Teachers Recognized As Annual Lucy F. Simms Educators Of Year
By JO TROMBADORE
HARRISONBURG — Michael Thompson didn’t plan on becoming a teacher.
Instead, he’d always wanted to coach baseball. Though he realized this dream for a time coaching Spotswood High School’s team, he eventually discovered that teaching was his true passion.
“I knew that I wanted to coach, but I also just loved working with kids,” Thompson said. “It didn’t take me long to realize that as much as I love coaching, I love teaching even more.”
Thompson and Koren Dellinger were the two recipients of this year’s Lucy F. Simms Educator of the Year award Thursday. The ceremony was held in the Montpelier Room at James Madison University’s East Campus Dining Hall.
Annually, Harrisonburg City Public Schools and Rockingham County Public Schools name a teacher of the year from each one of their schools, who are then in the running for the Simms award.
The Harrisonburg Education Foundation and Rockingham Educational Foundation give out the awards, which are sponsored by Harrisonburg- based law firm BotkinRose.
The award, created in 2001, is named in honor of Simms, a former slave and Harrisonburg-area educator. During her 56-year career, she taught about 1,800 black students.
Thompson and Dellinger are now in the running to become the state teacher of the year.
Thompson, 47, has now been teaching for 19 years, the last 14 in Rockingham County. As an assistant football coach and English teacher at SHS, he feels that he truly gets the best of both worlds.
He brings his coaching abilities into the classroom, especially in a class that he teaches for students who have failed the English Standards of Learning, a statewide standardized test students must pass to graduate.
Thompson recalled that his favorite memory of teaching was helping a student finally pass the SOL after three years of not being able to graduate.
“I have a bulldog mentality,” he said. “I don’t like to give up on a kid. I bring coaching into the classroom, and I don’t like to lose.”
Dellinger, 45, teaches fourth grade at Spotswood Elementary School.
Growing up, she never felt that any teachers affected her much or invested in her as an individual. In her own teaching career of 16 years, the last three in Harrisonburg, her No. 1 priority has been the growth of each student.
“First and foremost, my goal is knowing the child and building a relationship with each student,” Dellinger said. “I know in my heart that I can’t reach them academically without firstbuilding a relationship.”
Thompson received a bachelor’s degree in English, language and literature from James Madison University, where he also earned his master’s. He is motivated by his desire to help each student reach his or her full potential.
“I care about every kid, no matter who,” he said. “When you step into my classroom, you’re a blank slate. Don’t tell me about your past. I care about what you can do with your future.”
Dellinger received her bachelor’s degree from Eastern Mennonite University.
Spotswood Elementary School Principal Joy Blosser appreciates the time Dellinger takes to help and get to know each student, inside and outside the classroom.
“She gives her heart and soul to everything she does,” Blosser said. “She’s always supporting students outside the classroom.” Dellinger said receiving the award is an honor. “I feel very humbled,” she said. “There are so many deserving educators. I’m honored.”
Contact Jo Trombadore at 574-6272 or firstname.lastname@example.org