2020 District-Wide Teachers of the Year

2020 District-Wide Teachers of the Year
Posted on 05/20/2020

Congratulations to Emma Neave, an 8
th-grade English teacher at John F. Kennedy Middle School, who has been selected as the Suffolk Public Schools’ 2020 City-Wide Teacher of the Year.

Congratulations also to Gwendolyn Mann of Pioneer Elementary School, who is the district-wide Elementary School Teacher of the Year … Sharon Criner of King’s Fork High School, who is the district-wide High School Teacher of the Year … and Sahmod Earls of Lakeland High School, who has been selected as the 2020 City-Wide Rookie Teacher of the Year.

 2020 City-Wide Teacher of the Year

Emma Neave

Emma Neave

Now in her 6th year of teaching, Emma Neave is known to many as an instructional leader, a superior and inspiring teacher, and an advocate for education who works tirelessly to meet the instructional requirements necessary to impact her students, regardless of their educational needs. Emma is very active in her community and in her church, where she serves as a member of the Youth and Christian Education Committee, pianist, and recording clerk.

"If we want to impact a student truly, educators must acknowledge and address all of a student's needs," Neave explains.

In the classroom, students know Neave for her exciting and engaging lessons and methods of teaching. "Ms. Neave makes learning easy and fun," said one of her former students. "She is always outgoing and teaches in a way no other teacher does. If you don't get it the first time, she'll most definitely strive her hardest to help you understand, even if it has to be one on one."

Neave believes that every individual, regardless of circumstances, can learn, and as an educator, it is her duty to ignite her student's love for learning. "It is our responsibility to ensure each child has the proper support and encouragement to reach their full potential," explained Neave. "Everyone is smart in their own way, and teachers must draw upon students' strengths while helping them to improve where they struggle."

"Emma inspires [us teachers] as she serves as eighth-grade team leader, a mentor supporting two mentees, and working with co-teaching regularly," said one of her colleagues. "I have worked in 5 different school divisions and observed hundreds of teachers, and I can easily say Emma is one of the most talented teachers I have worked with,"

Intending to improve curriculum and assessments, and ensuring fair and quality assessments for all Virginia Students, Neave served on the Division Curriculum and Assessment Team and the State of Virginia's Grade 8 Reading SOL Committee.

Whether her students are working collaboratively or engaging in a new project or activity, Neave exhibits tremendous care and passion for each child, and goes above and beyond to make learning fun!

Neave earned her Masters of Art in Teaching from Sweet Briar College. 


2020 Elementary Teacher of the Year for Suffolk Public Schools


Gwendolyn Mann

Gwendolyn Mann

Gwendolyn Mann, a 2nd-grade teacher at Pioneer Elementary School, has been named the 2020 Elementary School Teacher of the Year.  Now in her 11th year of teaching, she is known to be creative, compassionate, talented, flexible, and willing to go the extra mile to assure student success. "My goal as a teacher is to instill a passion for learning within my students by providing them with an educational environment that is encouraging and positive," explained Mann.  

Through teaching, Mann is able to engage her students in fascinating lessons, using strategies that address each child's learning style. She believes that her teaching method of hand-on, mind-on, and welcoming and enthusiastic class environment will help students achieve academic success and build their self-confidence to continue taking risks during the learning process. "Throughout all of our interactions, it is obvious her energy and zest for education has been an inspiration to many, her enthusiasm for teaching contagious," explained one of her colleagues.

Mann communicates with her student's families daily, making connections with 100% of the students' families in her class. "Mrs. Mann's knowledge of school programs to help her students, as well as her teaching style is one for all educators to emulate," explained the parent of a student in Ms. Mann's class. "The confidence that both of my children gained during their second-grade year with Mrs. Mann is a priceless gift that will carry with them through their lives."

Mann currently serves on the Pioneer Elementary Leadership and PBIS teams. She is also her grade level chairperson, the building representative for the Suffolk Reading Council, Chairperson of the March of Dimes Committee and has given her time to volunteer as a coach for Girls On the Run for five years. She also regularly participates with enthusiasm during professional development, leadership, and staff meetings.

Mann earned her Masters of Science in Teaching from Old Dominion University.


2020 High School Teacher of the Year for Suffolk Public Schools


Sharon Criner

Sharon Criner

Sharon Criner, a science teacher at King's Fork High School, has been named High School Teacher of the Year.  In her 7th year of teaching, she is known for showing passion for both her subject matter and the students she teaches.

Criner believes that as a teacher, she is not only responsible for teaching content, but she is also responsible for helping her students grow as individuals. Her goal is to help her students become productive members of the global community. "One of the most important things that I can do for all my students is to show them that I believe in them," explained Criner. "I do not accept the idea that some people are just not good at science and math from my students. I show them that, when given the proper tools, anyone can be successful."

"Ms. Criner showed respect and expressed a genuine interest in my child that was reassuring. I felt like part of a team, and even though she had many other students, she took the time to address my child's needs as an individual. We never felt like just another number," explained the parent of a child in her class.

As a teacher, Criner takes her profession seriously and plays an instrumental role in evolving the minds of the future. "She has an informed interest in instructional planning and can be counted upon to come up with an effective solution to most of our instructional issues and concerns," explained King's Fork High Principal, Derrick Bryant. "This award would only service to solidify what we at King's Fork High School already know, that this candidate doesn't just teach Chemistry, she is positively influencing young people."

In sharing her love for the KFHS Bulldogs, and having a vision for building a strong sense of school pride and positive culture at KFHS, Criner worked with IB students to host the first Homecoming Dance in 10 years at the school as a fundraiser to raise money for the IB program. She has also served as a Senior Class Sponsor at KFHS for three years. She gives back to her community by volunteering with her church, working with youth, serving on the Finance Council, and being active in the Saint Mary's Women's Club. Also, Criner's family has adopted a street to clean up and participates in other clean up days as well.

Criner earned her Bachelor's degree in Chemistry from Virginia Tech.


2020 Rookie Teacher of the Year for Suffolk Public Schools
Sahmod Earls

Sahmod Earls


Sahmod Earls, an Agriculture Education teacher at Lakeland High School, has been selected as the City-Wide Rookie Teacher of the Year. He is known for his kindness, patience, and creating a place of comfort for his students, where they feel safe and know that he genuinely cares for them and their future. 


The rookie teacher is a graduate of Lakeland High School and takes pride in returning to his alma mater to teach. "I don't believe I chose to be a teacher, but the profession chose me," explained Earls.

One student stated, "Another reason why I love the class is the fact I have a voice there. I am free to not only voice my opinion, but explain my reasoning. Mr. Earls shows great respect, and doesn't judge me and will reason with me instead of denying me if he feels different." Another shared, "There is never a dull moment in this class, and I feel as if I grow and develop as a person every minute I continue to spend in the classroom." 


Earls' character has made him a favorite of many of his students. "His willingness to listen and attempt new strategies and techniques in the classroom will doubtlessly lead to years of instructional success and student engagement," explained Lakeland High School Principal, Douglas Wagoner. "Ultimately, Mr. Earls has done a masterful job of blending all of the input he receives into his effective brand of instruction."


Earls earned his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Virginia State University.

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