County schools recognize 2019-20 principal, teacher of the year

Published 7:18 pm Friday, August 23, 2019

In a child’s life, few people can make a greater difference than a good teacher. On Friday afternoon, Beaufort County Schools recognized some of its best and brightest teachers and administrators during a luncheon at the Beaufort County Ed Tech Center.

After honoring teachers of the year from each school in the county, the school system named Bath Elementary School second grade teacher Melissa Clinkscales as 2019-20 district teacher of the year and John Cotten Tayloe Principal Keith Mitchell as 2019-20 principal of the year.

“She is so positive in her demeanor,” Bath Elementary Principal Spencer Pake said of Clinkscales. “That positive nature is very contagious. It shows through in her colleagues, it shows through in her students, and she really has the ‘It’ factor to be a great teacher.”

BCS Superintendent Matthew Cheeseman, meanwhile, praised Mitchell for his integrity, spirit of leadership and his love of people.

“He’s very thoughtful about the needs of others,” Cheeseman said. “He’s a true transformative leader, and he’s a servant leader, for that matter. He really takes a lot of pride in serving others, whether that’s as principal or just in his own community.”

Both educators accepted their awards with humility and grace, reflecting the honor placed on them back on their colleagues.

“There were so many good candidates,” Mitchell said. “To be picked among them, it’s a true honor. … I want to think all our fellow teachers and administrators, because honestly, we do learn from them each and every day.”

“Hearing what the principals said about the other teachers here in our county, it’s obvious we’ve got a lot of wonderful things going on in classrooms for our students across our county every day,” Clinkscales said. “So to be chosen amongst these teachers is really humbling.”

Heading into the school year, the two agreed on one important piece of advice for their fellow educators: to take things a day at a time and always put children first.

“Put the first things first, and our students are the first thing,” Clinkscales said. “Make sure they’re welcome and school is the place they want to be. For some of our students, it’s the most safe place for them to be. It’s just a time for us to nurture them and meet all their needs educationally, as well as emotionally.”

Alongside Clinkscales, each of the following were recognized as teacher of the year for their respective schools for the 2019-20 school year:

  • Tami Wagaman, biology/environmental science teacher at Northside High School, 22 years of teaching;
  • Wes Ham, physical education teacher at Eastern Elementary School, 15 years of teaching;
  • Danielle Witchet, former Chocowinity Middle School language arts teacher, now instructional coach at P.S. Jones Middle School, 19 years of teaching;
  • Marla Dunlow, fourth-grade teacher at Chocowinity Primary School, 12 years of teaching with Beaufort County Schools;
  • Brett O’Brien, exceptional children teacher at John Cotton Tayloe Elementary School, 18 years of teaching;
  • Laura Skinner, fourth-grade teacher at John Small Elementary School, 17 years of teaching;
  • Peggy Vaughan, music teacher at Northeast Elementary School, 14 years of teaching;
  • Tina Perry, math and calculus teacher at Southside High School, 27 years of teaching;
  • Frank Rice, computer technology skills teacher at S.W. Snowden Elementary School, 21 years of teaching;
  • Ashley Autry, world history and human geography teacher at Washington High School, seven years of teaching;
  • Kayla Shelton, social studies teacher at Beaufort County Early College High School, seven years of teaching .

At the head of each school, principals make a difference. In the running alongside Mitchell, five other local principals were recognized during the event:

  • Alicia Vosburgh, principal at Chocowinity Primary School, joined BCS in 2002;
  • Spence Pake, principal at Bath Elementary School, joined BCS in 2003;
  • Charles Clark, principal at Northside High School, joined BCS in 1997;
  • Michael Swinson, principal at Washington High School, joined BCS in 2016;
  • Seth Smith, principal at Eastern Elementary School, joined BCS in 2017.