Department of Defense Education Activity

2010 Teachers of the Year

Susan Morris

Susan Morris
Heidelberg District ToY
Boeblingen E/MS,
Social Studies

2010 DoDEA Teacher of the Year Susan Morris describes herself and her passion for teaching

Ms. Morris has 10 years of teaching experience; almost seven of those years are with DoDEA. For the past four years she has been teaching Social Studies and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) to 7th and 8th grade DoDEA students at Boeblingen Elementary and Middle School in the Heidelberg District. Ms. Morris also taught at Kaiserslautern High School and Patch American High School. Prior to coming to DoDEA, Ms. Morris taught 8th grade American History and 7th grade World Geography at F.B. Leon Guerrero Middle School in Yigo, Guam; 11th and 12th grade American Government at George Washington High School in Mangilao, Guam; and 10th grade International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) Geography, 7th grade Language Arts, and 8th grade Literature and Social Studies at Verdala International School in St. Andrew's, Malta.

Ms. Morris graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science in Education as well as a Master of Education. Ms. Morris believes in building strong student-teacher relationships and fulfilling a supportive and mentor role as "the guide on the side". She believes this is more important to helping students learn than implementing a strictly teacher-centered approach in the classroom.

DoDEA Americas

2010 winner - PamKoon Pam Koon
District, Dexter ES

Ms. Koon has 34 years of teaching experience; 28 of those have been teaching in DoDEA schools at Ft. Benning, Georgia. She has been teaching physical education at Dexter Elementary School for over twenty years. Prior to coming to DoDEA, Ms. Koon taught gymnastics to a wide range of students at Columbus Gymnastics Academy and Physical Education, grades 5-12 in the Muscogee County School System.

Ms. Koon graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Science in Health and Physical Education. She earned her Master of Science in Health and Physical Education from Georgia Southwestern University. Ms. Koon is fluent in Spanish and sign language.

Ms. Koon believes in an "active learning style with a sense of purpose to achieve health related fitness and physical competence". She focuses on cooperation among students, teamwork skills, and encourages students to support each other. Ms. Koon uses formative assessments, observations and evaluations to make curriculum and instructional revisions in order to meet individual student needs. Before school Ms. Koon invites the students and their families, pets included, to participate in a before-school physical education program to ensure that everyone develops physically active lifestyles.

2010 winner Brenda Schultz-von Hawker Schultz-von Hawker
Kentucky District 
Ft. Campbell Schools
English Language Arts

Ms. Schultz-von Hawker has 30 years of teaching experience. For 22 of those years she has been teaching at DoDEA schools. Ms. Schultz-von Hawker has worked for the past two years in Fort Campbell Schools with 9th-12th graders in Resource English Language Arts and Learning Strategies and with students in Pre-K -5th grade who are Emotionally Impaired (E.I.) and/or have specific Learning Disorders (L.D.). She also taught at SHAPE American Middle and High School and Patch American High School.

In addition, Ms. Schultz-von Hawker worked within the Stuttgart District Schools as a Pre-K-12th grade Behavioral Management Specialist, District ADHD Assessor; Exceptional Family Member Program Liaison, and Family Advocacy Case Management Team Representative. Prior to joining DoDEA, she worked with Resource and Self-contained E.I. 7th-9th graders at Virginia Beach City Public Schools and was a counselor, Assistant and Camp Director for Loudoun County Parks and Recreation in Virginia.

Ms. Schultz-von Hawker graduated from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Science in Emotional Disturbances and Elementary Education. She went on to earn her Master of Education from National Lewis University. She received a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Health Care from American InterContinental University.

In the classroom, Ms. Schultz-von Hawker's teaching focuses on preparing students for real world experiences through academics. She believes that learning should be fun but also provide meaningful real world applications. Ms. Schultz-von Hawker uses differentiated instruction to tailor her teaching to each individual student's learning style.

2010 winner Lynn Magalong Lowe Lynn Magalong Lowe
New York/Virginia/
Puerto Rico District
Quantico M/HS

Ms. Lowe has 25 years of teaching experience. For 22 of those years she has been a teacher at Quantico Middle/High School in DoDEA's New York, Virginia and Puerto Rico District. She has taught a variety of subjects including history, science, math, and economics. She also spent two summers teaching 4th-8th grade summer enrichment courses. Prior to coming to DoDEA, Ms. Lowe taught at Woodbridge High School in Prince William County, Virginia.

Ms. Lowe graduated from Virginia Polytechnic and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia with a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and Biology. She received her degree in Finite Math and Computer technology from Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) in Woodbridge, Virginia. She received her teaching license in Biology, Earth and Space Science, History, General Science and General Mathematics from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Ms. Lowe earned her Master of Liberal Studies in Human Genetics with an emphasis on Characteristics and Needs of the Middle School Child and Middle School Curriculum from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

As a former DoDEA student herself, Ms. Lowe's philosophy of teaching and teaching style is a reflection of the lessons she learned from her teachers while she attended DoDEA schools. She stresses an organized, structured classroom, responsibility, and accountability as important attributes for success. Ms. Lowe also believes that teachers should be flexible and willing to adapt their teaching style to each student's individual needs.

