Shenandoah County Public Schools’ Division Teacher of the Year is Jennifer D. Cook, a special education teacher at Strasburg High School.
Cook was among 10 teachers nominated for the award.
“I am highly honored to be Division Teacher of the Year,” Cook said. “I go to work every single day for the students who sit in front of me.”
A few of those students are Damion Myers, 18, a rising senior, and Kobe Hallman, 15, a rising sophomore.
Myers knows he wants to work with animals. He hopes to attend Lord Fairfax Community College and then transfer to another school that will allow him to major in something that will enable him to work with animals.
“She taught me to advocate (for himself), ask for help, always follow up and to work hard,” Myers said when asked about what he learned in Cook’s class.
Hallman said Cook taught him to never give up.
“If you keep trying, you will always have someone help you with it,” Cook said. “I teach them to advocate for themselves, that life is hard but you get out of it what you put into it. You never give up.”
Cook, 51, became a teacher four years ago.
“It’s been a long road to get here,” she said.
Cook has worked as a custodian at Signal Knob Middle School in Strasburg, had her own cleaning business and worked at Fox’s Pizza. She also worked with students in a special education class, and that’s when she discovered her calling.
“I just really loved it,” Cook said.
She decided she wanted to become a teacher’s aide, so she enrolled in 2009 at Old Dominion University, earning her bachelor’s degree in 2011
For seven years, Cook worked as a teacher’s aide, working mainly with one student, Wade, from his sixth through 12th grade.
“I was scared to death but I did it. We clicked. I am in contact with him still to this day,” she said.
It was during Wade’s junior year that Cook enrolled at Liberty University to work on her master’s degree.
“We both graduated together,” she recalled. Wade graduated high school in 2015 on the same day that she obtained her master’s degree.
Cook, who attended Strasburg High School “many years ago,” said she then accepted the position of special education and resource teacher at the school.
“When I was offered the job, it was overwhelming. I was nervous but I know that is where I wanted to be,” Cook said.
Other teachers and employees recognized included:
• New Teacher of the Year: Allison Bright, a special education teacher at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School.
• Employee of the Year: Linda Hull, a secretary at the Central High School Counseling Center.
• Team of the Year: Michele Hepner, Ricky Bowley, Crystal Lynn, instructors in the BRIDGE Program at Triplett Tech.
Teachers of the Year:
• Kristen Lute, a kindergarten teacher at Ashby Lee Elementary School.
• Brian Cary, a math teacher at Central High School.
• Lata Tandel, an English language teacher at North Fork Middle School.
• Michelle Harper, an English 7 teacher at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School.
• Todd Narcross, a physical education teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
• Megan Woods, an English teacher at Stonewall Jackson High School.
• Heather Fellers, an art teacher at Signal Knob Middle School.
• Anna Bartley, an English language teacher at W.W. Robinson Elementary School.
• Katherine Klus, a dual enrollment statistics and calculus teacher at Triplett Tech/Massanutten Regional Governor’s School.