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The Salem School Board formally recognized West Salem Elementary School at its July meeting for receiving the Board of Education's Distinguished Achievement Award. The Board of Education recognizes schools with the VIP awards which are based on student achievement and other performance indicators during the previous school year.
In 2015 six schools earned the Governor's Award for Educational Excellence, two school divisions and 109 schools earned the Board of Education Excellence Award, and two school divisions and 137 schools earned the Board of Education Distinguished Achievement Award. The Board commended Principals Debbie Carroll and Amanda Gibson, the school's staff, students and parents.
(L-R) West Salem Principal Debbie Carroll, School Board Chairman David Preston and Salem Director of Secondary Education Diane Washenberger
School Board Chair David Preston and Aranark's Suzanne Quesenberry with (L-R) third place winner Taylor McMillion, a South Salem fourth grader Jack Leatherland, a 2nd grader at West Salem, who tied for second with Ayla Lampros, a 4th grader at East Salem and first place winner Evan Hedley from West Salem.
School Board Chair David Preston with Coach Mark Ingerson and some members of the most recent SHS state champion Forensics Team. The Board formally honored the 10-Time State Champs by passing Resolution 231.
School Board Chair David Preston with advisor Katie Lewis and members of the Silver Crown award winning SHS yearbook staff
School Board Chair David Preston with Sherri Shupe, who was recently named one of just eight Super Teachers by the Virginia Lottery.
Judge Philip Trompeter, who will retire this month after 30 years of service to children and families in the greater Roanoke Valley, was honored by the Salem City School Board on Tuesday night. Superintendent Dr. Alan Seibert read Resolution 230 that highlighted the judge’s many accomplishments and the Board then unanimously approved it. Trompeter served on the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court since 1985, and he has always embodied the School Division's mission statement by placing “Children First.”
Assistant Superintendent Curtis Hicks and School Board Chair David Preston (back) with (L to R) in front Ebony Gray, Kaliegh Finley, Maya Makked, Mihir Miller (East Salem's Valerie Worrell was not present) Maya Makked, the Salem City Schools 2014-2015 Spelling Bee Champion, was honored by the School Board. Maya is a 6th grader at Andrew Lewis Middle School, where she is taught by Denise Helems. The winners from Salem’s Elementary schools also were recognized.
The 2015 Salem School Division Teacher of the Year is proof that success is achievable on multiple levels. As a wife, mother and educator, Natalie DiFusco-Funk has starred in nationwide teaching videos, conquered the Boston Marathon and consistently prepared her students for the all-important jump to middle school.
“My mom cried when I told her about this honor, and I am very appreciative and humbled by it,” says DiFusco-Funk. “I really do love my job and this is something I have wanted to do since I was in the fifth grade myself. There was no other career path for me and I just feel very fortunate that I am able to do something I love every day and get paid for it.”
She began her teaching career in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, where she taught fourth grade for seven years. In 2010, she moved to Virginia and was hired as a reading specialist by Botetourt County schools. The next year, she joined the Salem School Division and returned to the classroom as a fifth grade teacher at West Salem.
“My goal every year is to create a community in my classroom where the students are happy and feel safe to share ideas and learn,” she says. “I love teaching all subjects, but one of my favorites is writing because it allows me to enter a child's world and learn more about my students."
“One of her best gifts as an educator is her ability to establish a positive classroom atmosphere,” says Debbie Carroll, West Salem Elementary Principal. “She truly gets to know her students and when you enter her classroom you immediately feel it is a student centered community where children take part in setting goals for themselves, feel safe to express their ideas and learn to work together.”
DiFusco-Funk grew up in Cranston, Rhode Island and earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Boston College’s Lynch School of Education. She finished her graduate requirements with a perfect 4.0 grade point average as Reading Specialist, but is quick to point out that her inspiration to teach came from somewhere other than a lecture hall in Chestnut Hill.
Her fifth grade teacher at Eden Park Elementary school, Jan Pilibosian, became her role model and inspiration to work with young people. Ironically, the two recently reconnected through social media.
“I just sent her note thanking her for inspiring me to follow my dreams and my passion,” she says. “I always talk about her on back-to-school night and I can still recite the science lesson she did on antibiotics when I was a fifth grader.”