2010 winner Darla Williamitis Darla Williamitis
North Carolina District
Irwin IS, Special Edu.

Ms. Williamitis has 11 years of teaching experience. She has been teaching 5th and 6th grade special education classes for the past three years at Irwin Intermediate School, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Prior to teaching with DoDEA, Ms. Williamitis was an Exceptional Children's Facilitator and designed and implemented special education programs for six learning communities at Scotland County High School in Scotland County, North Carolina. She was also a Case Manager, Special Education and Inclusion Teacher and taught Math,     English, and Study Skills at Jack Britt High School in Cumberland County, North Carolina. As a Special Education Teacher at Seventy-First High School in Cumberland County, Ms. Williamitis taught Life Skills Math, Pre-Algebra and Algebra A&B.

Ms. Williamitis received her Associate of Arts in General Education from Edison Community College. She graduated from Methodist College (now Methodist University) with a Bachelor of Science in Special Education. She received her Master of Arts in Education from East Carolina University. Ms. Williamitis also earned a Master in School Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Ms. Williamitis firmly believes that it is the responsibility of educators to prepare their students for a future of diversity, which demands the ability to learn and acquire new skills. She believes in equipping students with a "love of learning, an enthusiasm for acquiring new skills, and the ability to function and work fluidly in organizations that will demand interdependence of members who must cooperate and contribute to their goals."

2010 winner Mitch Finley Mitch Finley
South Carolina/Fort Stewart/ DoDDS Cuba District
Kessler ES, Educational Tech.

Mr. Finley has 22 years of teaching experience. He has been teaching within DoDEA schools for 14 years. For the past nine years Mr. Finley has been the Educational Technologist at Kessler Elementary School at Fort Stewart, Georgia. He also was the ET for DoDEA schools in the Kaiserslautern District, Germany and the School Complex Computer Coordinator at Daegu American School, Korea. Prior to coming to DoDEA Mr. Finley taught 5th grade at Clarke Elementary School in Killeen, Texas.

Mr. Finley earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with a Math Option from Montana State University. He received his Master in Education Administration from Grand Canyon University.

As a teacher Mr. Finley believes that it is his job to help students acquire a desire to seek answers to things that they might not understand. Working as an Educational Technologist allows Mr. Finley to incorporate 21st century skills into his teaching. This enables his students to make real-world connections as they learn about the latest software applications, computer hardware, and new areas in computer technology.

DoDEA Europe

2010 winner Gretchen WallGretchen Wall
Bavaria District   
Vilseck ES

Ms. Wall has 26 years of teaching experience. For the last 20 years she has been teaching at DoDEA schools. This past year, Ms. Wall has been providing services to preschool children with disabilities at Vilseck Elementary School in DoDEA's Bavaria District. She also taught at Argonner Elementary School, Babenhausen Elementary School, Hainerberg Elementary School, and Halvorsen Elementary School. Prior to joining DoDEA, Ms. Wall taught Kindergarten at Badger Springs Elementary School in Moreno Valley, California, 4th grade at Fairbanks Elementary School in Morenci, Arizona, and Chapter 1 reading at Keeling Elementary School and Prince Elementary School, both in Tucson, Arizona.

Ms. Wall graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Science in Child Development and Family Relations. She received her Master of Education in Reading, Language and Culture. Ms. Wall strongly believes that as a teacher it is important for her to get to know each child that enters her classroom, "to find the best ways to encourage them to enter, to let them stay as long as they need, and finally to encourage them to walk independently back out the door". To accomplish this, a teacher must cultivate the classroom environment so each child can learn, grow, discover, and explore.

2010 winner Margaret BruceMargaret Bruce
Isles District
Lakenheath MS, Science

Ms. Bruce has 28 years of teaching experience. She has been teaching family consumer science to 6th-8th graders at Lakenheath Middle School for the past two years. Ms. Bruce also taught at London Central Middle and High School and La Maddalena American School, now closed.

Prior to coming to DoDEA Ms. Bruce taught at Coronado Middle School and Coronado High School in California; Gila Vista Middle School in Yuma, Arizona; San Diego County School System, California; the University of California in San Diego; Azusa Pacific College in Twenty-nine Palms, California.; Redwood High School in Marin County, California; Palm Springs High School in Palm Springs, California; and LA Baptists High School in Sepulveda, California. She also taught for the San Diego Unified School District and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Ms. Bruce believes that much of what an educator teaches students is beyond the planned, metered lessons. In her classroom she teaches students useful life skills like teamwork, work ethics, problem-solving, creative-thinking and articulating with other disciplines. These skills are essential to student learning and can be applied to other areas as well. Students in Ms. Bruce's class have taken what they have learned and used it in their communities through volunteer work.

