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.

2020-21 Heroes of Hope

Three Heroes of Hope are recognized on the third Friday of the month. Join our celebration on WJCC Schools’ social media channels and share your stories about the 2020-21 Heroes of Hope!

February Heroes of Hope

February 19th, 2021|

Johanna Byrnes, D.J. Montague Elementary

Johanna works tirelessly to bring Special Education to these students. Nights, weekends, and all her wake hours are spent reassuring parents and students of the value of their child’s education. As a Special Education Teacher and Virtual Academy lead, she takes the time to see all needs are met for students and parents. I have worked with Johanna for the past three years as a Special Education Teacher Assistant and I can say that she provides top-notch care for her students. Also, she always makes sure we have everything we need to do our jobs well and is willing to provide the best support possible. I have learned so much from Johanna these past few years and I enjoy working with her as a Hero of Hope for our students.


Lori Osgood, Toano Middle

Without a doubt, this woman came from Heaven itself and landed on earth. She is the epitome of HOPE to not only her colleagues but each student she encounters. Her warm smile and encouraging words of hope have no end. She never looks around to see who is watching, she doesn’t need to, she is always positive to the point we think she is not human. She can brighten a room or a single heart with just her smile. Lori also knows what and how to calm anyone in a time of complete chaos. She is the person everyone goes to when they need a little time out. Walking away from her afterwords of hope is like starting over. I truly don’t know where this school would be without her.


Paul Vermillion, J. Blaine Blayton

Paul gives everything he has to JBB. Aside from tirelessly working to keep our building sparkling and safe, he has built relationships with our students. He serves as a Big Bee mentor to a student that recently lost his father and greets every student as they walk into the building each morning. He’s a huge part of the reason students are excited to come to school each morning. Our building would not be the same without him.


January Heroes of Hope

January 15th, 2021|


Erin Routten, James River Elementary School

Erin Routten juggles what could be at least three or four full-time jobs without even a moment of hesitation. She checks in on her team regularly, finds new and exciting resources to share, cares for each student as an individual and takes time out of her personal life to make sure all her students and coworkers know that she is there for him. She always has a smile on her face and a positive attitude, even when she hasn’t had a moment to herself for weeks. Erin is truly what keeps our team going this year and I know we couldn’t do it without her!


Lauren Schaefer, Warhill High School

Ms. Shaefer is by far one of those teachers who goes above and beyond whatever her job description says she should do as a teacher. She has a way to make a student feel as if they are her only concern when, in fact, she has many more she treats just as personably. She will find what a student who is struggling is interested in and find their strong points and incorporate those in helping her students succeed. Not only does she truly care, she makes sure to work wonderfully with parents. She does all this with a spirit of joy and never makes you as a parent or the student feel as if they are a bother. She truly wants success to be her students’ goal. Our students need more teachers with her outlook, heart, and dedication.


Mary Sharp, Jamestown High School

Throughout the summer and the start of the fall, Ms. Sharp has fielded IT, operations, and logistical questions from our community. The main office is that first glimpse of Jamestown High School for our families, and Ms. Sharp is the face of that office. Ms. Sharp’s steady hand, expertise, and caring makes a difference at JHS. Our faculty, staff, students, and families know that when they call Jamestown, they will get a helpful and dependable voice in a time where flexibility and change abide. We are so very thankful for her support!



December Heroes of Hope

December 18th, 2020|

Selena Chamblee, Berkeley Middle School

When I went on a school tour a few months ago, I heard all about Selena’s work with “Student Success.” I’ve known Selena Chamblee for many years – back when my own children attended Berkeley and she was their favorite math teacher. Although she was a fantastic teacher, her passion (or calling) directed her to leave the classroom setting to concentrate on how she could make the most impact to improve the future of the students at Berkeley. My heart was touched by the dedication that she has shown over her many years with Berkeley to help our most at-risk students. She told us about the Berkeley Bull-Dog pantry where employees at Berkeley keep a closet supplied with food for those students who come to school hungry or need snacks during the day. Selena embodies the spirit of a Hero of Hope for so many students whose family situations are impossible for most of us to contemplate. She works behind the scenes with multiple agencies, counselors, and support networks to keep students in school so they can learn skills and keep safe.


John Gulick, Warhill High School

Mr. Gulick is more than just a spectacular teacher. He makes sure to be involved in his student’s lives beyond academics. He is the teacher to speak up when he notices that something is wrong. Even if you seem perfectly fine, he goes the extra mile to make your day even better with a simple greeting or a full conversation. In the 18 weeks that I spent with Mr. Gulick, I experienced so much character development. I learned better time management, I became more confident, I learned how to study, and I’ve decided what I want to do in college, all because of this amazing teacher. Mr. Gulick is truly a hero inside and outside of the classroom.


Jennifer Stanley, James Blair Middle School

Jennifer Stanley is that person in the school that is a source of comfort every single day. Though her job is data-driven, she has this incredible ability to look beyond the data, and directly at the student themselves. She is not just a School Improvement Specialist, she is a motivator, a mentor, a mother, a life coach, and a confidant all wrapped into one. Though she may not admit it, she is the lifeblood of this school and serves as the backbone to our success. I attribute most of my growth as an educator in the last two years to her and her wisdom and guidance. WJCC is incredibly lucky to have someone life Jennifer supporting our Middle School.

