CHS teacher named Arc Educator of the Year

The Shenandoah Valley-Herald

WOODSTOCK — A Central High School special education teacher has been named the 2017 Regional Educator of the Year by an advocacy group for people with disabilities.

Arc of Northern Shenandoah Valley awarded its top prize to Megan Smith during its awards banquet in March. The group’s coverage area includes Shenandoah, Clarke and Frederick counties and the City of Winchester.

Smith, 28, has taught at CHS for three years and is the former Area 4 coordinator for Virginia’s Special Olympics. Area 4 covers Rockingham, Shenandoah and Page counties and the City of Harrisonburg.

Smith’s win marks the third straight year that Shenandoah County Public Schools has claimed the Arc award. Julie Neese-Whitaker of Stonewall Jackson High School was named Educator of the Year in 2016, and CHS teacher Heather Miller claimed the honor in 2015.

Smith could not be reached for comment. According to a April 7 press release from Shenandoah County Public Schools, she began volunteering with the Special Olympics with her father in Frederick County, which led to her pursuing a career in special education.

Gina Stetter, director of special education for SCPS, nominated Smith for the Arc award. In Smith’s classes, Stetter said, students complete applications for jobs at the school, and later around Woodstock, as a way to build vocational skills.

Additionally, Smith helped launch CHS’s Fitness Mentorship Program, which pairs special ed students with students from the school’s Sports Medicine class to play games and learn teamwork and leadership skills, Stetter said.

Schools Superintendent Mark Johnston praised Smith’s efforts to give her students the best lives possible.

“When you have students in inclusive settings with their non-disabled peers and there’s that level of acceptance, it’s just wonderful,” Johnston said. “She has really gone above and beyond.”

Stetter called Smith “powerful in her influence” in her students’ lives.

“As a teacher and a coach, she takes the gift of love and inclusion … and magnifies and spreads it throughout our region,” Stetter said.

Smith graduated from Lynchburg College with a bachelor of science degree in special education in 2014. She is earning a master’s in special education with a concentration in visual impairments from James Madison University.

Arc of Northern Shenandoah Valley provides mentorship, job training and financial assistance to the intellectually and developmentally disabled and their families.

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