York County region students, teachers honored for academic success

Joe Brandt, a seventh grade teacher at Dutchman Creek Middle School, works with a student.
Joe Brandt, a seventh grade teacher at Dutchman Creek Middle School, works with a student. Rock Hill school district

Each month, The Herald highlights teachers, school staff or students who have made a positive impact in York, Lancaster and Chester County schools. The honorees are chosen by the school districts.

School: Dutchman Creek Middle School

Name: Joe Brandt

Background: Brandt, a seventh grade teacher, joined the staff at Dutchman Creek two days before the start of the 2017-18 school year.

Reason for honor: Brandt was a new teacher when he joined Dutchman, having never taught or completed an internship. “He had nothing. His classroom was completely empty, yet he hit the ground running and quickly developed into a great teacher, leader, and someone who genuinely wanted to help students. Brandt is a creative individual and he demonstrated a commitment to student success through his volunteer service for numerous school activities including events, games, school trips and conferences,” reads a statement from the Rock Hill school district.

Quote: “Brandt will continue to grow and be better, and we look forward to watching him grow and serve the Rock Hill community. He is a gifted teacher and it is hard to believe he is only in his second year with Dutchman Creek Middle School,” the statement reads.

School: Tega Cay Elementary

Name: Rebecca Benvenuto

Background: Benvenuto left the corporate world to become a teacher in 2005. She has taught first, second and third grade and currently holds the Technology 2 position at Tega Cay Elementary School and holds a National Board Certified Teacher certification. She serves as a STEAM teacher leader for TCES and helps coach the Robotics club.

Reason for honor: Tega Cay Elementary Principal Brigitte Wagner said Benvenuto motivates and engages her students each day. “She provides a learning environment where students collaborate, become critical thinkers and learn from their mistakes. Her ability to plan, develop and implement lessons with other teachers is another of her strengths. Mrs. Benvenuto carries out our school mission of “Lead, Learn and Love” each day,” Wagner said.

Quote: “I believe that I have one of the best jobs out there,” Benvenuto said. “I have the privilege to observe students apply their natural curiosity while learning how the physical world works. There truly is no better part of my job then watching this process carry out as students participate in the 5 c’s (collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, communication and caring).”

School: Floyd D. Johnson Technology Center

Name: Michael Laws and student Luke Brannon

Background: Laws is the firefighting program coordinator and instructor for the technology center in York. Brannon is a student in the program and a junior firefighter with the McConnells Fire Department.

Reason for honor: Laws is known for building a successful firefighting program in a short amount of time at the technology center. His program has helped students compete in the field and leave well-prepared for a career as a firefighter. Brannon has earned his BLS Certification, OSHA Firefighter Certification, Haz-Mat Awareness Certification and Personally Owned Vehicle Response Certification and serves the community as a member of the fire department.

Quote: “Mr. Laws goes above and beyond every day to ensure students are learning, engaged and receptive to the material being taught in his classroom. He routinely rehearses the lessons he teaches prior to implementing each one, and he is an exceptionally reflective practitioner in the classroom. His heart for service in the community and in our school are unmatched,” said Shannon Carrigan, assistant director of the Floyd D. Johnson Technology Center.

“Luke is reliable in the classroom and is reliable on the fire ground. A firefighter is a ‘General Expert’ with a ton of heart. Luke has a ton of heart and an impressive desire to learn more every day,” said Michael Laws, firefighting instructor.

School: Clover High School

Name: Aaron Falls

Background: Falls is a senior at Clover High School.

Reason for honor: Falls has been recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation as a “Commended Student.” The program honors about 34,000 students throughout the nation for academic achievement. The 2019 Commended Students are those who placed among the top 50,000 scorers of more than 1.6 million students on the 2017 PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Quote: “Aaron’s academic background is impeccable, admirable, and downright reflective of a young man who makes learning his passion. Over the past three years, I have seen him come out of his shell, his personality and warmth shining amongst his peers,” said Quentin McGill, school counselor for Clover High School. “I love how his parents have also supported him in his ventures and have never pressured him to be the excellent young man he has become.”

School: Kershaw Elementary

Name: Leslie Parker

Background: Parker, a second grade teacher, has been teaching for 16 years and holds a masters of art in early childhood education.

Reason for honor: Parker is the Lancaster County School District’s Celebrate Great Teaching recipient at the elementary level.

Quote: ”She’s positive, creative and encouraging. And she takes great pride in helping her students grow in their classwork and in their social skills,” said Kelli Farmer, Kershaw Elementary principal.

School: Chester Park Elementary School of the Arts

Name: Laura Hayman

Background: Hayman is a first year teacher at Chester Park Elementary.

Reason for honor: Hayman is the Chester County School District’s Rock Star Teacher of the Month.

Quote: “Having a teacher who truly cares about instilling manners into our children is a blessing in today’s age,” Chester parent Anna Roof wrote about Hayman. “We as parents do the best we can but having someone else teach them the same mannerisms makes a huge difference.”

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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