Right now, her biggest passion is her young son, Frankie.
“I really love my job more than ever now that I am a parent,” she says. “I feel like I am a better teacher since becoming a parent because I know how parents are feeling when they entrust me with their children.”
She and her husband, Brandon, make their home in Roanoke County with 9-month-old Frankie, and Brandon is the person responsible for getting Natalie to migrate south. After being introduced to each other by some friends at an event near Charlottesville, they stayed in touch and made it through 11 months of long distance dating before Brandon popped the question.
Just a month before DiFusco-Funk competed in the 2010 Boston Marathon, running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Brandon showed up in Massachusetts unexpectedly at the conclusion of her final 20-mile training run and surprised her with his presence and a marriage proposal.
“As an outsider coming to Salem I wasn’t sure how my peers would accept my methods or how they would think of me because I do things a little differently,” she says. “Receiving this award to represent my fellow teachers is very special and exciting.”
DiFusco-Funk’s high-energy teaching and outgoing personality have also translated well for the Houghton Mifflin company, which featured her in a series of “Teachers in Training” videos related to integrating technology and building community in the classroom. Her Master’s thesis also is cited on the company’s website as a valuable resource.
“Mrs. DiFusco-Funk's knowledge of curriculum and the differentiation of material is outstanding,” says Carroll.
All six teachers will be honored by the School Board during a special reception on March 24. The other Teachers of the Year representing the five remaining Salem schools are:
Bob Palleria - Andrew Lewis Middle School
Kristen Wilkes - East Salem Elementary
Angela Diemel - G.W. Carver
Sarah Gerrol - Salem High School
Bronwyn Thomas - South Salem Elementary
John Sailer was recognized by the Salem School Board for the tremendous volunteer service he has provided Salem High School’s Theater Arts program for many years.
His rich appreciation for the Arts and his interest in seeing the students of Salem gain a similar appreciation, has led him to volunteer countless hours serving our school’s Theater Arts.
Pawel Nazarewicz, a Mathematics teacher at Salem High School was honored by the school board for earning his National Board Certification. Teachers who achieve this certificate have met the highest standards in their profession. Salem now has 32 teachers who have earned National Board Certification status.
Mandy Hall - Supervisor of Business for Salem City Schools - recently completed the Virginia School Business Officials Certification Program that is a joint program offered by the University of Virginia and the VASBO - Virginia Association of School Business Officials
Laura O'Dell (center) is joined by SHS Principal Scott Habeeb and Board Chair David. Preston. Mrs. O'Dell was recognized by W!SE for her students excellence in Financial Literacy. She was named a Gold Star Teacher by the National Organization.
Grant Smythers (center) is honored by his principal at. Salem HS, Scott Habeeb, and Board. Chair David Preston. The high school's reigning Teacher of The Year, was named an Outstanding Educator by Alpha Delta Kappa.
The school division's United Way campaign was recognized by the board. (L to R) Debbie Carter, Board Chairman David Preston, Sharon Franklin and the United Way's Sandy Wierzbic
The Salem School Board formally recognized South Salem Elementary School for earning the VIP Distinguished Achievement Award from the Virginia Board of education. Principal Margaret Humphrey and Assistant Principal Laura James were congratulated for their outstanding leadership and the staff of South Salem was commended for their commitment to providing excellent instruction for all students in a pleasant, caring, and nurturing environment.
The students and families of South Salem also are largely responsible for this honor for their continued hard work and support of education. Mrs. Humphrey accepted the honor for South Salem from School Board Chairman David Preston.
Dr. Joe Coleman was honored by the Salem School Board on Tuesday night for his 31 years of service. Coleman joined the division when it was created in 1983, and during his tenure he served as Principal of both G.W. Carver, and South Salem, as well as the Director of Assessment and Technology. The Board unanimously passed resolution #225 in Dr. Coleman’s honor.
Mike Crew was honored by the Salem School Board on Tuesday night for his 17 years of service to the division. Crew started with Salem City Schools as the Director of Budget and Business Services and later became the Director of EFP Software Project. The board unanimously passed resolution 226 in Crew’s honor.
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