Heroes of Hope

WJCC Schools’ Heroes of Hope help others reach their hopes by offering a helping hand, a word of encouragement, or a little guidance. From small acts to grand gestures, these staff members make a difference in the lives of their students and colleagues.

These heroes do not look for applause or recognition. Their reward is in the student achieving a goal, completing a project, or making a colleague’s day a little easier. However, we think they deserve to be honored as the Heroes they are.

We celebrate three WJCC Schools Heroes of Hope the third week of every month during the school year— you can help us by sharing stories of the Heroes among us. To nominate a WJCC Schools employee as a Hero of Hope complete the form below.

2021-22 Heroes of Hope

Heroes of Hope are recognized each month from among nominations by students, families, staff, and the larger community. Join our celebration on WJCC Schools’ social media channels and share your stories about the 2021-22 Heroes of Hope!

May 2022 Heroes of Hope

May 20th, 2022|

AnnaMarie Diggs, Bright Beginnings at Laurel Lane

AnnaMarie is not only a very knowledgeable and skilled educator, but she is also one of the most loving and genuine teachers with whom I have had the privilege of working. Her students will work hard for her because they know her excitement for their progress is genuine. The progress they make during their time with her is nothing short of amazing! When it’s time for her to do groups in our classroom, my students squeal with excitement. She has a genuine relationship with every child in our program. Because of the time she takes forming relationships with students, she can reach and motivate each of them to persist when things are hard. In addition, she is always willing to help guide her colleagues to the benefit of her students, supporting us not only with all things speech, but helping problem-solve behavior challenges, accommodations, and paperwork. Parents are at ease because of her positive and honest approach. AnnaMarie is a gem in our program, and she is so deserving of this recognition.

Gwendolyn Gaines, Hornsby Middle

Gwen Gaines is a relentless educator who teaches students how and what they need to be successful in school and life. She cares about each student and shows how important each student can and will be to their family and community. Gwen is a legend at Hornsby Middle School!

Madison Kent, Norge Elementary

Madison is an incredible teacher. She advocates for her students, challenges them, and encourages independence as much as possible. She uses her life skills-style classroom and a weekly coffee cart to make real-life experiences accessible to her students. Alongside academics, her students cook, clean, complete basic household tasks, and learn about finances. Students in this classroom gain confidence and skills that will take them farther than the halls of Norge Elementary. Madison is sensational and a true WJCC Schools Hero of Hope!

April 2022 Heroes of Hope

April 22nd, 2022|

Ellen Frackelton, Laurel Lane Elementary School

Ellen is an invaluable member of Laurel Lane’s staff. She provides support, modeling and materials for teachers at all grade levels. Her knowledge and expertise in the reading field makes us better teachers. She is always willing to make materials or come observe and model lessons in our classrooms. Ellen knows our students by name because she is in classrooms constantly providing feedback, encouragement and support to teachers and students. She is always learning more so she can provide training for our staff. Ellen has made a huge impact on my teaching, and I am so grateful for her!

Stephen “Scot” Lish, Warhill High School

Scott is an AP Government/Government teacher at Warhill High School.  He dedicates himself to preparing the school’s seniors for what lies ahead beyond graduation by incorporating real-life values and skills relatable for them, and an understanding of government and civic duties they’ll be able to embrace in their next stage of life as adults.  Scott also coaches the school’s wrestling program and helps instill invaluable skills and traits like responsibility, respect, dedication, and integrity in our young athletes.  Moreover, he serves as a co-curriculum leader for the school’s social studies department.  His selfless leadership in the classroom as well as his dedication and devotion to the school’s students in extracurricular events all make this teacher the epitome of a WJCC Schools Hero of Hope.

Sherri Mallory, Central Office

When all forms of public and private transportation for a special needs child failed, one individual in central office stepped up when time was of the essence. She jumped into action, coordinating everything to ensure this family and student were supported. She kept everyone abreast of changes, making sure we had proper documentation, and details about next steps. She worked across all departments to create a solution in record time! And the ultimate winner is this child who can continue going to school

March 2022 Heroes of Hope

March 18th, 2022|

Renee Staton, Stonehouse Elementary School

Renee is an inspiration. Despite all of the challenges facing her as a cafeteria manager this year (supplies, staff out, etc.), she goes above and beyond to make things work—always with a smile on her face. She knows just about everyone including students, faculty, and staff by name and always makes sure we are well fed – with quality options. Renee makes our school and the world a better place every day. Where most would seem stressed, she is always cheerful and kind.

Robert Oppecker, Matthew Whaley Elementary School

Robert is out at the parent pick-up line every afternoon with a smile on his face and affirming comments for the students. His positive attitude is infectious and makes this sometimes stressful activity something I actually look forward to. The fact that Robert has so much on his plate, including this new pick-up line duty, and he still manages to keep a positive attitude and makes students leave school each day feeling loved, valued, and seen is something to recognize.

Abby Reynolds, D.J. Montague Elementary School

Abby exemplifies everything it means to be selfless. She is not only an exceptional teacher but an exceptional friend to anyone she meets or comes into contact with. Abby pours her heart and soul into her work and into helping others. For Abby, this doesn’t end at school. She has done countless things within this community and communities abroad to help children and families in need. If somebody needs anything, Abby is always there to help. Her compassion for teaching is unrelenting. I could write a book about all the things Abby has done, but if you know her, you already know this to be true. I’m certain she has had a positive impact on your life just as she has had on mine.

