Employees Recognized by Superintendent

Congratulations to 15 division employees who have been named winners of the Superintendent’s Star Award for Second Semester 2018-19.

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 15  staff members — out of 43  nominees — were selected as top honorees for the Superintendent’s Star Award recognition.

A recognition reception was held Wednesday, June 5, beginning at 6 p.m. at Florence Bowser Elementary School. 


Division-Wide Instructional Staff Award: Jennifer Niemi
English Teacher at John Yeates Middle School

Division-Wide Support Staff Award:
Jan Montgomery
Teacher Assistant at Creekside Elementary School

Scroll down to read what their nominators said.


  • Additional Instructional Staff Honorees
    • Parker Baines – 2nd-Grade Teacher at Kilby Shores Elementary School
    • Jill Donovan – 2nd-Grade Inclusion Teacher at Creekside Elementary School
    • Makesha Grgurich – 5th-Grade Teacher at Hillpoint Elementary School
    • Jade Jones – 5th-Grade Inclusion Teacher at Hillpoint Elementary School
    • Jennifer Leighton – English Teacher at Nansemond River High School
    • Luanne LaPoint – Academic Coach at Hillpoint Elementary School
    • Jennifer Madden – History Teacher at Lakeland High School
    • Candace Myrick – Assistant Principal at Creekside Elementary School
    • Stephanie Oliphant – Early Childhood Special Education Teacher at Northern Shores Elementary
    • Richard Routten – Math Teacher at John Yeates Middle School
  • Additional Support Staff Honorees
    • David Dickens – Technology Department Technician for SPS
    • Jessica Gonzalez – Bookkeeper at Col. Fred Cherry Middle School
    • Diana Jones – Teacher Assistant at Creekside Elementary School

Jennifer Niemi, a 7th-grade English teacher at John Yeates Middle School, was nominated by parent Samanta Linneman, who praised the commitment, dedication, and enthusiasm she gives her students, their parents and other teachers in the school.  

“She is truly one of a kind and I wish we had so many more teachers that remembered why they wanted to teach in the first place and understand the impact they have on these children’s future. As a person of authority, they have tremendous power and influence that not only shapes who they are today, but the relationships they will have with authority figures as adults. It only takes one good or bad experience with an authority figure to change the course of someone’s life, so it is a tremendous responsibility. Often times teachers have so much work to do, too many students to teach and not enough time and resources. It would be very easy to push aside kids’ inquisitive questions, offers to take on additional responsibility, or be jaded and assume the worst in them. I have absolutely NEVER seen Mrs. Niemi without a smile and an open and encouraging demeanor.

“Mrs. Niemi last year recognized in my daughter a talent she had with writing, well before Jordan even realized how much she enjoyed it. She not only encouraged her, but praised her many times for her talent and often encouraged her to enter various writing contests. We were both surprised when she was recommended for the 8th grade Enriched English due to her proficiency. Jordan has tremendously blossomed in her love of writing that has been encouraged and cultivated by Mrs. Niemi. “

Jan Montgomery, a teacher assistant at Creekside Elementary School, was nominated by colleague Mary Keiser, who shared that “even though Ms. Montgomery is a part time paraprofessional, you wouldn’t know it based on the enormous impact she has on Creekside. She is truly a staff member that goes above and beyond her assigned duties — not only with students but as well with our staff.

“Jan is a bright light at Creekside. Her enthusiasm and positive attitude have a great impact on not students but staff as well! She truly makes a difference at Creekside, and the impact she makes on our students will last a lifetime.

“She starts her morning off on the bus ramp greeting students. She welcomes as many students as she can with a warm smile, hug, or encouraging words to start their day.  Mrs. Montgomery always searches for those certain students that need that extra hug or encouragement to begin their day.  She is extremely missed by students on Mondays and Tuesdays, when she’s not here.”

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 $100 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.  Second semester nominations for the 2018-19 school year are due will be due April 15, 2019.


Nominate a Star Employee during First Semester of 2019-20