Star Award Winners & Honorees Shine Brightly

Congratulations to 16 division employees who have been named winners of the Superintendent’s Star Award for Second Semester 2017-18.

A recognition reception was held on Thursday, May 24.  Judges consider initiative, school spirit, creativity, commitment, and attitude to recognize those who are making a real difference in the lives of students.  A total of 16 staff members — out of 72 nominees — were selected as top honorees for the Star Award recognition.

Division-Wide Instructional Staff Award: 


Dawn Rountree
Technology Teacher at Nansemond River High School






Division-Wide Support Staff Award:

Jovannie Copeland
Bus Driver at Pioneer Elementary School




Dawn Rountree was nominated by parent Cheryl Hendricks, whose daughter is a junior in the Project Lead the Way Engineering program at Nansemond River High School. ”Even faced with caring for a seriously ill family member, she still keeps on top of things,” Hendricks wrote. “She never falters in believing that her students can accomplish what sometimes seems an impossible task. Her students become successful because she is their support beam both inside the classroom and out.”  Hendricks applauded how Rountree eagerly brings in examples of how their classroom work replicates real-life job scenarios.  “Being proficient in many different engineering and technologically-based genres also helps immensely” as Rountree guides her students toward areas of their own interest and aptitude. Whether it’s using robotics, printing in 3-D, or creating actual home models, “she is to be highly commended on thinking outside the box and allowing our kids this instructional versatility,” Hendricks said. Rountree recently drove to Richmond to see a female junior receive an NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award, and also helped that student start a coding program at Driver Elementary School. Mrs. Rountree is “already a star in the eyes of her students,” who treated her and her husband to a Valentine’s date night at Smithfield Station. Hendricks asked: “How many teachers do you think in this district have that much support from their students? This star does, and then some.”

Jovannie Copeland was nominated by teacher Jill Gwaltney, who praised Copeland’s devotion to the well-being of the students who ride her bus.  “Never before have I seen a bus driver help students like I see Mrs. Copeland do every week,” said Gwaltney, adding that it’s not uncommon to see her checking on “her children” each day at Pioneer Elementary.  During a recent thunderstorm, Mrs. Copeland took time to escort each of her bus students to their individual house to make sure they arrived home safely.  Last month, when Mrs. Copeland passed a student riding his bicycle to school, she made sure to find him after she arrived at school to make sure he had made it safely. “Every day, she is impacting the lives of these students by speaking words of life to them,” and starting their day in a positive way with her warm smile and hugs.  “It is obvious that this is not just a job for Mrs. Copeland. This is a passion, and Suffolk Public Schools is blessed to have her.  She’s changing lives…one student at a time.”

Additional Instructional Staff Honorees

  • Jennifer Conner, assistant principal at Nansemond Parkway Elementary School
  • Karen Jones, a guidance counselor at Kilby Shores Elementary
  • Rena Long, a music teacher at Oakland Elementary School
  • Stephanie Morris, a special education teacher at Driver Elementary School
  • Carol Payton, an art teacher at Driver Elementary School
  • Karen Perkerson, a special education coach at Lakeland High School
  • Yvette Pierce, a special education teacher at John F. Kennedy Middle School
  • Lugonda Vann, student services liaison at the College & Career Academy at Pruden
  • Melissa Zawodny, a literacy teacher at King’s Fork Middle & John Yeates Middle schools


Additional Support Staff Honorees

  • Keba Baldwin, director of transportation
  • Custodial Staff at Oakland Elementary (Patricia Artis, Angelia Gilchrist, Donald Gilchrist, and Valerie Powell)
  • Kendra Holloway, a secretary at Oakland Elementary
  • Sheila Uzzle Parker, a bus driver at Oakland Elementary
  • Holly Wulfkehle, a teacher assistant at Oakland Elementary

Suffolk Public Schools is comprised of more than 2,000 employees whose sole purpose is to educate, feed, transport and administer to more than 14,000 students each school day. To recognize the outstanding work and contributions of our employees in each semester of a school year, Suffolk Public Schools has established the Superintendent’s Star Award.  Employees selected as Star Award winners will receive a recognition certificate signed by Superintendent, a feature story on the division’s website and staff portal, a $50 check provided by the Suffolk Education Foundation, and a 4-by-3-foot vinyl congratulations banner to be displayed at the winner’s work location.  First semester nominations for the 2018-19 school year will be due in December 2018, and second-semester nominations will be due in March 2019.