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Board of Education honors exemplary staff members

The Board of Education honored five educators during its Dec. 12 meeting for their dedication and commitment to teaching and learning.

Those honored included Jill Locco, a science teacher at John Hanson Middle School; Alexandra Pobst, a fourth-grade teacher at T.C. Martin Elementary School; Stephenie Wash, a business teacher at Henry E. Lackey High School; Christina White, an instructional assistant (IA) at Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary School; and Keyanna Williams, a first-grade teacher at C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School.

At Hanson, Locco instills in her students a sense of curiosity, wonder and an interest in learning. “She goes above and beyond to provide personalized support, mentorship and encouragement, ensuring that every student reaches their full potential,” Hanson Principal Ben Kohlhorst said. Locco is the seventh-grade team leader and has sponsored the National Junior Honor Society for years. She hosts an annual Thanksgiving meal in her classroom and organizes the Reading Buddies program, a partnership between Hanson and nearby elementary schools. Locco has an interest in the environment which she shares with students. She recently organized the planting of more than dozen trees around the school campus, organizes students to pick up trash along the Potomac River and coordinates wetlands projects with staff from the Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Education Center. “I am never worried or concerned with any project that has a Jill Locco stamp of approval,” Kohlhorst said. “Hanson is filled with an amazing team of people. Jill Locco is the engine of positivity and love that creates, sustains and impacts that positive school culture.”

Pobst teaches all fourth-grade students who are in the inclusion program at Martin where she creates engaging and layered lessons. “They grab students’ attention,” Martin Principal Ethel Hosendorf said. “She is known as a caring, fun, welcoming and creative teacher.” Pobst began her career as an instructional assistant and graduated from Salisbury University with a bachelor’s in elementary education before earning her master’s degree in education. Pobst leads the robotics team at Martin and is a team player among her colleagues. “She works with members of the fourth-grade team and collaborates with her special education co-teacher in planning and modelling age-appropriate lessons for students.” Pobst cultivates a safe, loving and fun classroom atmosphere and treats each student with respect and as an individual. Before leaving on her recent honeymoon, Pobst ensured her absence would not affect her students’ academic path by having lesson plans in place and providing her students access to the content they would need. Her students knew they were being held to the same expectations while she was out of the classroom. “She creates engaging lessons that grab her students’ attention and keeps them excited about learning,” Hosendorf said.

Lackey students in Wash’s business class not only learn content, but how it relates to their lives outside of school. “Mrs. Wash strives to establish a climate and culture in her classroom and in our school where students and staff are both held to a high standard,” Cheryl K. Davis, principal of Lackey, said. Davis has witnessed Wash’s passion for education from both an educator’s and parent’s perspective. Davis was an assistant principal at North Point High School when Wash’s children attended the school. “As a parent, she was passionate and vocal about the education her children received,” Davis said. “Now as her principal, I have witnessed in a few short months, that same passion for Lackey students.” Wash has established a classroom climate and culture where students and staff are held to a high standard. She is sought out by students who are not in her classes for advice in other subjects and as the business department chair supporting six employees, Wash helps implement curriculum, adapt instructional strategies and navigate gradebooks. “She has gone above and beyond for her colleagues,” Davis said, adding that Wash not only advocates for the school’s business department but for ways to improve the school to benefit all students.

White has spent the past five years at Dr. Brown working as an IA in the Three’s Program and the prekindergarten classroom. “Ms. White has the willingness to learn whatever it takes to help our teachers,” Dr. Brown Principal Karen Lewis said. White has taken classes to build her skills in the classroom, learning strategies on how to work successfully with students. She is working on earning a teaching degree and certificate. White can be counted on to take the lead in the classroom when the teacher is out and makes it a point to know not only her students, but their parents and families. Last year she was the assistant coach to the school’s cheerleading team and is a volunteer with her church.

Williams, a first-grade teacher at Barnhart, is no stranger to Charles County Public Schools (CCPS). She graduated from Thomas Stone High School where she was active in the Teacher Academy of Maryland (TAM) program. Williams attended Towson University where she earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. In an August 2020 piece “Dual Pandemics: Covid and Closure, Race and Equity,” published by the Maryland State Education Association, the state affiliate of the National Education Association, Williams said she challenges herself to create a culturally responsive classroom while building relationships with her students. “I felt it important to check in with my students and team members to see how they were doing mentally because I was experiencing such feelings of pain and sadness as I watched history continue to repeat itself,” Williams said. “I can only imagine how others were feeling. I asked myself — What can I do to support my students and staff at this time? How can we stand up for justice in education?”

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).