November Heroes of Hope

November 20th, 2020|

Thomas Hendrickson, Toano Middle School

Mr. Hendrickson goes above and beyond to help the students at Toano Middle School. He is a true maverick in the field of education. Mr. Hendrickson worked with both of my sons at the school and always made them feel special. He brought lessons to life for the boys and engaged them in varied hands-on activities. Since both of the boys are autistic, he used positive reinforcement consistently to help them feel successful, even when they were struggling with the curriculum. Mr. Hendrickson battled cancer while he was teaching and somehow never let that be a deterrent to his pursuit of excellence in his field. I am in awe of his courage to combat his illness, all the while meeting the needs of the children he worked with at school. Even when he was home or hospitalized, he kept in contact with the boys and let them know he was cheering them on. Truly inspirational. Mr. Hendrickson also worked with the boys after school in an Aviation Club. He made the subject come alive for the boys and inspired them to want to fly! Since he is also an accomplished pilot, they were thrilled to learn that they could fly along with him at a local airport. Needless to say, that memory will always be with them. As a retired educator, it gives me great pleasure to nominate Mr. Hendrickson as a WJCC Hero of Hope.


Jessica Minter, Laurel Lane Elementary School

Mrs. Minter is a phenomenal teacher. If you meet her once, pass her in the hall, or just hear how she talks to her students you will know that she is a different breed of teacher. Her positivity and constant drive to help her students succeed is what you notice immediately. Working alongside her you notice how she talks to the students. She talks to them like they are people whom she respects and values. You may think this is a normal occurrence for teachers however, it is not. She is a model teacher and exemplary human. She clearly loves what she does, she is excellent at it, and shine so brightly that she encourages others to shine as well.


Jorge Rivas, Central Office

Jorge is AWESOME!. He has assisted JRE in so many ways – assisting parents with OLR, IEP meetings, reaching out to help with follow-up calls to our EL parents regarding remaining paperwork/other items needed to complete enrollment requirements. I could not imagine not having Jorge. He is the best! He goes above and beyond! I do not know how he does it all, for all of our schools by himself.

October Heroes of Hope

October 16th, 2020|

Cathy Kaurich, Bright Beginnings, Norge Elementary School

Nominated By: Shannon Mitchell, WJCC Schools Staff

Cathy is definitely a Bright Beginnings HERO! She has worked at Bright Beginnings for what seems to be forever. She is an assistant at Norge Bright Beginnings but has also filled in at other locations in the past. She has worked summer school many times, as well. Cathy goes above and beyond for both students and staff in almost every classroom. She has always purchased toys, clothing, backpacks, birthday gifts, food, and whatever else you can possibly think of for our students (many students in our center). If she hears of a student or a teacher in need of an item or supplies, those items almost always “mysteriously” show up on the teacher’s desk the next day. She has been known to create birthday bags for multiple classes to give to each child on their birthday, filled with books and a toy. Cathy’s heart is always on other people. Whenever someone in our Norge Bright Beginnings family suffers the loss of a loved one, a star or tree planted “in memory of” shows up on that person’s desk. She participates in so many charity events, especially the ones for WJCC that benefit our students and community, such as walks to raise money and the Norge Relay for Life events. She amazes me with her energy to participate in sports, such as volleyball and many community walk races. She plays on the Norge Volleyball team, which amazes me after exhausting school days. She is always willing to lend a hand, idea and/or resources to anyone around her. To top all of this off, she has never missed a full day of work!  Anyone that knows Cathy at Norge Bright Beginnings, would say the same thing about her character and kind giving heart. She is truly a wonderful person and colleague.


Jen Smith, James River Elementary School

Nominated By: Heidi Meadows, WJCC Schools Staff

Jen Smith is a wonder-worker. I honestly don’t understand how she is able to accomplish all that she does in a day. She gives me hope that we can, and will, make a difference in the lives of our students. Jen facilitates several social skills groups, she does check-in/check-out with our most at-risk students, she helps families in trauma, she promotes positive discipline, and she does it all with a smile on her face. I am thankful every day that she is the counselor at our school.


Becky Walker, Jamestown High School

Nominated By: J. Harvey Stone, WJCC Schools Staff

Becky is the head custodian at Jamestown. She cares about our building, our staff, and above all our students. She establishes real relationships and is a great example for others in the ability to make meaningful relationships that add value to our organization.


Special Education Team

September 25th, 2020|

To conclude our Return to Learn Heroes of Hope celebration, we honor the educators who serve our special education students and their families. The challenges presented by a pandemic and remote learning are huge for special education, WJCC Schools’ special education team confronted them head-on.


Over the summer, the special education team determined how to best serve students whose needs are highly individualized. They connected with families to provide information specific to their children. They provided training for case managers on new curriculum, health considerations and regulations. They identified resources to minimize student sharing and contact.


The team developed a safe and secure evaluation process that worked so well, it is now a model for other assessment opportunities in our schools.


Special education staff knew it would be essential to offer in-person learning to many of the students they served, so they dedicated themselves to making that happen. We are proud to say that specific populations of students have begun safe and engaging in-person learning thanks to this amazing team of educators.


Our Special Education Heroes of Hope are:

Stacia Barreau

Peter Grabowski

Courtney Fuller

Susan Grainer

Sarah Copeland

BethAnne Klaver

Suzie Yeats

Shannon Williams

Johnnie Underwood

Zebrina Taylor

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.