By MEGAN WILLIAMS
Daily News-Record 5/17/19
HARRISONBURG — Two teachers were named 2020 Teachers of the Year for Harrisonburg City Public Schools and Rockingham County Public Schools, during a joint ceremony at the Lucy Simms Continuing Education Center on Thursday evening.
The 2020 Lucy F. Simms Educator of the Year ceremony is hosted by both the Harrisonburg Education Foundation and the Rockingham Educational Foundation Inc. as a shared initiative to celebrate the teachers in the community who have been named their division’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.
It was the moment the crowd had been waiting for. After an evening dedicated to honoring the teachers of the two area school divisions, the names of the division winners were about to be announced.
And oddly enough the two winners — Scott Showalter from Rockingham County and Mary Jo Heckman from Harrisonburg — had unbeknownst to them, sat themselves at
the same table.
Showalter, a special education teacher at John C. Myers Elementary School, was named the Rockingham County Public Schools’ 2020 Teacher of the Year.
Showalter has been a special education teacher at John C. Myers for two years and prior to that worked as a third- grade teacher for one year and a fourth-grade teacher for 11 years.
This is Showalter’s second time being named John C. Myers’ teacher of the year, but his first time being named the division teacher of the year. Showalter has previously been named the Massanutten Regional Library teacher of the year, as well.
“For most of my childhood, my dream was the pursue the police force or the fire department due to the desire to save lives,” Showalter wrote in his application for teacher of the year. “It was not until I encountered the Mentorship Program at my high school l that I fell in love with the idea of ‘saving lives’ by being an educator.”
Showalter received his degree in special education and elementary education. He was immediately hired as a fourth- grade teacher at the school he student taught at — John C. Myers Elementary School.
He considers his greatest accomplishments in education not to be the awards, the degrees or titles, but the “ blessings” he sees day in and day out, like watching his students graduate high school, his students participating for 20 minutes this week when it was 10 minutes the week before.
In a recommendation letter to the nomination committee, Rebecca Roadcap, principal at John C. Myers, wrote “I have worked with Mr. Showalter for six years and can attest to the many qualities which make him an exceptional, master teacher.”
Roadcap went on to say that Showalter was a fourth-grade teacher when she arrived at John C. Myers and that it was clear that he was willing to go the extra mile to make an impact on students.
“Student engagement was at a maximum watching him, in essence, ‘perform’ for students, making the curriculum come alive, not just through his dress but also in the voice and enthusiasm he would bring to each lesson,” Roadcap wrote.
She said that Showalter understands the importance of the impact he’s making on students and doesn’t take it for granted.
Heckman is a sixth grade American history teacher at Thomas Harrison Middle School. She has 32 years of teaching experience, 25 of them with Harrisonburg Public Schools.
In her application she said “ It is her duty to create an environment where students feel safe enough to risk reaching, safe enough to risk failing, and knowing that in trying again, they will find growth and satisfaction in the act of putting forth effort to learn.” One of her former students said that Heckman is the best teacher she’s ever had. The student describes her as someone who brought so much joy and enthusiasm to the classroom.
Thomas Harrison Principal Donald Vale said, “More important is that the outstanding academic growth she is able to achieve is her ability to develop relationships with students.”
The award is named in memory of Lucy Francis Simms, a teacher born a slave in 1855 who started teaching at age 17 and taught 56 years in Rockingham County and Harrisonburg City. As advocates for preserving the legacy of Lucy F. Simms, and excellence in education, the Botkin Rose Law Firm and Douglas Guynn underwrites the $1,000 awarded to these two teachers during the ceremony.