2023-2024 IWCS Teachers of the Year
Scott Graham is in his second year as a math and physics teacher at Windsor High School, teaching Dual Enrollment Precalculus, Dual Enrollment Calculus, Dual Enrollment Probability and Statistics, and Physics. Before coming to Windsor, he spent twelve years at King’s Fork High School in Suffolk, VA. Originally from Barlow, Ohio, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY and a commission in the United States Army as an Aviation Officer, eventually retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2010. While still in the Army, he earned a Master of Science in Business Organizational Management from the University of La Verne and a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University. In addition to his teaching role, Mr. Graham drives a variety of sports and academic teams to away matches, works as a member of the chain crew for junior varsity and varsity football games, and serves as a judge for Scholastic Bowl matches. Mr. Graham currently resides in Suffolk, VA with his wife and has two grown sons.
Faith White is in her third year with Isle of Wight County Schools as a third-grade teacher at Windsor Elementary School. Before joining ‘The Hive’ at Windsor Elementary, she worked for nine years in neighboring districts as a Third Grade Teacher and Fifth Grade Math and Science Teacher. A graduate of Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina, Faith holds degrees in Elementary Education (K-6) and Special Education: General Curriculum (K-12). Throughout her twelve-year career in education, she has had the privilege to serve in various leadership roles within the schools she has been a part of. Currently, she is the Grade Level Chairperson, a New Teacher Mentor, and on the School Leadership Team and VLA Core Curriculum Committee. Her passion for education shines through in her dedication to supporting the whole child; she strives to meet students where they are, recognizes that students thrive when they are treated as more than just a test score, and celebrates each child's unique talents, interests, and potential. Faith, a native of Southampton County, still resides there with her husband and their beloved lab.
Rebecca Cox is the art teacher at Smithfield Middle School. A native of Yorktown, she graduated from Mary Washington College with a bachelor’s degree in art history. While living in South Carolina, she earned her teaching certificate through a career changers program. Over her eighteen years of teaching, fourteen of those years have been in Isle of Wight County, first at Carrsville Elementary, and then SMS. She had the privilege of serving in various leadership roles throughout her career, including assisting with an arts integration initiative at Carrsville Elementary. At SMS, she has been a new teacher mentor, currently serves as a BETA club sponsor, and leads an after school Art Club. Her passion for art and her students is evident from the moment you step foot in her classroom. She provides her middle schoolers with opportunities to explore their creativity, hone artistic skills and experiment with self expression. Rebecca strives to provide her students with a space that celebrates their unique skills and abilities. She also believes that art allows her students to develop real world skills they can take with them into the future, far beyond her art classroom. Rebecca lives in Carrollton with her husband and their two children.
Michelle Pealo, Computer Science Teacher at Carrollton Elementary School, has dedicated the last 19 years to the field of teaching and learning, with the past 8 years in service to the Isle of Wight County Schools (IWCS) community. Originally from Collingswood, NJ, she earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a masters degree in Curriculum & Instruction from The College of William and Mary. Within IWCS, Michelle’s commitment to education goes beyond the curriculum. She passionately coaches Carrollton Elementary’s Great Computer Challenge teams, fostering an environment where students can explore and excel in the realm of technology, and serves as a School Information Officer, ensuring smooth communication and coordination within the school and community. Outside of the division, she shares her expertise as a curriculum writer with the nonprofit organization CodeVA and the vice president of the Virginia chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA). What sets Michelle apart as an educator is her dedication to teaching children to not just consume technology, but to control it, encouraging them to be active creators rather than passive consumers. Her approach to education also involves helping students understand their own cognitive processes, promoting self-awareness, and enabling creative self-expression. Michelle loves that her role helps her to shape the minds of future generations and instill in them the belief that they have the power to change the world through technology and their own unique abilities. She currently resides in Carrollton with her husband and child, who attends Isle of Wight County Schools.
