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JoAnna Wilson-Jones

Nicole Lewis

Tirzah Sarro-Jaynes


Hampton City Schools announces 2023-2024 Teachers of the Year

Hampton City Schools announced its elementary, middle, high school, and overall teacher of the year at its Celebration of Excellence: Back-to-School Kickoff Event on Friday, August 18, 2023, at the Boo Williams Sportsplex.

HCS Middle School and Overall Teacher of the Year

Congratulations to JoAnna Wilson-Jones, an eighth grade math teacher at Syms Middle School. She was named the Middle School Teacher of the Year and the overall HCS Teacher of the Year.

“I am truly fortunate and blessed. I extend my deepest gratitude in being selected for both Middle School Teacher of the Year and Hampton's Teacher of the Year. Thank you all for your support,” shared Wilson-Jones.

Wilson-Jones shared the following on her application when asked about how she ensures that education transcends the classroom:

“Education goes beyond the four walls of a classroom. The old saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ remains true to this day. Parents and other stakeholders play an important part in education. Education starts at home and also extends into the classroom. When the parents are invested and interested, no matter the background, student achievement can improve. For example, I worked the Pi Night one year, where parents, stakeholders, and students had the opportunity to participate in hands-on activities. They participated in various activities, learning math and collaborating with others.”

Another way in which I have ensured that education transcends beyond the classroom is by utilizing the students' interests in the lesson. For example, when a student has an interest in basketball, I can incorporate that into a lesson. Having them shoot baskets into the waste basket can turn into a percentage problem, a proportion example, or a probability and statistics example. When the lesson is relevant and the link to real-life experiences is made, it can help education transcend beyond the classroom.”

“We are so thrilled that everyone else also recognizes what Ms. Wilson-Jones does daily. She is a phenomenal teacher that is willing to go above and beyond to ensure that her students receive the best education,” said Syms principal Dr. Patrina Jenkins. “More importantly, she takes time to develop a positive rapport with her students in the classroom. We are proud to say that the Teacher of the Year for Hampton City Schools is a Spartan!”

HCS Elementary School Teacher of the Year

Congratulations to Nicole Lewis, a kindergarten teacher at Forrest Elementary School, for being named the 2023-2024 HCS Elementary School Teacher of the Year.

“I was very surprised and honored to be chosen as Hampton City Schools Elementary Teacher of the Year! I am incredibly thankful for all of the teachers, administrators and support staff of HCS. I have learned so much and wouldn’t be the teacher I am today without them! I am especially thankful for my supportive friends and family,” said Lewis.

Lewis shared the following on her Teacher of the Year application when asked to describe a lesson or unit that defines her as a teacher:

“I believe that every student has the ability to learn, but it is my job as a teacher to find the best approach to reach every child. Using hands-on practice is one of the best ways to teach basic math skills to students. I like to use a variety of manipulatives for students to practice math skills. Teaching patterns in kindergarten helps students build a foundation that prepares them for more difficult math concepts in later years. There are many opportunities throughout the day for teaching patterns in kindergarten. Children learn to recognize, create, copy, and extend patterns through hands-on practice. I like to start by introducing patterns in whole group by playing a fun game using motions and music. I clap, snap, stomp, or pat a pattern over and over and I ask students to repeat the pattern. We then break into four groups and rotate to be able to interact with each student. In small groups students copy, extend, and create patterns using Play-doh, snap cubes, beads, and magnets. One group would practice patterns with me using two colors of Play-doh. We would talk about the type and core of the pattern. Another group would work with my assistant to review the skill using another manipulative such as snap cubes where they would also discuss the type and core of the pattern. Students are then able to work on patterns independently using the same manipulatives. These groups are where I can target the weaknesses and strengths of each student. With a hands-on approach, I am able to reach my English Language Learners. I am able to easily differentiate for student abilities while students are able to practice fine motor skills, and listening skills, and have fun!”

“Nicole Lewis has served Forrest as a teacher leader of SEL and kindergarten for several years. I am so proud of her professional growth,” shared Sara Meier, principal of Forrest. “It is no surprise that she was selected as HCS elementary teacher of the year. It is a much-deserved accolade that she will carry with her in her endeavors as an ESL educator.” 

HCS High School Teacher of the Year

Congratulations to Tirzah Sarro-Jaynes, an instructional leader and climate and culture coach at Phoebus High School, for being named the 2023-2024 HCS High School Teacher of the Year.

“Receiving the honor of being named Hampton City Schools High School Teacher of the Year is truly humbling,” shared Sarro-Jaynes. “This recognition is a testament to the dedication and passion that I bring to my classroom every day. It reflects the incredible support and influence of my students, their parents, my colleagues, and the entire Hampton community. Education is not just a profession for me, but a lifelong commitment of igniting hope and fostering meaningful connections. I am grateful for this honor and motivated to continue fostering a love for learning, hope, and meaningful connections. Together, we will keep reaching for new heights and inspiring a generation of curious minds.”

Sarro-Jaynes shared the following on her application when asked about how she reinforces the mission of HCS:

“The mission of HCS was the determining factor for my wanting to work for this district. I teach the students who are placed in my class exactly as they are. I meet them where they are at physically, emotionally, and mentally. If they are hungry, I feed them. If they are stressed out, we breathe and regulate their emotions. If they are overwhelmed, we make a plan to cope with the load. They can self-select where to work and there is voice and choice built into every assignment. I grade with equity and make the work personally meaningful and experiential. There is no single or right way to do something in my classroom. It is my job to help them grow and discover their own greatness, whatever that might look like to them. Every child is always loved every day, whatever it takes, regardless of performance or behavior. I believe there is talent behind every behavior and the voice of a heart is behind their words. Deep learning is the essential goal for each student. Assessment quality matters so learning is at the heart of assessment design and instructional coherence. My goal is to advance the division's mission by providing practical ways to deepen student engagement, promoting a growth mindset, and, ultimately, giving students more ownership of their learning as they become more self-aware and grow their capacity for emotional regulation. Over the years, I have found myself showing up every day doing whatever it takes for all of the students in HCS by writing curriculum, sharing resources and co-teaching. Giving PDs and modeling this type of learning with other teachers both in and out of my school. I have been designing and implementing division-wide year-round initiatives like the Floating Classroom to create transformational experiences for all HCS students.”

“Ms. Sarro-Jaynes exemplifies the mission of the division, ‘Every child, every day, whatever it takes’ fostering instructional engagement implementing collaborative approaches,” shared Phoebus High School executive principal David Coccoli. “Mrs. Sarro-Jaynes serves in a variety of roles demonstrating a care for not only our students but also our faculty and staff. The Phoebus Phantom family is proud of Ms. Sarro-Jaynes and her accomplishment of being named High School Teacher of the Year.”

All three teachers will be recognized by the School Board at its meeting on September 6, 2023.