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.

2022-23 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 2022-23 Heroes of Hope!

January 2023 Heroes of Hope

January 19th, 2023|

Chris Eames, Jamestown High School

“Mr. Eames is a phenomenal math teacher! My daughter has been lucky enough to have him as her teacher for 3 years. She is taking AP Calc AB/BC this year not because she needs the class but solely because he is the teacher, and she knew she would be able to excel in it since he is so good. But even more than being a phenomenal teacher, Mr. Eames cares about these kids social/emotional well-being. He truly gets to know his students and their worries and their hopes. He has emailed me more than once this year to say he was concerned because my daughter seemed a little off and wanted to make sure I knew so I could follow up at home. He also knows the pressure cooker that is college application season and has a mantra for my daughter “Trust your preparation” and took the time to let me know about it so I help at home with it. Truly he goes above and beyond on a regular basis, and these students and their families are so lucky to have him!”

Valerie Smith, Lafayette High School

“When I was diagnosed with an illness earlier this school year and had to take a leave of absence from school, Valerie Smith stepped in to take over my classes. She is our reading intervention specialist, but willingly added to her workload to make sure my students were taken care of when I was out. She planned, graded, and checked in with me–taking a huge load off my plate. I didn’t have to worry about a thing and was able to rest and work on healing. She is beloved by students and puts in more time, effort, and care than any teacher I know! She cares about making Lafayette a better place and always comes to work ready to support and innovate.”

Ella Knight, Warhill High School

“There are times when stellar work should be recognized. This is one of those times. I am writing to share my family’s experience with Ella Knight, guidance counselor at Warhill High School. We started working with Ms. Knight approximately five (5) years ago, when our oldest son, Cary, came to Warhill (he is currently studying Civil Engineering at George Mason) and when our youngest son, Calvin, came to Warhill in 2021. Our sons have very different directions, Cary on a college track and Calvin on a trade school track. Ms. Knight has shown breadth in her competence to help both set academic plans that have served them exceedingly well. Ms. Knight has demonstrated knowledge of the post high school world, which has greatly aided us in preparing our boys for what comes next. She understands what colleges are looking for in the admissions process. She understands the New Horizons, Gov School, and Peninsula Community College pathways and how they relate to high school curriculum. Further, Ms. Knight has shown great dedication to her work, consistently, for all the years we have worked with her, providing accurate and timely responses to our questions. I recall sending her an email, during one of the class enrollment periods, at 9:30pm one evening, fully expecting she would see it when she got to work the next day. Within minutes, her reply popped into my inbox. I also recall one year in which the guidance counselors at Warhill had extra students when one of the guidance counselors had been called up from military reserves to active duty for the year, and the remaining counselors divided the extra load between themselves. When we have needed her, she has been there for us, and, I am sure, for many other families. Ms. Knight has performed her work with consistent excellence.”

December 2022 Heroes of Hope

December 15th, 2022|

Dr. Adam Brown, Dr. Amy Lazev, BethAnne Klaver, and Jim Falzone; Central Office and Operations

“This summer Dr. Brown, Dr. Lazev, Ms. Klaver and Mr. Falzone helped to build a kitchen area for our self-contained students. It took funding, coordination and communication among the special education department, SHIP, and operations. Each person played a major role in creating an area where our students can experience and learn skills that are crucial in everyday living. Our new stove, with a hood, allows our students to cook and use their reading and math skills to learn about recipes, servings, and nutrition. The loading and unloading of the new dishwasher and use of the washer/dryer are everyday skills that our students so desperately needed. As with any construction project, planning and communication was vital and these heroes made it happen!”

Erin Edwards, Lois S. Hornsby Middle School

“Erin Edwards is truly a remarkable school counselor. She is consistently going above and beyond to show her care and dedication to the students and staff at Hornsby Middle School. She runs 5 small groups for 6th grade students to encourage new, positive connections. She is mentoring two school counselors new to Hornsby consistently and intentionally. Coming from a military family herself, Mrs. Edwards knows the importance of a positive transition and highlighting student resiliency. It is no surprise to those working closely with her that Hornsby was awarded with a Purple Star recognition, thanks to her continued partnership with military families at our school. She runs a comprehensive and data-driven school counseling program, with relationships at the heart of her work. Mrs. Edwards exemplifies all the characteristics of a school leader and a team player. She IS WJCC!”

