Christine “Chris” Grim ’90, a teacher at Fulks Run Elementary School, was honored with the Lucy F. Simms Educator of the Year Award for Rockingham County Schools. She is among eight alumni of Eastern Mennonite University to be honored locally for professional excellence at their respective schools. (Courtesy photos)

Eight alumni educators, including Rockingham County’s Teacher of the Year, recognized for professional excellence

Christine “Chris” Grim ’90, a first-grade teacher at Fulks Run Elementary School for the last 28 years, has been named Lucy F. Simms Educator of the Year by the Rockingham County Public Schools.

She will represent the district in the Virginia Department of Education’s state and regional Teacher of the Year award.

Grim was selected from among 24 candidates representing each of the elementary, middle and high schools in the district.

Five of these honorees – Heather Crawford ’97, Sheryl McDowell MA ’09,  Sheri Loomis ’01,  Stephanie Slater MA ’07 and Heidi Swartz ’98 – are also graduates of Eastern Mennonite University.

Additionally, two of the six honorees in Harrisonburg City Public Schools – Abby Stover ’11 and Emily Imgram –  are  an EMU graduate and current graduate student, respectively.

“Congratulations to all of our local Teachers of the Year, including those alumni who came through our undergraduate and graduate programs at EMU,” said Cathy Smeltzer Erb, department chair and professor of education at EMU. “We honor their hard work and celebrate this well-earned recognition.”

Lucy F. Simms Educator of the Year

Grim was honored at a May 17 ceremony at the Lucy Francis Simms Community Center in Harrisonburg. Simms, born a slave in 1855, began teaching at age 17 and taught for 56 years in Rockingham County and Harrisonburg City. The award, given annually by the district and the non-profit affiliate Rockingham County Educational Foundation, Inc., acknowledges both her legacy and excellence in education. Grim also received a check for $1,000 from donors BotkinRose Law Firm and Douglas Guynn.

Grim says she loves to see her students realize both large and small successes. “The look on their faces when they accomplish something is priceless! I love watching those ‘lightbulb’ moments when things start to click.”

Grim says she’s thankful for the support and mentorship of many people. “I couldn’t do what I do without the support of my co-workers and the community.”

Asked to remember a special teacher, she remembers her own fifth-grade teacher Louise Basile, who developed a relationship with Grim that extended beyond just that one year she spent in her classroom.

“It wasn’t just about the academics,” Grim said. “I knew that she cared about me and as a 5th grade student that meant a lot.”

 More from the RCPS and HCPS Teachers of the Year

Here’s the other area Teachers of the Year and a bit of information about each of them (it’s a busy time for schoolteachers, so some were not able to respond.)

If you hear of an EMU alumnus who has been honored in your area for teaching excellence, let us know in the comments box below.

Heather Crawford ’97
First grade, River Bend Elementary School
Rockingham County Public Schools

A 20-year veteran, Heather says she loves when her students are “so actively engaged in a lesson that that they don’t even realize they are learning,” and when she sees students talking to each other about a lesson and collaborating with one another.”

Her colleagues are her inspiration: “I have been very fortunate to work with many amazing teachers over the years.”

Emily Imgram, working on a graduate certificate in restorative justice in education
English Language Learners, Thomas Harrison Middle School
Harrisonburg City Schools

Sheri Loomis ’01
Special Education, Elkton Elementary School
Rockingham County Public Schools

Sheri has been teaching for 17 years. She says a great day in her classroom is when she makes an impact on “a child’s ability to learn, grow, reflect, and achieve, all while building grit and resiliency and the abilities to overcome adversity.”

She appreciates “working with the terrific staff and administration at Elkton Elementary School, who each help to make teaching a joy.” And she just happened to mention “the wonderful education professors at EMU.”

Sheryl McDowell MA ’09
English Learners, grades 9-12, Spotswood High School
Rockingham County Public Schools

Shery has been teaching for 32 years.

Stephanie Slater MA ’07
Math, grades 9-12, Broadway High School
Rockingham County Public Schools

Stephanie has taught for 19 years, all at Broadway High. She currently teaches Algebra 1 and Analysis.

She says that “light bulb” moments for students are always exciting, and I always enjoy days when students are so engaged in an activity and/or helping teach each other that they don’t realize how much time has passed and how much they have learned.”

“The most important part of teaching is building relationships,” she says, which makes every day important “because I learn something new about my students

Asked to share any outstanding mentors or models, Stephanie singled out two teachers who “greatly influenced my decision to be a teacher and how I teach:”

My high school math teacher, David Rudy, made math fun and exciting and inspired me to be a math teacher.  Carolyn Cook, my cooperating teacher-mentor at Broadway, was an exceptional classroom teacher.  I had the privilege of learning instructional delivery, classroom management and so much more from her.  Both Mr. Rudy and Mrs. Cook exemplified passion and enthusiasm in the classroom.  Above all, they cared about each individual student who entered their classrooms.  They set a high standard that I strive for each day.  

 Abby Stover ’11
Fourth grade, Bluestone Elementary School
Harrisonburg City Schools

Abby has been teaching for seven years. At Bluestone, she teaches all subjects and says a great day in the classroom is “when the students are kind to each other, work together, have fun, and of course learn new things!”

Abby sends special thanks to Deb Roth, who was both her fifth-grade teacher and her professor of education at Hesston College. “She instilled for me a love of children, teaching, and learning,” she said. “If it hadn’t been for her, I may not have stayed in education.”

Heidi Swartz ’98
Reading and Language Arts, Elkton Middle School
Rockingham County Public Schools

 Heidi has worked 19 years in the county, with the last 17 at Elkton with some “hilarious and creative” middle-schoolers. “I love when my students are actively engaged, communicating through writing and speaking, and having fun.

One of her favorite teachers was her eighth- and ninth-grade choir teacher Nova Cunningham. “She was loud, daring, and not afraid to tackle any challenges in my small, rural high school. Her enthusiasm and ability to nudge me out of my comfort zone helped me to grow as a musician and as a person. Her confidence in me helped me have self-confidence.”

Discussion on “Eight alumni educators, including Rockingham County’s Teacher of the Year, recognized for professional excellence

  1. Chris, my heartiest congratulations on your honor! I have such positive memories of your journey at EMU so long ago!

  2. Congratulations to Becky Miller ’96 May, 2018 Peter Muhlenberg Middle School Teacher of the Year in Woodstock, Va.

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