New teachers introduced at William Byrd Middle School

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Dana Stevens is now one of the assistant principals at WBMS.
William Byrd Middle School has several new teachers for the 2017-2018 school year including (from left): front row, Erin O’Donnell, Samantha Wilkerson, and Laurie Dunn; middle row, Jessica Kingery, Carli Barnett, and Bill Mantz; third row, Richard Long and Amy Purdom. Amy Herzel and Alexa Smith are also new to WBMS but were not present for the photo.
Susan Cockrell is new to the WBMS faculty, co-teaching sixth grade reading.

William Byrd Middle School Principal Todd Kageals has welcomed several new staff members for the 2017-2018 school year. Dana Stevens is a new assistant principal, although she is not new to the area, having served in the same position at W.E. Cundiff Elementary School since 2013.

Stevens is a native of Vinton. She attended W.E. Cundiff Elementary, and graduated from William Byrd in the Class of 1985. Her teaching degree is from Radford University. She began her teaching career at Clearbrook Elementary, teaching kindergarten and first grade. She moved to Mount Pleasant Elementary in 1991, where she spent the next 22 years teaching all grade levels. Principal Ellen Walton encouraged her to pursue her Master’s in Administration, which she earned at Virginia Tech.

Amy Purdom is teaching special education at WBMS, co-teaching with Erica Rosser in English 8. She is originally from Ohio and majored in special education at Ohio University. This is her 18th year in education.

“I am very happy to be here (at WBMS),” said Purdom. “I love being able to help young people learn and grow.”

Outside of school, she loves “to play Frisbee and disc golf.”

Jessica Kingery is teaching seventh grade Life Science. She is from Roanoke and graduated from Cave Spring High School. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Virginia Tech and her Master’s in Teaching from Hollins University.

She transferred to William Byrd Middle this year after two years at Northside. Prior to that she taught for seven years at Addison Middle School in Roanoke City, and two years at Glade Hill Elementary in Franklin County.

Carli Barnett is teaching eighth grade math and algebra at WBMS. She also is from Roanoke and graduated from Northside High School. She transferred to Byrd this year from Northside Middle School. She has been teaching for six years.

Laurie Dunn teaches Family and Consumer Science to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. She is originally from West Virginia, then lived in Christiansburg for 12 years before moving to Daleville last summer. She earned her undergraduate degree in Textiles, Clothing, and Fashion Merchandising from West Virginia University and then her Master of Arts in Education from Winthrop University.

Dunn says she was commuting back and forth from Daleville to Christiansburg for work and decided to look for a job “that would bring me a little closer to home and get me off Interstate 81.” She has been teaching for 16 years.

“Everyone has been very friendly and it is a new experience with a new group,” Dunn says of her move to WBMS. “It is an opportunity for a fresh start in a different school division.”

She said that in her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and traveling. “The beach is my favorite place to be!” She also loves “to go on cruises.”

Alexa Smith is the school psychologist at WBMS, Herman L. Horn, and W.E. Cundiff. She had previously served at WBMS, but for several years only worked with HLH and WEC, and is glad to return to the middle school. She comes from Charleston, W.Va. She attended West Virginia Wesleyan College for her undergraduate schooling and Radford University for her Master’s. She began working in Roanoke County in 2001.

Amy Herzel is an ELL Resource teacher in grades K-12. She is from New York. She earned her B.A. in English Language and Literature from Binghamton University and her Master’s in Education from Templeton University.

She has been teaching for 16 years with students from Pre-K through Higher Education.

“I love working with students,” said Herzel. “I believe in the power of education to transform one’s life.”

Richard Long teaches eighth grade math, along with Civics and Economics. He is from Ferrum and graduated from Rustburg High School. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Ferrum College majoring in Outdoor Recreation, his Master’s in Recreation Resources Management from Southern Illinois University, and then completed the Commonwealth Special Education Endorsement Program at Old Dominion University. This is his 12th year in education.

He was interested in working at WBMS after “hearing good things about the school through talking with other teachers familiar with the school.”

“I have been impressed with the overall atmosphere of the school,” said Long. “Additionally, It is a pleasant professional environment and the students are a pleasure to teach.”

He will be assisting with the HAM Radio Club at WBMS.

Bill Mantz is the Technology Education teacher at William Byrd Middle. He studied Mechanical Engineering Technology at Virginia Western Community College and then earned his Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Averett.  His Master’s degree from Hollins University is Interdisciplinary with a concentration in Computer Applications. He has taught technology education and computer science.

Samantha Wilkerson is a special education teacher in 8th grade English. She is from Roanoke and graduated from Patrick Henry High School in 2003. She has a Master’s in Special Education and an Educational Specialist in Curriculum and Instruction from Liberty University. This is her third year in teaching. She says she is a career switcher who spent 10 years in management before pursuing teaching as a career.

“Since I live in Roanoke County and my children attend school in the district, I wanted to move to be closer to them,” said Wilkerson.” I’ve quickly fallen in love with WBMS!

“I absolutely love the community feel of the school,” Wilkerson said. “Everyone has been helpful and accommodating. I feel valued and encouraged. I love being able to bring my son to work with me every day.”

Wilkerson has a seventh grader at WBMS, a fourth grader at W.E. Cundiff, and a child in preschool at Noah’s Ark in Vinton— “we love this community!”

She will be handling the yearbook at WBMS and creating a club to assist.

Erin O’Donnell is teaching 7th grade Life Science. She is originally from New York State but moved to Roanoke as a middle school student and graduated from Hidden Valley High School. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from State University of New York, College of Environmental Science & Forestry with a major in Environmental Studies and her Master’s in Education from Mary Baldwin College with a concentration in Environment-Based Learning.

As for how she came to WBMS, “I got to know WBMS teachers and students while I worked with the Clean Valley Council, a local environmental non-profit organization. As soon as an opening at WBMS came along, I knew the time was right for a career switch. I’m so excited to be a part of this community.”

O’Donnell has been working as an environmental educator for nine years in non-formal settings but this is her first year as a lead classroom teacher.

“The staff and students are wonderful,” said O’Donnell. “I also love the location. We can walk to Wolf Creek to conduct water quality tests and explore the ecosystem right around the school and at Stonebridge Park. There are plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning.”

Some interesting facts are that she is a “wilderness first responder and certified in avalanche rescue. I also once lived outside (tents, snow shelters, or simply camping under the stars) for seven months out of a year.”

Not surprisingly, in her spare time, O’Donnell enjoys hiking, climbing, gardening, and playing with her two dogs.

Susan Cockrell co-teaches sixth grade reading with Ashley Williams. She grew up near Charlottesville and graduated from James Madison University with a degree in Special Education. This is her 24th year teaching special education.

“I have several very good friends at WBMS and they informed me that there were Special Education openings,” said Cockrell. “I really loved my students and the staff at Green Valley but made the decision a change might be fun.

“I love the students and staff at WBMS,” said Cockrell. “The 6th grade reading team is super nice and helpful. Although I have lived in Roanoke for about 30 years, I know very little about Vinton. I have enjoyed getting to know the town and look forward to a great year at WBMS.”