Throughout our school years, we may not recall the hours spent mastering long division, the day we grasped the concept of photosynthesis or the exact moment we learned to spell hippopotamus. But, chances are, we remember some of the educators who taught us these practical lessons. Most of us had that one teacher (or, if we’re lucky, more than one) who not only explained concepts in ways that sparked an “aha” moment, but also assisted in shaping us into the people we are today. That’s why we present a feature each year, highlighting Coastal Virginia’s Top Teachers—to honor the men and women who dedicate their time, energy and resources to motivating, inspiring and teaching life’s most basic and valuable lessons to the generations of tomorrow.
How Were The Top Teachers Chosen?
We accepted online nominations Oct. 1–Nov. 30, inviting people to tell us about a local educator who deserves recognition. From there, an editorial panel determined the following teachers to be at the top of their class, so to speak, when it comes to connecting with students and igniting within them a steadfast passion for learning. Congratulations to Coastal Virginia’s Top Teachers of 2017!
As Visual Arts Teacher at Hampton Roads Academy in Newport News, Christine Contakes understands the importance of establishing respect with her students as a way of motivating them to learn and excel. With 28 years of educating experience, Contakes finds inspiration from the people surrounding her, at home and at school.
Dana Wakefield learns something new everyday from students and teachers as Math Specialist at Willard Model Elementary School in Norfolk. Inspired by her own math teacher growing up, Wakefield was encouraged never to give up on a difficult math problem, which she now does with her own students.
Elyse Vaughan had worked in the chemistry industry for more than a decade before becoming a chemistry teacher, and she's found it's been a rewarding transition because it puts the human element into a world full of formulas. Her high school students at Nansemond Suffolk have found the excitement in chemistry through her teaching and also understand difficult concepts through hands-on activities that really get them involved.
With a love of language, Margaret Beckner uses French to teach her Cox High School students in Virginia Beach to view the world through an entirely different perspective. Not only does she challenge and motivate her students, but she challenges herself, learning something new about the language every day to make the classroom better.
Science teacher Ryan Nunley makes learning fun and interactive for his pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students at St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Newport News. Nunley helps his students build their confidence and motivates them to think further so that they can overcome challenges, in the classroom and in life.