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OP-ED: From the WOCCISD Superintendent: Recognizing outstanding teachers at WOSMS

Dr. Rickie R. Harris

This week I continue to highlight a group of outstanding teachers at West Orange-Stark Middle School. These teachers follow our vision by empowering the lives of our students through excellence every day.

Stephanie Smith is a product of the West Orange-Stark school system and has been employed with WOCCISD for nine years. She serves the school district as an 8th grade English Language Arts/Reading teacher, UIL Sponsor, and is the WOSHS Fillies Drill Team Director. She also serves on her campus’s Instructional Leadership Team. Stephanie has earned her Bachelor of Applied Arts and Science and Master of Education in Administration Degrees from Lamar University. She is a proud mother of one son! In her spare time, she enjoys the outdoors, helping others, and spending time with her family.  Her mantra is, “The time is always right, to do what is right.”- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ms. Smith’s mission extends beyond just her classroom. She envisions providing a rich, equitable learning experience for all students so they are equipped and supported with the tools needed to succeed.

Lashonda Birdon-Culpepper describes herself as someone who has always had a heart to serve and assist others.  She earned my Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Columbia College and a Master’s degree in Business Administration/Public Administration from Columbia Southern University.  After working many years in various human services positions, her career path has led her to her true calling- education!  She has been with the district for almost five years.  Ms. Culpepper currently teaches 7th grade English and serves as the Writing Department Head, UIL coach, and Stallionette Director. She believes each student is unique and deserves to have a teacher who cares, inspires, and engages them daily.  Ms. Culpepper says she is honored to be a part of a profession that gives me the privilege to empower and enrich creative thinking in WOS students.  As an educator, she strives to help our students meet their fullest potential by providing a safe, collaborative, and student-driven environment.

Meagan Washburn is a new but old face around West Orange-Stark. This is her second year teaching math at the middle school, but she previously taught for six years at the elementary. Meagan is a 2002 graduate of West Orange-Stark. She then went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University. Teaching is definitely in the Washburn blood as both of her parents are long-time teachers in the district. Meagan is the mother of Keylie, who keeps her very busy. When Ms. Washburn is not in the classroom, you can usually find her cheering on her daughter and her students on the field or court. She builds a good relationship with her students and uses her special education background to break down information for her students. Ms. Washburn also helps other teachers by serving as a mentor and is the head of the math department.

In closing, this illustrates John Maxwell’s philosophy that “One is too small a number to achieve greatness;” these team members help WOCCISD achieve greatness every day!

Dr. Rickie R. Harris is the Superintendent at West Orange – Cove CISD