Latoya Brown (center), from Buford Middle School, poses for a photo alongside Judy and Richard Nunley, the founding sponsors of the Golden Apple Awards. Credit: Credit: Josh Mandell, Charlottesville Tomorrow
Forty public and private school teachers from Charlottesville and Albemarle County were recognized Wednesday for their excellence in the classroom.
Sponsored by Better Living Building Supply & Cabinetry, the Golden Apple Awards honor outstanding teachers of any discipline, at any grade level. Parents, students, colleagues and community members nominate the teachers to the selection committee, which selects one educator from each school.
“We get some one-sentence things that are obviously written by a second-grader that are really great,” said John Baldino, co-chairman of the selection committee. “We know this kid obviously loves their teacher.”
Kevin Castner, superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools from 1995 to 2005, also co-chaired the selection committee.
 “When a community shows that it recognizes the value of education and the importance it brings to the children in the community, this makes a statement,” he said.
Golden Apple winners are selected for their ability to create a love of learning in students of all abilities and backgrounds, to stimulate thought and dialogue among students and to challenge them to reach high standards and expectations.
Nominees also are evaluated for their ability to understand and meet the needs of students and their involvement of families in the education process.
Eight of the winners were chosen at random to receive $1,000 grants for classroom materials, educational programming or professional development.
Justin Stauffer, the 2018 winner from Crozet Elementary School, teaches fifth-grade math and science.
“Crozet is a great place to teach,” Stauffer said. “It’s nice to work with a small community like that.”
For several years, students in Stauffer’s class have built RIFFLEs — remote water quality meters made with open-source hardware — to monitor the Beaver Creek Reservoir and other streams near Crozet. 
Stauffer said he got the idea for the project from conversations with students about the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
“Albemarle is the most innovative school district I have been in,” Stauffer said. “There is an emphasis on viewing students as individuals who can facilitate their own learning.”
Stauffer said he was surprised and excited to learn he had won a Golden Apple Award.
 “In a big school district like this, it means a lot for peers and parents to recognize you,” he said 
Latoya Brown, the winner from Buford Middle School in Charlottesville, came to the school this year after teaching at Walker Upper Elementary School. She was able to follow some of her students from Walker to Buford as they moved from sixth grade to seventh grade.
“When those students felt lost, they all came to me,” Brown said. “I think that’s been the best part of this entire year.”
Brown said she knew she wanted to be a teacher at an early age; she enjoyed pretending to be one while “playing school” with her cousins as a child. 
“You’ve got to have a passion for teaching, because you definitely are not going to do it for the money,” Brown said.
In her opening remarks, Albemarle Superintendent Pam Moran noted that, while Wednesday’s awards ceremony was taking place, thousands of teachers in North Carolina were rallying for salary raises and school funding. The protest in Raleigh followed similar demonstrations by teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona this year. 
“We are honoring you at a time when teachers in other parts of the country are really feeling the struggle,” Moran said. “While we all feel that things need to be better for educators, in this community, we have people … who are willing to step up to honor our educators.”
Moran thanked Richard Nunley, chairman of the board of Better Living, and his wife, Judy, for sponsoring the awards since 2000.
Moran will retire on June 30, and current Deputy Superintendent Matt Haas will replace her. But Moran said that she and other educators at the ceremony would never leave their profession behind. 
“You will own your profession forever, because you teach from your hearts and not just from the books,” she said. 
The 2018 Golden Apple Award winners are:
Agnor-Hurt Elementary School: Lily Williams
Albemarle High School: Hannah Baran
Baker-Butler Elementary School: Melissa Sysling
Blue Ridge School: Dan Dunsmore
Broadus Wood Elementary School: Brittany Lindemann
Brownsville Elementary School: Jennifer McCartney
Buford Middle School: Latoya Brown
Jackson P. Burley Middle School: Pete Fiddner
Jackson-Via Elementary School: Briana Barns
Burnley-Moran Elementary School: Mary Johnston
Paul H. Cale Elementary School: Marquez Mitchell
CATEC: Karen Brown
Charlottesville Catholic School: Michelle Banaszak
Charlottesville High School: Nicole Carter
George Rogers Clark Elementary School: Jessica Taylor
Community Public Charter School: Bliss Webel
Covenant School: Betsy Carter
Crozet Elementary School: Justin Stauffer
Mary C. Greer Elementary School: Hannah Handrich
Greenbrier Elementary School: Patrick Beale
Joseph T. Henley Middle School: Emily Blasé
Hollymead Elementary School: Maria Ellis
Jack Jouett Middle School: Rob Dent
Johnson Elementary School: Laura Schaaf
Lugo-McGuiness Academy: Max Hill
Meriwether Lewis Elementary School: Meg Franco
Miller School of Albemarle: Sarah Taylor
Monticello High School: Jeremy Dove
Virginia L. Murray Elementary School: Jen Donalson
Murray High School: Mary Kelly
Red Hill Elementary School: Debbie Rondeau
Scottsville Elementary School: Michelle Valentino
St. Anne’s Belfield School: Jenny Kirkland
Stone-Robinson Elementary School: Pamela Dean
Stony Point Elementary School: Erin Owney
Mortimer Y. Sutherland Middle School: Kate Syms
Venable Elementary School: Leslie Hunter
Walker Upper Elementary School: Sarah Lloyd
Leslie H. Walton Middle School: TJ Steger
Western Albemarle High School: Sandy Keyser
Woodbrook Elementary School: Jamela Jasper

Josh Mandell graduated from Yale in 2016 and has been recognized by the Virginia Press Association with five awards for education writing, health, science and environmental writing and multimedia reporting.