Kim Gryszko, Matoaka Elementary School

“Principals can make or break the school. Fortunately, Matoaka is blessed to have one of the most dedicated and professional principals. Kim Gryszko joined Matoaka in the midst of chaos last school year. Families and staff struggled with all the changes, but Kim was able to help everyone thrive despite the climate of the first full school year after virtual learning. It was not easy. Kim never showed frustration. She was always smiling and took pause to listen. The students love seeing her in the hallways and are eager to give her big hugs. It is always hard to have change in administration, but Kim helped the Matoaka community understand that safety and learning is key. Kim always strives to keep everyone safe. This is something I appreciate. She is very focused on keeping everyone (students, parents, and staff) safe no matter the cost. These days, we cannot ignore the importance of safety protocols. Kim is a principal who understands that we cannot risk the safety of our most valued treasure, the children. Thank you, Principal Gryszko!”

November 2022 Heroes of Hope

November 17th, 2022|

Grace Wagner, Laurel Lane Elementary

Grace supports not only the students she works with, but also the staff. She takes time to learn about her students and engages with them in a kind and supportive way each and every day. She always shows them love and respect no matter what challenges she may face. Grace has a positive attitude and has been a huge support to the students in my classroom. Grace jumped right into her new role, and I am grateful to work with her. She is always working together with me to meet their needs. I couldn’t do it without her.

Emily Olson and Susan Findlay, Berkeley Middle

Emily Olson (school nurse) and Susan Findlay (school social worker) have worked for weeks to ensure a student without glasses was able to obtain glasses. These tireless professionals found the necessary resources to pay for the glasses, arranged transportation for the family, and helped pick up the glasses when the family was unavailable to collect the glasses once they were ready. They have truly gone above and beyond in their commitment to ensure students are ready for school. I am so grateful to work with them!

Andrew Pfister, Transportation

I just wanted to reach out to share how exemplary our bus driver is! Each morning, he sets the tone for a positive day and builds a strong sense of belonging by greeting every child, one-by-one, utilizing their first name. He also maintains a safe and secure environment by building necessary structure on the bus while using positive reinforcement to manage behavior. It is apparent that he genuinely cares for the physical and psychological safety of the children on his route, and we feel so lucky to have such a wonderful model of leadership transporting our child to and from school!

October 2022 Heroes of Hope

October 20th, 2022|

Cari Slade, Matthew Whaley Elementary School

Cari Slade is a phenomenal special education teacher and a remarkable teammate.  She offered to switch classes with one of our new teachers to best support our school students.  We know this was not an easy decision, but it speaks volumes about how much she cares for her teammates and students.  We are so grateful to have her on our special education team – she truly models that she is all in for all our students.

Shannon Mitchell, Bright Beginnings at Norge Elementary School

Ms. Shannon is the epitome of a hero of hope! She has the heart of gold,  the desire to see her special needs preschoolers succeed, and a sense of humor. My son, or should I say our family, had the privilege of getting to know Ms. Shannon last year. She spent all year trying to figure out how to make my son emerge from his shell; a little boy who entered her class nonverbal and afraid of hugs, left her class hugging everyone, talking and full of personality! He’s now not afraid to tell everyone who will listen “that’s his Ms. Shannon”. She still gets her hugs and doesn’t turn one down. Even though he’s in a different classroom this year, she still makes sure that he’s getting everything he needs to succeed and checks on him regularly.

Sarah Tope, James Blair Middle School

She has inspired my daughter to learn and enjoy it, my daughter had no interest in schoolwork due to reading problems and no teacher giving attention towards her strengths and weaknesses, this person did and my daughter has thrived in school ever since.

September 2022 Heroes of Hope

September 23rd, 2022|

Hugh Beard, Lafayette High School

“It is very easy to see the profound amount of passion that Mr. Beard has for his work and the subjects that he teaches. Before I met him, I used to think that school was nothing more than a quest for grades. After being in his class, though, I have come to learn that learning is about so much more than a grade; it is about passion and exposing oneself to the world. This person has inspired me to find and pursue my own passions rather than chase after the almighty ‘A’. Thank you, Mr. Beard.”

Meghann McKnight, Jamestown High School

“Mrs. McKnight is so positive and supportive of the students and they appreciate and love her. She always makes extra time available after class and sends her students notes of encouragement. Our son said when she dyed her hair she told the students it helped her to be located quickly during one of the school tests so they would realize she was there for them. Her summary notes were always a joy to read. We are very grateful our son had her for a teacher.”

Deedee Chantry, Bright Beginnings at Laurel Lane Elementary School

“Mrs. Chantry made every day so exciting for my pre-schooler! She went above and beyond to ensure that each student was well taken care of. She taught my son so much and we were so impressed by how much he learned during the school year! We ran into her in town and she gave our son the biggest hug and was genuinely excited to see him! How thankful we are that our son had her as a teacher this year!”

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.