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2018 R.E.B. Awards for Teaching Excellence recipients announced


The Community Foundation and the R.E.B. Foundation are pleased to recognize 34 outstanding public school teachers selected as finalists for the 2018 R.E.B. Awards for Teaching Excellence. Considered among the best in their field, these instructors demonstrate a sincere passion for teaching while also serving as mentors, coaches and champions for their students. Selected from 136 nominations submitted by students, parents and colleagues, 16 winners and 18 finalists will receive cash grants totaling $189,900.

The R.E.B. Awards provide opportunities for area public school teachers to continue their own love of learning as they pursue adventures of a lifetime. Matt Wester, a science teacher at Franklin Military Academy in Richmond Public Schools, believes that the more you know the world, the greater your capacity to love it. With an R.E.B. award of $8,700, Matt will travel to the American West and immerse himself in the wilderness of six national parks to deepen his own spirit of wonder and discovery, as well as that of his students.

Meghan Hamm, a teacher at Yvonne B. Miller High School, shows students who believe they can’t that they can and uses creative approaches to help them express their individuality. Art has been a successful tool in preparing her students to share feelings that have not been expressed before, and to face challenges that may have led them to the Department of Juvenile Justice. With her award of $9,500, Meghan will visit Italy to learn ancient papermaking techniques that she will bring back to her classroom. 

Connected by a desire to make their lessons relevant, all of the 2018 awardees will have a chance to collect real-life experiences, stories and artifacts to renew their passion for teaching and enhance their ability to bring subject matter to life for their students.


Crystal Barker, L. C. Bird High School (CH) — $11,000

To expand knowledge and experiences in outdoor adventure education – including biking, underwater exploration, fishing and modifications for people with disabilities – through local training and travel to Alaska and Florida.

Dickson Benesh, Maggie Walker Governor's School (RI) — $10,900

To participate in a cycling adventure tour in Iceland, primarily to investigate the effects of climate change and to collect real-world data for analysis in the classroom.

Caroline Canning, Henrico High School (HE) — $11,500

To learn about the effects of Apartheid, Nelson Mandela, and social justice in South Africa; and to make connections to literature through experiencing the culture and beauty of Zambia.

Shannon Castelo, James River High School (CH) — $8,700

To discover the geography and cultural landscapes of two world cities, New York City and Jerusalem, that have shaped the past and continue to shape modern, global decision-making.

Nichole Gross, Fairfield Middle School (HE) — $12,000

To explore the vast cultures, landscapes, languages, and arts that influence world literature and American culture through travel to England, France, Italy, Spain, Ghana and Morocco.

Gina Hackett, L. C. Bird High School (CH) — $11,800

To explore the ancient culture and landscape of Athens and Santorini, Greece with a focus on bringing the strong sense of community and hospitality back to the classroom.

Meghan Hamm, Yvonne B. Miller High School (DJJ) — $11,300

To learn papermaking, watermarking and bookmaking in Fabriano, Italy and 13th century paper mill techniques in Amalfi, Italy.

Christine Henry, Marguerite Christian Elementary School (CH) — $11,800

To encourage the next generation of thinkers and risk takers by retracing the footsteps of her grandmother – a former refugee, immigrant, and US citizen – through travel to Canada and Europe.

Melinda Johnson, Washington Henry Elementary School (HA) — $11,000

To attend the National Kindergarten Conference in Las Vegas and then explore innovative play-based education practices with travel to Colorado, Paradise Island, Ireland, and Scotland.

Kieasha King, Woodville Elementary School (RI) — $12,000

To obtain a Social Emotion Learning (SEL) certification at UCLA, gain anti-stress techniques in the Dominican Republic and mindfulness skills in Hawaii.

Tamara Letter, Mechanicsville Elementary School (HA) — $11,200

To connect with educators and organizations across the United States and Canada in an effort to cultivate kindness for global impact and to inspire others through digital sketchnoting and storytelling.

Robert Meister, Glen Allen High School (HE) — $10,000

To study improvisational handpan music and technique with international musicians from France, Portugal, and the U.S. to further enhance lessons in literature and writing.

Robin Milwit, Greenwood Elementary School (HE) — $11,500

To study emerging technologies that help develop students’ social and emotional skills by visiting schools and ed-tech companies in Finland and attending national technology conferences in Florida, California and the Fred Rogers Center in Pennsylvania.

Kathy Paschall, Franklin Military Academy (RI) — $11,500

To find adventure in the natural wonders of Iceland and Patagonia by becoming immersed in their extraordinary earth science features.

Lauren Serpa, Spring Run Elementary School (CH) — $11,500

To enhance student collaboration and creativity by studying comedy improv in Chicago and exploring the music, dances, instruments, and art from Ireland and The Netherlands.

Matt Wester, Franklin Military Academy (RI) — $8,700

To travel through the wilderness of the American West and experience the spirit of wonder and discovery that has inspired famous scientists over time.


All finalists not chosen for a professional development grant will receive a $750 unrestricted cash grant in recognition of their achievements in the classroom.

About the R.E.B. Awards for Teaching Excellence

The awards program, which is a partnership between the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond and the R.E.B. Foundation, recognizes excellence in public education by awarding cash grants to outstanding public school teachers from the City of Richmond, the counties of Chesterfield, Henrico, and Hanover, and the Department of Correctional Education. Since its inception in 1988, the program has awarded $3.5 million to over 800 public school instructors as recognition for their outstanding classroom performance.

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