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Board honors exemplary employees for February

The Board of Education of Charles County at its Feb. 14 meeting honored five Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) staff members for their commitment to the school system and student success. Each month, the Board honors staff members chosen by their school principals for recognition who demonstrate their dedication to teaching and learning.

Honored were Edward Davis of General Smallwood Middle School, Leigh Esmond of William A. Diggs Elementary School, Ava Morton of Thomas Stone High School, Andrea Smoot of the F.B. Gwynn Educational Center and Inthanong “Pandy” Watrous of J.P. Ryon Elementary School.

Teaching for the past 26 years, Davis has spent the last 17 at Smallwood teaching math – both inclusion and accelerated classes. While he is an experienced teacher, Davis continues to grow as an educator, Smallwood Principal Brenda Tillotson said. “I have witnessed Mr. Davis grow from a very traditional math teacher to one who is open to trying new ideas,” she said. Davis uses technology and cooperative learning strategies in his classroom, including those he gleaned in Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program trainings. “Mr. Davis can always be counted upon as a role model at Smallwood,” Tillotson said. “He is very loyal to the school and supportive of the administration.” Davis volunteers to assist students with tutoring before and after school and during lunch.

As a first-grade teacher at Diggs, Esmond runs a student-centered classroom that serves as a model to colleagues and new teachers. Esmond is a forward thinker who is self-motivated and team oriented. “Ms. Esmond is a team leader and works to ensure all members of her team are well prepared for instruction each week,” Diggs Principal Ben Harrington said. Esmond is an integral part of the school’s Professional Learning Team and plans professional development opportunities for both instruction and social emotional learning. “It is incredible to see how Ms. Esmond uses the relationships she builds with staff to help further our profession,” Harrington said. “She goes above and beyond with parents building trust to ensure her students feel welcomed and supported.”

The students at Thomas Stone High School are familiar with Morton, but none more than seniors. As the school’s college and career advisor, Morton works closely with students poised for life after graduation. “Ms. Morton works to see that every senior has a plan for the next steps for life after high school,” Shanif Pearl, principal of Thomas Stone, said. Morton plans the school’s College Application Campaign ensuring every senior has the experience of applying to at least one college before leaving high school. “She strives to help students see their potential, when sometimes the students do not see the potential in themselves,” Pearl said. Morton plans special events such as Black History Month programs and the awards ceremony for underclassmen. Her positive and can-do attitude is treasured at Stone.

“Her attitude and positive disposition make her a pleasure to work with,” Pearl said. “She moves throughout the day with a joyous greeting, infectious smile and exuberant demeanor.”

Smoot has been a fixture at Gwynn for the past 17 years where she is an instructional assistant having worked in the infants and toddlers and the emotional adjustment programs. “Whether it is learning an intervention or new instructional program, Ms. Smoot is eager to learn what is necessary to ensure student success,” Gwynn Principal Daphne Burns said. Smoot covers for teachers who must be out of the classroom and plans activities for students. Her artistic ability is used to decorate bulletin boards and hallways. She implements art lessons for students and collaborates with teachers to ensure she is prepared to assist with instructional activities. Rarely absent from work, Smoot believes being present for students helps them make academic and behavior gains. “Whether it’s handling the behavioral needs of a student or helping with instruction, Ms. Smoot completes all tasks with precision,” Burns said. “She is a joy to have at the Gwynn Educational Center,” Burns said. “She believes every person, whether a child or adult, deserves another chance.”

Watrous works as an instructional assistant at Ryon with students in the Achieve program. “She takes the time to understand each student and how to engage them,” Ryon’s acting Principal Diedra Barnett said. Watrous ensures students are involved in inclusive activities where she engages them in conversations and friendships. “If there is something to be done, she always helps no questions asked,” Barnett said. Watrous is one of the first people to step in to help others. “She immediately jumps in and helps,” Barnett said. She also makes herself available to other students outside of those she works with daily. “Students in all grades know and love seeing her,” Barnett said of Watrous.

About CCPS

Charles County Public Schools provides 27,598 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 37 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.


CCPS provides nondiscriminatory equal access to school facilities in accordance with its Use of Facilities rules to designated youth groups (including, but not limited to, the Boy Scouts).