Brittany Witter, Eagle Valley Middle School seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher, accepts her award Tuesday at the Carson City School District’s Employee of the Year ceremony. (Photo: Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal)
When Brittany Witter student taught at Eagle Valley Middle School, she joked with an eighth grade teacher to save a spot for her return full-time to teach there.
Now she’s happily serving Eagle Valley’s students as a social studies teacher, having been quoted in an interview for her Educator of the Year award that “education is lacking a lot of heart” and that teachers “need to love this job.”
Carson City School District recognized its outstanding educators and employees of the year Tuesday, a typically traditional annual ceremony dedicated to selecting teachers, education support professionals and administrators from the district’s sites based on nominations and interviews conducted by a panel of judges.
The ceremony was hosted by district spokesman Dan Davis in the Carson High School gym and livestreamed for those who were unable to attend as per usual during a school board meeting setting.
Due to school closures last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no ceremony for the 2019-20 year although winners were still selected. The winners from last year were recognized Tuesday as well.
Education Support Professional and Education of the Year winners honored, by site alphabetically, include:
- Lavon Sollberger, administrative assistant, Carson High School
- Ananda Campbell, librarian, Carson High School
- Jillian Shufelt, Distance Education assistant, Pioneer High School
- Daniel Echebarria, Social Studies and English teacher, Pioneer High School
- Mayra Dyer Valarde, paraprofessional ESL, Carson Middle School
- Shelly Randall, LD/special education teacher, Carson Middle School
- Pamela Molleson, paraprofessional, Eagle Valley Middle School
- Brittany Witter, seventh/eighth grade social studies teacher, Eagle Valley Middle School
- Dan Owen, lead custodian, Seeliger Elementary School
- Mary Wright, LD/special education teacher, Seeliger Elementary School
- Janet Ingram, paraprofessional, Bordewich Bray Elementary School
- Heather Thomas, kindergarten teacher, Bordewich Bray Elementary School
- James Phillips, cook/baker, Empire Elementary School
- Kayleigh Robinson, fourth grade teacher, Empire Elementary School
- Jennifer Jacobsen, special education paraprofessional, Fremont Elementary School
- Sandra Huffman, LD/special education teacher, Fremont Elementary School
- Patrick Smith, lead custodian, Fritsch Elementary School
- Tad Williams, Jr., fifth grade teacher, Fritsch Elementary School
- Mike Ulrych, custodian, Mark Twain Elementary School
- Christi Schmid, first grade teacher, Mark Twain Elementary School
- Rosella Jordan, administrative secretary, Student Support Services
- Janet Silvestro, speech language pathologist, Student Support Services
- Rebecca Hawkins, bus driver, Transportation
- Kevin Mezquita, mail delivery driver, Operations Services
- Mark Gruver, lead technology support technician, District Office and Professional Development Center Administration
Top honors Tuesday went to Tad Williams, Jr., fifth grade teacher at Fritsch Elementary School as the Carson City School District’s Educator of the Year.
Williams, Jr., unable to physically attend the meeting but provided comments via FaceTime, thanked his family, his administration at Fritsch and the district for their support.
“It’s an honor to be with all these teachers,” Williams said, adding his family, team of coworkers and district board members have helped him “not to sweat the small stuff in life” and to become a better educator.
Shufelt, distance education assistant at Pioneer High School, also was recognized as the Education Support Professional (ESP) Employee of the Year.
Fritsch Principal Dan Brown was honored as the district’s Administrator of the Year.
Brown was selected based on his ability to foster an educational environment in which students can learn as well as think back with pleasure and reflect on many fun and memorable moments of their young lives. Whether it is being duct-taped to the wall or leading the charge on a dress-up day, Brown is known among colleagues as a stalwart leader who is passionate and dedicated to education supporting school culture and staff self-care. He helped facilitate a “Staff Restorative Circle” in which teachers were able to open up about feelings and fears about COVID-19. In February, Fritsch lost two staff members to cancer. Brown took time to honor them and held a memorial.
Williams and Shufelt were selected from 25 site winners including 11 teachers and 14 ESP employees who were selected from peers and administrators from various sites and schools within the district. The Administrator of the Year was selected from nominations from 27 school administrators. Each candidate endured a series of strenuous interview questions from a panel of comprehensive judges. The panel then selected one ESP employee of the year, one educator of the year and one administrator of the year.
“Each of these individuals regularly inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn, and have earned the respect and admiration of students, parents and colleagues,” Superintendent Richard Stokes said. “Great teachers and employees are the core of a great educational system. They change the lives of individual students daily. These winners are not only wonderful representatives for our school district, but they also make profound differences in our community each day.”
Williams has been teaching with the district for nine years and is a Rodeo World Champion for team roping. He earned the World Champion Title at the 2017 Indian National Finals. He applies the principles taught by Dr. James Comer, a professor of child psychiatry at Yale, which reads, “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” Williams makes it a priority to make those connections with students. In his classroom, he fosters a program called “I Wish My Teacher Knew,” which gives his students an opportunity to share things about themselves.
Williams now will have the opportunity to compete statewide for Nevada Teacher of the Year.
Shufelt works at Pioneer High School as the online lab staff serving ninth through 12th grades, providing credit recovery options, assisting the distance education coordinator and serving as the student leadership adviser and the speech and debate team adviser. She played an integral role in helping Pioneer achieve its highest graduation rate ever. Before Pioneer, she spent two years teaching English in Mexico and now assists the Pioneer High office with Spanish interpreting in parent conferences.
One of the panel committee members in the interview judging the Employee of the Year Awards said Shufelt reminded her of the Fred Rogers story about seeing scary things in the news and how his mother always told him to “look for the helpers.”
“The most important thing I’ve learned is that a good educator teaches students, not lessons,” Shufelt said. “Education is most definitely all about the students. They must be the center of the educational experience.”Carson City School District spokesman Dan Davis contributed to this article.