Susan Steiner joined Isle of Wight County Schools as the PreKindergarten teacher at Carrsville Elementary (CES) in February 2023. Before joining CES, she taught PreK and Kindergarten for 20 years in North Carolina and Texas. Originally from Indiana, Susan graduated from Indiana University in 1991 with a BS in Elementary Education. She received her PreK certification from East Carolina University in 2008. Susan has always been dedicated to ensuring that our youngest learners and their families have a meaningful and successful beginning to their school careers. She prides herself in providing an inclusive environment where children develop and grow academically as well as socially and emotionally. She enjoys reading, boating and traveling; most often visiting her children. She lives in Suffolk with her husband and is a proud Mom to her six grown children.
Sarah Hirst is a special education teacher at Hardy Elementary School. Currently, she is serving students in kindergarten and first grade. This year is her seventh year teaching special education in both inclusion and self-contained elementary classrooms. She is a graduate of Smithfield High School, Virginia Tech, and Liberty University. Sarah strives to assist every student in reaching their maximum potential by providing them with the supports they need to access their education. It is her greatest joy to see her students meet their goals and celebrate their own successes. She has served as a mentor to new teachers for the last several years, and enjoys collaborating with her school and district team to meet the unique needs of these exceptional students. Mrs. Hirst lives in Smithfield with her husband and son, and loves running into students in the community.
Jade Jones, a special education teacher at Westside Elementary, brings a wealth of experience to her role as she enters her 11th year of teaching at the elementary level. In her third year with Isle of Wight County Schools, she has worked with various grade levels, spanning from second grade to sixth grade. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Virginia Tech and a Master's degree in Special Education from Old Dominion University. Inside the classroom, her expertise extends across all content areas, and her ability to connect with students is unparalleled. Jade not only meets students at their individual learning levels, but also empowers them to reach new heights. Her collaborative skills shine through as she seamlessly coordinates with parents and administration. In addition to her classroom duties, she serves as a member of the Leadership Team and the Data Wise committee, where she takes on the role of Process Facilitator for her school. Jade has earned the respect and affection of both students and parents alike, making her a true blessing to all who have the privilege of knowing her. Jade lives with her husband and two children in her hometown of Suffolk.
Caitlin Dixon is in her ninth year of teaching and has spent her entire teaching career at Georgie D. Tyler Middle School. She grew up in Williamsburg, VA and attended school in James City County. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a bachelor's degree in Sociology. After working for three years as a Senior Inventory Analyst at Lumber Liquidators, she decided to complete the career switcher program at ODU. For eight years she taught 6th grade English and History. This year she is only focused on English, which is her passion. She has served on the School Leadership Team for 6th grade, been the English Content Chair for GTMS, and participated in multiple curriculum crews. She was also the leader for House Reveur during the duration of the house systems. Caitlin builds meaningful relationships with her students and is someone on whom they can rely. She loves teaching, and lesson planning serves as a creative outlet for her. Every year she enjoys challenging herself to improve her lessons and develop new ways to teach her students. Her classroom is one where students can collaborate, learn how to treat others, and gain exposure to a variety of books. Caitlin lives in Surry, VA with her husband and two daughters.
Towanda Mayes is a dedicated biology teacher with 22 years of classroom experience. She was born and raised in Capron, VA, and attended and graduated from Southampton High School. She has taught middle school life science and is currently teaching high school biology and AP biology at Smithfield High School. She has been teaching at Smithfield High School for 17 years. She earned her bachelors’ degree in biology from Virginia State University. She is a lifelong learner who is passionate about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education that focuses on real world applications in science. She is passionate about helping students achieve their full academic potential and personal goals. Towanda is known for her patience and her ability to connect and inspire her students to develop critical thinking skills that will allow them to become college, career, and life ready. She believes that every student has the potential to succeed regardless of their background or circumstances. She has served as the science department chairperson and she has been the senior class sponsor the past nine years. She resides in Portsmouth, VA with her husband and two daughters.