schmack, president of the Suffolk Education Foundation, presents Gina Hancock with her Star Award during Tuesday’s ceremony.

Jennifer Schmack, president of the Suffolk Education Foundation, presents Gina Hancock with her Star Award during Tuesday’s ceremony.

Gina Hancock, a Nansemond River High School math teacher, and Michael Smith, an information technology technician with Suffolk Public Schools, on Tuesday received division-wide accolades for their work over the past semester.

School Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney tapped the two as winners of his instructional and non-instructional Star Awards, respectively.

They were selected from a pool of nominations that came from teachers, coworkers, students and parents, according to Bethanne Bradshaw, spokeswoman for the school division.

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Hancock, who was nominated by fellow NRHS teacher Jo Ann Murray, is a “super star at NRHS” who is always willing to provide extra help for struggling students. She routinely tutors twice a week and has been known to give up her planning time for weeks to help a newly transferred student catch up. Hancock also matches peer tutors from the National Honor Society.

According to Murray, Hancock enjoys the challenge of finding innovative ways to reach students, and she often collaborates with other teachers and advises new teachers.

Smith, who began working for the school division in 2014, was nominated for the non-instructional star award because of his willingness to volunteer during elementary engineering camp, said summer school teacher Barbara Espinosa.

Smith, a military veteran, worked with her engineering students as they learned about computers.

“He brought in old equipment for students to tear apart and put back together,” Espinosa said. “Although he is not a teacher, he had great strategies to get the students interested … and encouraged teamwork and creativity.”

The star award winners received banners for their classrooms and offices and an award from the Suffolk Education Foundation.

Other nominees who were recognized include:


Rochelle Armstrong-Washington, special education teacher, Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School; Elke Boone, assistant principal, King’s Fork High School; Lindsay Brown, special education teacher, Elephant’s Fork Elementary School; Sarah Catlett, guidance director, King’s Fork Middle School; Cecilia Ciceraro, science teacher, Nansemond River High School; Lori Cratsley, science teacher, Nansemond River; Tama Crawford, special education teacher, Kilby Shores Elementary School; Darius Ferguson, math teacher, Nansemond River; Ronnie Gay, social studies teacher, Turlington Woods School; Melodie Griffin, principal, Florence Bowser Elementary School and Driver Elementary School; Ruth Harrell, Early Start teacher, Booker T. Washington Elementary School; Linda Hurwitz, orchestra director, Lakeland High School and John Yeates Middle School; Mary Joyner, Early Start teacher, Hillpoint Elementary

School; LaCleder Odom, seventh grade teacher, John F. Kennedy Middle School; Daniel Pine, math teacher, King’s Fork High School; Julie Plasencia, gifted resources teacher, Hillpoint; Jason Reed, math teacher, Nansemond River; and Anitra Smith, Early Start teacher, Pioneer Elementary School.


Shondra Bell, administrative assistant, Hillpoint; Sherry Booker, dispatcher, transportation department; Alquinton Boone, bus aide, Hillpoint;

Bethanne Bradshaw, public information officer; Stacy Breneman, school nurse, Mack Benn Jr.; Keesha Hicks, administrative assistant, main office; Angela Knight, cafeteria manager, Northern Shores Elementary School; Michelle Mabrey, school nurse, Forest Glen Middle School; Lesa McNamara, public information assistant; Anne Nelson, teacher assistant, Nansemond Parkway Elementary School; Stephen Shapiro, master tradesworker, maintenance; Bryant Thomas, cafeteria manager, John F. Kennedy Middle School; Phebe Whitaker, administration assistant, Lakeland; and Norma Williams, teacher assistant, Elephant’s Fork.