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Virginia Journal of Education


Your Association


Henderson, Nelson,
Panik Win Awards

The VEA presented awards to the following individuals during the annual convention, held this year in Roanoke in April:

Award for Teaching Excellence. Melodie Henderson, a member of the Chesterfield Education Association and a middle school teacher who works with students who are emotionally disturbed or who have learning disabilities, took home this honor for 2008.

Henderson has taught at Manchester Middle School since 1996 and has developed a statewide reputation for her expertise in dealing with students who have special needs. In 2006, she was appointed by the Virginia Board of Education to the State Special Education Advisory Committee, and she serves as chair of the VEA's Special Education Committee and co-chair of the Chesterfield Education Association's Special Education Ad Hoc Committee. She teaches multi-level classes in subjects including reading, math, language arts, social studies, science and study skills.

Fitz Turner Award for Outstanding Contributions in Intergroup Relations. Sadie P. Nelson, an assistant administrator at Admiral Richard E. Byrd Elementary School in Winchester, and a longtime classroom teacher in Frederick County, is the 2008 winner.

Nelson, the first African-American administrator in Frederick County Public Schools history, has brought together different groups of people since she arrived in the county in 1981. She has spoken to civics classes about her experiences in civil rights marches in her hometown of High Point, NC, where she was even jailed after one such event; organized multicultural assemblies; conducted a "How Tolerant Are You?" survey; started a mentoring program and mentored minority students; helped the division recruit minority teachers; and organized a peer tutoring program. Before becoming an administrator, she taught students with learning disabilities for 24 years.

Education Support Professional of the Year. Margaret Panik, an instructional and programming assistant in Fairfax County Public Schools since 1998, earned this award for 2008.

At Bren Mar Park Elementary School, Panik is well-known for her "can-do" attitude and willingness to step up when help is needed. She also steps up for all her ESP colleagues in Fairfax, serving as a member of the county's Superintendent's Support Employee Advisory Committee and working closely with the Northern Virginia Labor Council on a living wage campaign for local employees. In addition, she worked with Northern Virginia Community College to create a partnership in which ESPs can earn college credits for their work experiences.


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