February 2022 Heroes of Hope

February 18th, 2022|

Andrew Funkhouser, Jamestown High School

Mr. Funkhouser brings joy to his classroom. If I had never transferred into his class, there’s a good chance I would still be failing geometry. He makes me and so many other students want to learn. He makes time for us if we need extra help, and not all teachers use their free time to help students. Mr. Funkhouser is an overall good person and deserves to be appreciated.

Jessica McDonough, Toano Middle School

Jessica McDonough is one of our assistant principals. She is dedicated to her job, always willing to listen to her staff, and she truly cares for our middle school students. Ms. McDonough makes genuine connections with our students. While it is part of her job, she attends and cheers for our students at sporting events and speaks at evening events like sports banquets while seeming to truly want to be at these events. When I asked my students, they told me they love her happy attitude. She is open to talking to them, and they know she cares about them.

Rayvon Patrick, Norge Elementary School

Coach Patrick has a way of making every student feel special. Whether it be from high fives in the hallway to giving students the confidence they need to accomplish a task. His smile is infectious, and the kids feed off his enthusiasm. His fun approach to physical education through stations, games, and great music make all the kids want to participate and try their very best. Coach Patrick is a welcomed addition to Norge Elementary, and we are so lucky to have him join the team of wonderful educators.

January 2022 Heroes of Hope

January 21st, 2022|

Jorge Rivas, Central Office

Jorge Rivas is an amazing asset to WJCC Schools. He is our sole official interpreter facilitating communication between school staff and families whose primary language is Spanish. He is knowledgeable of basic school processes, special education procedures and regulations, and ELL services. He also understands the cultural norms of the families with whom he works. He helps school teams understand these norms and how they might affect school performance, attendance and determination of special education needs. He has formed trusting relationships with school staff and local families. Jorge is a vital team member who is consistently going above and beyond his role as an interpreter for the division.

Archie Jefferson, Lafayette High School

Graduation Coach Archie Jefferson always brings a smile to my face when he waves at everyone in the carline. By playing music and greeting families, he makes a stressful situation cheerful. By sharing his positivity with others, he creates an upbeat start to our students’ days at Lafayette High School. He also sure dressed up crazy for spirit week!

Mary Dillon, Laurel Lane Elementary School

Mary Dillon, senior administrative assistant, is always willing to help the staff and students of Laurel Lane Elementary School in any way possible. She goes above and beyond to make sure our Laurel Lane families feel welcomed and supported. She goes way beyond what her job technically requires and does it with a sincere and willing heart. She deserves to be acknowledged for all she does for us at Laurel Lane.

November 2021 Heroes of Hope

November 19th, 2021|

Melissa White and Amber Gardner
Stonehouse Elementary School

I am a third-grade teacher at Stonehouse and have the privilege of working with Melissa White (Principal) and Amber Gardner (Assistant Principal). My 16-year-old daughter was a passenger in a head-on collision returning home from taking her SATs on October 2. She suffered major injuries and was hospitalized in Newport News for 10 days before taking a medical flight to Atlanta, Georgia to be treated at the Shepherd Center.

I wanted to share with you how wonderful both Melissa and Amber have been to my daughter and me. They have checked in on both of us numerous times. Within days of the accident, they purchased an unbelievable amount of needed items for her hospital and rehabilitation stay, as well as food gift cards for me to use during my stay in Atlanta. Their generosity has been incredible!

Additionally, Melissa led the effort to raise nearly $30,000 to help with my daughter’s medical, rehab, and home modification expenses. She also reached out to Central Office on my behalf to arrange the appropriate leave and worked to get my long-term substitute.

I know that WJCC Schools has a goal of building relationships. Melissa and Amber have been the epitome of this for me and a model for the division. They have both gone above and beyond in helping me in so many ways and allowing me to focus on my daughter’s needs. I am grateful to work in such an amazing school with them! I wish I could present both of them with some type of award, but I felt the least I could do was to let you know how much they have done without any reward or recognition. I will be forever grateful to them. They are truly heroes!

Toni Turner
Laurel Lane Elementary School

Toni always puts the children of Bright Beginnings first. Her devotion to WJCC Schools has never let up in the past seven years. Sometimes Toni uses her own money to purchase needed items such as diapers, wipes, and office /cleaning supplies. This woman would do this job for free because of the joy she gets from her babies every day at work. She always treats them as her own and always puts them first. A golden soul resides in this woman, and I have enjoyed that glow for 25+ years! We need more TAs like Toni Turner.

Amanda Miller
Jamestown High School

Amanda always takes care of her athletes. She tapes ankles and wrists, administers treatment, massages cramps and so on. Amanda is always where athletes need her most and provides service with a smile. She advocates for every athlete and has their best interest in mind. Thank you, Amanda!

We will recognize three Heroes of Hope every month during the school year.
All nominations will be reviewed by the WJCC Schools Employee Appreciation Committee. Nominees must be current full-time employees in good standing.