Jefferson County Schools name teacher, service person of the year
CHARLES TOWN – Among many great county teachers, two women were chosen as teacher and service person of the year in Jefferson County. They have served a combined total of 25 years in the local school system.
Sandy Longerbeam is a kindergarten aide, paraprofessional, and an early childhood classroom assistant teacher at Ranson Elementary School, and Katlin Thorsell has served as an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Washington High School for four years since graduating college.
Longerbeam said her list of certificates and training may have contributed to her nomination for service person of the year. Longerbeam has worked in Jefferson County for 21 years, and she has worked 12 of those years at Ranson Elementary School.
Longerbeam is honored to accept the award, but she said she doesn’t do things for recognition.
“I was shocked, but I have worked very hard the last two years,” Longerbeam said.
Although she was not legally required to obtain certification, Longerbeam opted to earn her early childhood classroom assistant teacher certification.
“Knowledge is power,” Longerbeam said. “I try to bring knowledge out of my head to help the classroom teacher and her kids out. That’s why I do what I do.”
Longerbeam said being an assistant teacher at Ranson Elementary School has its challenges, but ultimately the rewards outweigh the struggles.
“The biggest challenge is creating a safe learning and emotional environment for children with bad home lives,” Longerbeam said. “We want to make all children feel like they belong, are accepted and like their opinions matter.”
Watching the children grow in physical, mental and emotional maturity is what keeps Longerbeam at Ranson, however.
“The biggest reward for me is seeing the maturity students achieve at the end of the year and seeing how much they’ve learned,” Longerbeam said.
Longerbeam is also very involved with special needs students in Jefferson County; she works with moderately mentally impaired students during the summer. Although their growth may take more time to flourish, Longerbeam said seeing the students achieve their potential is incredible.
For Thorsell, the rewards are similar.
“Seeing my students be successful and seeing them excel in (Future Farmers of America) is the biggest reward,” Thorsell said.
Thorsell said she was shocked to be chosen for the award because she still feels like a relatively new teacher. She received her master’s of science degree in agriculture with an emphasis in agriculture and extension education from the Davis College School of Design and Community Development at West Virginia University just four years ago, and she has worked at Washington High School as a teacher since graduation.
“It’s a big honor to be awarded teacher of year among so many other teachers with more experience,” Thorsell said. “I think it’s more of a touching honor because I grew up in Jefferson County. I’m a product of the school system in this area.”
Although Thorsell said the most difficult aspect of teaching is balancing time at work and personal time, she still finds time to serve the Jefferson County community in other ways as well.
Thorsell also serves as a volunteer firefighter at Citizens Fire Company in Charles Town as well. Although balancing her time is difficult, she believes she’s getting better as it as time goes on.
Thorsell also credited retired Jefferson County teacher Mitch Fincham as pushing her to be her best when she was in school.
“He saw potential in me, and pushed me to be my best,” Thorsell said. “He suggested I become an agriculture teacher years ago and I adamantly insisted I wasn’t going to go into the education system – years later here I am.”
Thorsell said both teacher and service person of the year are nominated by faculty members of individual schools in the county. The county then reviews applications and interviews are conducted before county selections are made. Thorsell said she and Longerbeam will now apply to be selected for state teacher and service person of the year. Selections will be made later this year.