Meet the Heroes of Distance Learning

It's no secret that teachers go above and beyond every day. In honor of #TeacherAppreciationWeek, we went on a search to find the top Virginia teachers who've become Heroes of Distance Learning. Out of more than 223 nominations for 156 teachers, we crowned 11 teachers as Heroes of Distance Learning. These teachers were awarded with $1,000 for a virtual classroom makeover.


Brad and Sarah Baxendell

Brad, Special Education | Sarah, Spanish - Academy for Discovery at Lakewood - Norfolk Public Schools

Sarah Baxendell is a Spanish teacher and Brad Baxendell is a Special Education teacher in Math, both at the middle school level. Both have taken on virtual teaching very quickly and have kept students engaged in their classes. Mrs. Baxendell holds multiple weekly sessions for her Spanish students. Mr. Baxendell co-teaches with three different Math teachers and conducts small group sessions for his students needing extra help.*



Emily Eichel

K-6 Multiple Disabilities Teacher - Island Creek Elementary - Fairfax County Public Schools

If you’re seeking a teacher who is always going above and beyond for her students, look no further than Emily Eichel. Emily continues to cultivate her students’ development during this unprecedented time, developing an engaging and dynamic learning environment that not only challenges them to flourish away from the classroom (with individualized curriculums and weekly virtual check-ins), but also encourages them to relish this unique opportunity to learn alongside their parents, with whom Emily maintains daily contact to ensure they understand their child’s performance and how it relates to their personalized learning journey.*



Ashley Ireland

5th Grade - Annandale Terrace Elementary - Fairfax County Public Schools

During this time of uncertainty and constant change due to the world pandemic, COVID 19, Ms. Ireland has been an anchor of hope and resilience for her students and their families, as well as, her colleagues. She immediately put into practice her tech savvy skills to help her colleagues, students, and families. She is commonly and affectionately referred to as the expert in all things technology.*




Susan Jordan

4th Grade - Crystal Spring Elementary - Roanoke City Public Schools

Mrs. Jordan has gone above and beyond to stay connected to her students to ensure they have the tools they need to thrive in distant learning. She's always available to answer questions, help with challenges and provide resources. She also hosts a daily story time with her kiddos to keep them connected!*










Olivia Lawson

Band Director - James Blair Middle School - Williamsburg James City County Public Schools

From the first day of Stay at Home she independently worked to find ways to keep her band students engaged. She surveyed students and set up individual/small group sessions virtually. She is on Instagram and Facebook inspiring them to try new songs and has been doing the same for herself. She is trying new apps like Microsoft composer, and apps where you can duet with someone virtually. She uses smart music as well. Olivia is an amazing teacher when she is with the students but she really showed her passion for being consistently present from day 1 of this virtual learning time.*



Annamarie McKevitt

Kindergarten - Braddock Elementary - Fairfax County Public Schools

Annamarie has been amazing through all of this turmoil. She is her students champion in many ways. Not only does she fight for what is best for their education, but she constantly goes out of her way to help students and their families find resources, translate, get food, clothes and other support. Annamarie works tirelessly to support her fellow staff as well. She helps create and distribute digital resources for her kindergarten team to use, and she is a leader among her peers.*




Estavia Rowe

K-6 Music Teacher - Colin Powell Elementary - Fairfax County Public Schools

Estavia hit the ground running with digital content for her students weeks before digital learning officially began in Fairfax County. She uploads videos for her students to access through her "In Treble with Ms. Rowe" FCPS YouTube channel. During staff meetings she even shares the links to some of her #MsRoweSings videos which include songs like "You've Got a Friend in Me" and "Lean on Me." The songs she chooses are exactly the type of positive messages our students need to hear right now.*



Rachel Terlop

1st-3rd Grade - Pine Spring Elementary - Fairfax County Public Schools

During distance learning, Rachel has transitioned into teaching from her office. She continues to provide amazing instruction to her students and has provided them with a caring "class" where the students can learn and connect with friends. Every morning she sings the ‘good morning song,’ teaches her heart out, and connects with kids over the screen. As soon as the camera goes off, she is finding new ways to connect with the kids and make this the most engaging and supportive time possible.*






Jennifer Wagner

4th Grade - Oak Hill Elementary - Fairfax County Public Schools

From the beginning of school closure Mrs. Wagner has been very proactive in conducting online interactive sessions every day even before distance learning officially launched. She has been encouraging kids to continue learning through STEAM experiments, virtual field trips, read aloud and math workshops. She has been very consistent in her schedule and makes sure the kids are engaged and happy during this pandemic. Mrs. Wagner is the most dedicated teacher we have ever had.*




Keisha Yearby

2nd Grade - B. M. Williams Primary - Chesapeake City Public Schools

Ms. Yearby is an exceptional teacher who goes above and beyond. She has been a blessing before and definitely during this distant learning. Since the beginning of the school year, she has been holding weekly live Facebook readings that kids from all over the country tune in to. Since the governor cancelled school, she has been holding those readings daily now at 7:30 each weekday night. She is a wonderful teacher who cares deeply about her students. Those students were extremely sad that the year ended in person so abruptly. She is always uplifting her students whom she calls "great ones." *


*Paraphrased from nominations.


Because there were so many incredibly deserving teachers, 5 additional teachers were awarded $200 each, including:


  • Cat Collett, Lynbrook Elementary, Fairfax County Public Schools

  • Cheryl Pettijohn, Stafford High School, Stafford County Public Schools

  • Sydney Spangler, Cave Spring Elementary, Roanoke City Public Schools

  • Keisha Whitfield, Park Place Elementary, Norfolk Public Schools

  • Michelle Young, Red Mill Elementary, Virginia Beach Public Schools

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