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Honoring our educators: Jefferson County Schools recognize top employees

By Staff | Mar 29, 2019

CHARLES TOWN — Jefferson County’s schools and their supporting offices and departments all submitted choices for exceptional teacher and service personnel professional, for possible selection as the county’s top picks. The recipients of the county awards were announced at a dinner held at the Charles Town Moose Lodge on March 13.

Selected from all the nominees for Teacher of the Year was Shelley Renee Spitzer, a kindergarten teacher at Blue Ridge Primary School. Service personnel recipient was Larry Willingham, routing specialist and computer operator at the county’s bus garage.

According to Peter Dougherty, sheriff of Jefferson County and former Board of Education member, the honorees were chosen by a selection committee.

“After being nominated by their school, the candidates are interviewed by a committee formed mainly of business folks and retired educators,” Dougherty said. “They make the final selection.”

Spitzer has taught for 19 years, 16 of those in her current position. She also taught at Shepherdstown Junior High School, now Shepherdstown Middle School, and Blue Ridge Elementary School.

According to a statement issued by the Board of Education, Spitzer has demonstrated leadership in education throughout her career and has earned several awards. She co-wrote the current Kindergarten Report Card, served on Math and Reading Cohort Teams, and designed and implemented the Blue Ridge Primary Kindergarten Camp. In her classroom, she emphasizes freedom of choice, parent involvement and goal setting as priorities.

A graduate of West Virginia University for both her Bachelor of Science degree and her Master of Arts degree, Spitzer says that children benefit from a well-rounded experience, which includes connecting school to life.

Larry Willingham, who has been employed in the transportation department of Jefferson County Schools for 27 years, is also an active member of the community. On the job, he designs and maintains the county’s nearly-100 bus routes, including such details as bus stop eligibility and driving when necessary. He oversees the use of all GPS cameras and two-way radios for buses, and is on-call for all emergency situations involving the school system.

Willingham’s activity outside of Jefferson County Schools may be more well-known by members of the community. He is active in 4-H clubs, has served as a volunteer firefighter and has chaired the Charles Town/Ranson Christmas parade. He is a member of the Jefferson County Emergency Operations Center in the transportation section, and is a member of the T.A. Lowery Elementary School’s LSIC.

Despite his active role in the community both inside the job and out, Willingham was surprised to receive the honor given.

“I was very surprised to have been chosen for this amazing honor, since there were 19 other nominees who have all done an awesome job in their field,” Willingham said. “Each and every nominee has touched so many lies in their own way.”

Each recipient received additional recognition from Dougherty, who spoke in memory of his late wife, Sandy Dougherty.

“When Sandy was ill, she was still very involved in the community and loved the idea of Leadership Jefferson,” Dougherty said, referring to a program instituted by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce now in its 14th year. Dougherty and his family sponsor the Teacher of the Year to attend the nine-month program.

“It’s a way for us to give back to the community and remember Sandy,” Dougherty said, when referencing sending Spitzer through the program.

In addition to this sponsorship, the family also presented Willingham with a gift card.

Spitzer and Willingham are eligible to participate in the West Virginia Teacher of the Year competition.