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W.Va. Universal Pre-K Outstanding Teacher Named

February 21, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Universal Pre-K Collaborative continues to recognize the best Pre-K teachers in West Virginia. On Thursday during the Celebrating Connection Pre-K Conference the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE), West Virginia Head Start and the West Virginia Department and Health and Human Resources (WV DHHR) announced Amber Myers as the 2014 Universal Pre-K Outstanding Teacher.

Myers, director and collaborative universal preschool teacher at Pierpont Community and Technical College in Marion County, was selected from among 14 finalists from across the state.

"Recognizing great preschool teachers from across the state not only signifies the importance of preschool education in the greater public school dialogue, but reminds us that these individuals are on the frontline of a national movement to ensure all children have a great start to learning," said, Jim Phares state superintendent of schools. "West Virginia has been at the forefront of universal preschool for a decade and it's our great teachers who ensure that our children have a strong foundation."

Other nominees were:

  • Karen Bowman, East Hardy Early Middle, Hardy County
  • Diana Chipley, Hollywood Elementary, Raleigh County
  • Dana Crudup, Presbyterian Child Development Center, Monongalia County
  • Mary "Mimi" Davis, Ruffner Elementary, Kanawha County
  • Whitney Anne Dobson, Blennerhassett Elementary, Wood County
  • Tonya Fitzgerald, RESA 8 Head Start Great Cacapon, Morgan County
  • Michelle Lea Hicks, Friends R Fun Child Development Center, Nicholas County
  • Lisa Dawn Hilling, New Hope Head Start, CASE WV Head Start, Mercer County
  • Melissa Love, Washington Lands Pre-K, Marshall County
  • Susan "Suzy" Mastrantoni, Liberty Elementary School, Hancock County
  • Angela Jean Shawver, Loving Kindness Child Care Center, Wood County
  • Elizabeth Stidom, Frankford Elementary, Greenbrier County
  • Shawnee Ward, Burch Pre-K-4 Elementary, Mingo County

Children who attend high-quality Pre-K programs enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies and stronger basic math skills than those who do not attend preschool. Research also shows that high-quality Pre-K can decrease dropout rates, crime and delinquency, and improve health.

West Virginia has repeatedly received national accolades for its preschool programs, including being recognized by the Children's Defense Fund as one of only ten states and the District of Columbia to offer free full-day kindergarten. In addition, West Virginia students benefit from a progressive state law that required universal preschool to be offered to all of the state's 4-year-olds by the 2012-2013 school year. West Virginia's Universal Pre-K Program meets nine out of ten benchmarks on the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) Quality Standards checklist. The final benchmark addressing assistant teacher credentialing will be met in July 2014 thanks to legislative changes addressed in Senate Bill 359.

West Virginia's Universal Pre-K Program is credited with boosting preschool enrollment statewide. From 2002 to 2013 preschool enrollment of 4-year-olds increased from 24 percent to 73 percent. Across the state, more than 15,000 children are enrolled in 1,031 West Virginia Universal Pre-K classrooms. During 2013-14, 74 percent of the classrooms were in collaboration with community partners, including childcare centers and Head Start programs.

Each teacher nominated for the 2014 Universal Pre-K Outstanding Teacher of the Year will receive materials for their classroom, including a Galaxy Tab and gift certificate from four early childhood companies. The teachers will also receive a grant to visit the Carnegie Melon Cyert Center for Early Education, a program that illustrates strong developmentally appropriate foundations and model practices in early care and education.

For more information, contact the Office of Communication at 304-558-2699.

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