Social Network Bar We Are VBSchools Great Dreams need Great Teachers Logo Tell us about a Great Teacher

John Pienkowski wins national ‘Outstanding New Educator’ award

John Pienkowski

In December 2017, the National Association for Alternative Certification (NAAC) announced that Brandon Middle School science teacher John Pienkowski is the recipient of its 2018 Outstanding New Educator Award.

According to the NAAC, award nominees are in their first three years of teaching, were certified through an alternative route program that is a member of NAAC, and demonstrate passion for and commitment to the success of every student. Pienkowski was selected from five finalists.

Pienkowski, who is a second-year teacher, earned his teaching license through Regent University’s Career Switcher program. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he served for 20 years in the U.S. Navy and retired in 2015 as the commanding officer of the USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19).

He began considering a second career as a teacher as he neared retirement.

“I was in charge of the lives of 365 sailors and marines and an almost $2 billion warship. I had to do a lot of training and teaching,” he said. “I knew I was coming up on the end of my career and had been working with young officers right out of college and young sailors right out of high school. I enjoyed teaching them and seeing that ‘aha’ moment. I thought to myself, ‘I really enjoyed doing that.’”

He also knew that a career in education would allow him to continue to serve others.

“I joined the Navy to serve my country, to serve something bigger than myself. I felt [teaching] was a calling,” he reflected in September. “I thought, ‘You really love science. You are really energetic about teaching young people. You served your nation. Go serve your community.’”

Read More

Leigh Drake’s artwork selected for VBEF 2018 Commemorative Print

Leigh Drake

Beginning in November, the Virginia Beach Education Foundation (VBEF) invited the public to cast its online vote for the foundation’s 2018 Commemorative Print. Each of the five options, artwork created by Virginia Beach City Public Schools employees, was on display Dec. 6 at the VBEF’s annual Teacher Grants Improve Futures (TGIF) Celebration where it also announced the winning piece.

Leigh Drake’s piece, titled “If I Could Keep you Little,” was selected to be the featured artwork for the VBEF 2018 Commemorative Print. The Old Donation Center gifted visual arts teacher explained the story behind the painting that features a child fishing.

“I’m inspired every day by the community in which we live and the students that I teach. This piece was a culmination of both,” she said.

“I’ve always loved the slow-paced sport of fishing. I remember fishing with my dad in Pennsylvania when I was young at a lake near our house. Living by the oceanfront now, I love seeing the thrill it brings to people both young and old when they catch something,” said Drake. “Currently, teaching students in grades 3-5, I love that excitement and innocence of them. They aren’t too caught up yet with cell phones and the digital age of things. So through this piece I decided to remove technology and show the wonder the world has when we just take a moment and enjoy things, like fishing.”

Read More

Teacher and principals take flight at air show

Ron Shaneyfelt  flew with the Blue Angels

For Landstown High School astronomy teacher Ron Shaneyfelt and many people across the United States, Aug. 21, 2017 was a memorable date – the first time he saw a total solar eclipse.

Days later, on Aug. 25, Shaneyfelt learned about another life changing event – his selection to ride backseat in the No. 7 F-A/18 jet of the Navy’s elite flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels.

He added Sept. 12 to his list of memorable dates when he flew with the Blue Angels while they were in town for the Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana Air Show.

“Emotionally, it was a day that really touched me realizing I was lucky to be selected for a flight that few get to experience. I couldn’t stop smiling,” reflected Shaneyfelt days after the flight. “I get to use that experience for my students to not just talk about forces in my Astronomy class, I get to tell them of my personal experience and show them the videos of me in the aircraft.”

Read More

Moore becomes first VBCPS National Geographic Certified Educator

Stacey Moore

Stacey Moore loves science. You could say it is in her blood.

“Everything growing up was a science lesson,” said Moore of her childhood with her father, a science teacher.

It’s hard to imagine that the third-grade teacher’s enthusiasm for science could increase but her participation in the National Geographic Educator Certification program did just that.

“It’s a very cool program,” she said. “National Geographic for science is huge! It’s fun as a teacher and the kids absolutely love it.”

Administrated as a beta program since August 2015, 410 teachers have earned the National Geographic Educator Certification as of August 2017, according to National Geographic’s communications staff. An additional 1,488 educators are in the process of completing certification.

Moore is the first and only National Geographic Certified Educator from Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS).

She hopes to help change that.

Read More

Who says you can't go home?

Cherie Davis

When Cherie Davis began her first day as a full time Physical Education Assistant at Providence Elementary School, the one item that she didn't need was a hall map.

"I loved coming back to the school, I loved coming to school here, kindergarten through fifth grade," the former student turned teacher said. "I liked working with the students and I really liked the teachers."

Davis is a product of Virginia Beach City Public Schools as she also attended middle and high school in the division. Little did she know that she would return one day after graduating from college.

"I have a degree in marketing, I had no idea that I would be doing this. It was really never on my radar, it just kind of fell into place," said Davis.

She served as a substitute teacher last year, a role suggested by her mother who also subbed.

"I first started as a sub, because I was looking at working three days a week and, as a sub, you can work when you want to," Davis explained. "The more I subbed the more I enjoyed it. I started out in the library, then kindergarten, pre-school and then P.E. I remember loving PE, and had such a great time with it."

Davis figured that whenever the right position would open up that she would apply. The right one turned out to be in physical education at her former school, working as an assistant to her former teacher, Donna Roenker.

"What made this position the right one?" asked Davis. "This school and the opportunity to work with Ms. Roenker. I knew that this would be what I loved."

"Cherie was an athlete when she was here, she was one of my athletes of the year," Roenker explained. "She went on to college to play field hockey, she did soccer and field hockey when she was in middle school, so she was always athletic."

Roenker says that Davis' familiarity with the school and the staff will be of benefit to her and the students.

"Cherie knows what I expect, she's been through it. She knows what we expect from the students and the more we raise what's expected, the more they give us, so she’s a really good influence on the children. And she seems to have fit in really well and the children like her.

"Yes, one of the first units that we did when I came here was parachute," Davis shared excitedly. "That was my absolute favorite when I was a student here and I was really excited and fed off the student's excitement. I remembered so many of the things that we did and loved that I can share that with the students today. They enjoy it just as much as I did."

"The families know that she is from this area so she can relate to experiences of this area," Roenker continued. "She comes here and knows the students, knows the area; Virginia Beach in general, not just Providence but all of Virginia Beach. The children respect her so I knew it would be a good fit. And that's what we like, we like to have adults in here that get along with the students and can relate to them."

"Relating to the students," said Davis, "I think it makes me a better mom when I get home. Overall my life is so positive. I knew that I had found what I was meant to do for the rest of my life."

Davis's road to discovery brought her roundtrip to her home, a school she attended and a teacher who inspired her nearly two decades ago.

"I said that I would give this a shot and pretty soon I realized that I loved working with the children in this community," Davis concluded. "I had studied marketing and here I am, teaching PE with my former PE teacher. It doesn’t get better than this."