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Penny Decker named Henry County Teacher of the Year

HENRY COUNTY, VA – Superintendent Sandy Strayer spent the day surprising each of Henry County’s fourteen school Teachers of the Year at their homes.

Presenting each with a gift bag of items donated from community partners and local businesses, Strayer was able to congratulate each school winner during the day before traveling to the homes of the top three honorees with Barry Nelson and his team, who provided the honorees with a car to drive for the summer.

At the home of Bassett High School’s Penny Decker, Strayer spoke of Decker’s care for students and their needs, as well as the rigor present in her English classroom as she goes “above and beyond every single day.”

Decker shared how privileged she feels to teach in Henry County. “I’ve always known, but I have definitely realized how blessed we are in Henry County. It’s an honor and a privilege to work for them.”

As the 2021 Teacher of the Year, Decker received a trophy and gifts donated by local sponsors.

Among her duties as Teacher of the Year, Decker will represent Henry County in Teacher of the Year competitions across the state.

Strayer and the Nelson team also visited the home of first runner up Jerry Byrd, HVAC and Industrial Maintenance teacher at Career Academy, and the home of second runner up Adrienne Hiatt, 7th grade English and Social Studies teacher at Laurel Park Middle School, with trophies and cars.

HCPS recognized the fourteen school Teachers of the Year at their homes because gathering restrictions prohibited the division’s traditional banquet.

Each teacher was honored by a colleague, student, or parent as well.

  • Axton Elementary’s Samantha Wilds: “She has heled Axton create a positive environment that is very child-oriented and focuses on building positive self-esteem through high standards and well-designed instruction.” – Marcie Seay, Axton principal

  • Campbell Court’s Katie Mays: “She contributes so much to this school by being a positive teacher. She doesn’t see deficits; she identifies areas for growth.” – Clifton Jones, Campbell Court school counselor

  • Drewry Mason’s Toni Manns: “She is a responsible, trustworthy, and compassionate teacher who inspires other teachers and students to want to succeed.” – Sherri Lewis, HCPS diagnostician

  • GW Carver’s Sara Morris: “Her ability to reach a troubled or struggling student with simple, yet profound empathy and compassion is a true validation of her character of freely offering love, acceptance and grace.” – Melanie Barrow, GW Carver parent

  • Meadow View’s Kimberly Gibbs: “Mrs. Gibbs creates a classroom that looks and feels welcoming and comfortable for all who enter. Her students know they are in a safe place to try new skills and that making mistakes is part of the learning process.” – Judy Edmonds, Meadow View principal

  • Mt. Olivet’s Carissa Barbour: “Her positive attitude and love for teaching is visible in both her instructional delivery and daily interactions with her students.” – Elizabeth Minter, Mt Olivet principal

  • Rich Acres’ N. Michelle Moore: “Mrs. Moore displays high expectations for all students regardless of their background or past performance. She provides the encouragement, scaffolding, and motivation to inspire the most challenging of students.” – Renee Scott, Rich Acres principal

  • Sanville’s Casey Upchurch: “Her mission to provide students with an excellent education while helping each and every child realize and achieve his or her full potential is visible daily in her classroom.” – Kelsey Gardner, colleague

  • Stanleytown’s Tiffany Moyer: “The learning environment provided by Mrs. Moyer is challenging, yet engaging, and students feel confident and safe asking questions, seeking support, and participating in class due to the relationship she establishes with her students.” – Laryssa Hairston-Penn, Stanleytown principal

  • Fieldale-Collinsville’s Candace Boyd: “Candace possesses an abundance of qualities that make her the best representative of our school division. She not only works diligently for her students; she also goes above and beyond for her colleagues.” – Jennifer Lester, colleague

  • Laurel Park’s Adrienne Hiatt: “Mrs. Haitt’s biggest asset is her ability to build long lasting relationships with her students. Her students know that she loves them and will go over and beyond to help them be successful in and out of the classroom.” – Jo Ellen Hylton, Laurel Park principal

  • Magna Vista’s Tina Hairston: “Ms. Hairston approaches teaching with a seriousness and commitment which serves as an example to her colleagues. She makes no excuses about the problems facing us…instead, she fights hard to develop solutions.” – Gracie Agnew, former principal

  • Career Academy’s Jerry Byrd: “The qualities of a great teacher are many as they have to have the ability to teach, be a social worker of sorts, be wise and insightful…Mr. Byrd holds these abilities and qualities helping each student understand that they have abilities beyond what they know.” – Michael Harrison, friend

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