Board honors exemplary employees

Board honors exemplary employees


The Board of Education honored five Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) employees during the Dec. 8 meeting for being the difference in the lives of children and their commitment to the school system. Honored were Luanne Cochran, Rebecca Irwin, Pauline Johnson, Dan Meltsner and Ashley Valenzuela.

Cochran is an instructional resource teacher at C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School and was selected for recognition by Barnhart Principal Troy Barnes for ensuring all students are successful and supported in learning. Cochran has been teaching for 37 years and provides individual and group instruction for struggling students. She coordinates necessary interventions to ensure all learners are supported and works closely with students in need of additional assistance. As the instructional resource teacher, Cochran meets regularly with all grade-level teams, new teachers and anyone in need of assistance to provide them with the support and structure to be successful. She consistently researches instructional materials, interventions, methods and strategies to assist students. In his letter of recommendation, Barnes said Cochran’s work ethic is unparalleled. “She works hours above and beyond to plan, deliver and support teaching and learning. Her work with special education students has been the greatest contribution to our school. She believes in every student and provides them with the skills to be successful in school and beyond,” Barnes wrote.

Irwin is a second-grade teacher at Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary School and was chosen for recognition by Brown Principal Christienne Warren for her dedication to children and advocating for their best interests. Irwin is a longtime teacher at Brown and has worked at the school for nearly 30 years. She is often one of the first teachers to arrive at work and the last to leave in the evenings. She is known among her colleagues as a teacher who always has the best interest of students at heart. Irwin’s commitment and dedication is evident in her lessons, interactions with her students and the time and effort she takes to ensure that all of her students have the tools and skills necessary to achieve. Warren is in her second year as principal at Brown and said she knew when she first met Irwin that she was a teacher of the utmost quality. “I speak with many parents who were former students of Mrs. Irwin and their stories are all the same; she was their favorite teacher. If you ask Mrs. Irwin why she dedicates so many countless hours to planning and preparing, she would tell you that her students deserve nothing less,” Warren wrote in a nomination letter.

Johnson is a vice principal at Henry E. Lackey High School, where she has been an instrumental part of the administrative team for the past seven school years. She was chosen for recognition before the Board by Lackey Principal Kathy Perriello for her dedication and commitment to students and the school community. She oversees the master schedule, the testing and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) programs and new teachers. Johnson is also the principal’s designee and demonstrates an exemplary work ethic in all the she does. She models a positive attitude and holds high expectations for all students and staff. Johnson is also one of the first staff members to arrive at school, and often stays late to assist with whatever tasks or duties need to be done or to support anyone in need of assistance. Johnson announced her plans to retire at the end of the school year and continues to maintain an exemplary work ethic. In her letter of nomination, Perriello said Johnson’s dedication to the school community is admirable. “Polly Johnson is the epitome of an outstanding vice principal; she cares about students and staff. She is a dedicated ‘Lackey Charger’ who promotes the values and school motto of life-long learning, honor, respect and success,” Perriello wrote.

Meltsner is a technology education teacher at John Hanson Middle School and currently works with students in the Gateway to Technology program. His passion for technology and teaching is evident in his lessons, interactions with students and sponsorship of several science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) based programs. Meltsner works with students to design and model robots, write computer programs to design objects that can be printed three dimensionally and to learn about exploring flight in space. As the sponsor of the Vex Robotics, Sea Perch and Lego teams, Meltsner often spends time beyond the school day researching how to enhance technology programs, building ramps to test robots and assisting his colleagues with computer help. As a former computer teacher at Hanson, Meltsner engaged students in projects that supported other content areas, such as helping them create their science and history fair projects. He is also the related arts department chair and school web master. Hanson Principal Susan McCormick said Meltsner is well known among students and staff for his knowledge and willingness to help anyone in need. “Mr. Meltsner is known as ‘Dan the Man’ by his colleagues because he is always willing and able to assist staff with computer needs. His enthusiasm and commitment to technology education provides hundreds of students a first-hand experience to the world of technology,” McCormick wrote in a nomination letter.

Valenzuela is a first-grade teacher at T.C. Martin Elementary School and is known as a leader among her colleagues. She provides lessons that are exciting and engaging for students and focuses on meeting the needs of all levels of learners. She serves as the first-grade team leader and contributes to the Teacher Assistance Teams (TAT) at Martin, which help teachers with students who are experiencing behavioral or academic difficulties. Valenzuela also chairs several school committees, including the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) and staff morale committees and co-sponsors the annual talent show. As the PBIS chair, she runs monthly meetings, reports discipline data to staff and creates innovative and fun ways for students to focus on positive behavior. Valenzuela also attends meetings for her special education students to better monitor their progress. Martin Principal Greg Miller said Valenzuela is the school’s biggest supporter and an exemplary teacher. “Ashley is a true leader at our school. Last year through her efforts in coordinating positive events for students to reward acceptable behavior, our school saw a 30 percent reduction in the number of referrals. Our school has become a better place by her work,” Miller wrote in a nomination statement.

The Board honors several exemplary employees each month.

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 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 Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, 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.

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