2010 winner Cleo StrazdasCleo Strazdas
Kaiserslautern District
Wetzel ES, Gifted Edu.

Ms. Strazdas has 12 years of teaching experience. For the last five years she has been teaching at Wetzel Elementary School as a Gifted Education Teacher and a Special Education Inclusion Teacher for 2nd and 3rd graders.

Prior to working for DoDEA, Ms. Strazdas was a Training and Curriculum Specialist for early childhood staff at the Wetzel Child Development Center on the U.S. Army Garrison in Baumholder, Germany. She was also a multi-age classroom teacher for 2nd and 3rd grades with gifted clusters at Aztec Elementary School in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Ms. Strazdas graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts. She received her teaching credential at the University of Phoenix. Ms. Strazdas later went on to obtain her Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University. She also earned Gifted Education Certification from the University of Phoenix.

Ms. Strazdas strongly believes that students should be able to grow and work toward personal goals that will enable them to be successful learners. Her objective is to ensure that the students she teaches will pursue their quest for knowledge and foster opportunities to thrive academically.

2010 winner Suzanne SperlSuzanne Sperl
Mediterranean District
Livorno Unit School, Visual Arts

Ms. Sperl has eight years of teaching experience and for the past five years she has been teaching in DoDEA schools. Ms. Sperl is currently a teacher of Visual Arts and Professional Technical Studies for Kindergarten-8th grade students at Livorno Unit School in Italy. She also taught 9th-12th grade students at Livorno Unit School before the high school component closed in 2007. Prior to coming to DoDEA, Ms. Sperl taught 7th and 8th grade Visual Arts and Art Technology and 8th grade Language Arts at Phoenix Preparatory Academy in Phoenix, Arizona.

Ms. Sperl earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Video and Film from Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. She received her Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Secondary Education from Arizona State University.

Ms. Sperl believes that education should "foster thinking, questioning, creative problem-solving, and clear and effective communication". According to Ms. Sperl the most important aspect of studying visual arts is exploring an individual creative process and being able to communicate effectively regardless of what medium a student uses.

DoDEA Pacific

2010 winner Juana M. Aguon Juana M. Aguon
Guam District
Guam HS, Algebra, Geometry and AVID  

Ms. Aguon has 37 years of teaching experience. She began teaching for DoDEA nine years ago. Ms. Aguon teaches Algebra I/II, Geometry, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), Algebra/Geometry labs and college prep classes to students at Guam High School. She also served as a substitute teacher for DoDEA schools in Guam.

Prior to teaching for DoDEA, Ms. Aguon taught Algebra I/II, Geometry, and PreCalculus at Father Duenas Memorial School and at the Academy of Our Lady of Guam. She also taught Algebra I/II, Geometry, PreCalculus, Business Mathematics, and College Algebra at George Washington Sr. High School. Early in her career, Ms. Aguon taught first grade at B.P. Carbullido Elementary School, also in Guam.

Ms. Aguon graduated from the University of Guam with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics, Secondary Education. She received her Master of Arts in Secondary Education from the University of San Francisco.

Ms. Aguon seeks to provide her students with the skills they need to control their own learning. In the classroom, she focuses on creating "interactive, motivated, and evidence-based learning" for her students.

2010 winner Clover Stephenson Clover Stephenson
Korea District 
Osan American ES, Literacy Support Specialist

Ms. Stephenson has 27 years of teaching experience. She has been the Literacy Support Specialist and Read 180 Teacher for the past year at Osan American Elementary School. Prior to her current position, she was the Literacy Facilitator and taught 1st grade, 3rd grade and multi-age 1st and 2nd grade students at Osan American Elementary School. She also taught at Wuerzburg Elementary School in Germany.

Ms. Stephenson graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a Bachelor of Arts in Speech and Hearing Therapy. She received her Master in Education from National Louis University and has completed additional post graduate work with San Diego State University.

Ms. Stephenson strongly believes that "all children can learn, but all children learn differently". She not only addresses her students' academic needs but their emotional, social, and physical needs as well. She encourages her students to take risks, look at mistakes as part of the learning process and to celebrate their successes.

2010 winner Seth Renquist Seth Renquist
Okinawa District
Kadena ES, Japanese, Partial Immersion (JPI)

Mr. Renquist has 8 years of teaching experience. He has been teaching within DoDEA schools for the past seven years. Currently Mr. Renquist is teaching 5th grade Japanese Partial Immersion (JPI) at Kadena Elementary. He has also taught 3rd-8th grade summer enrichment courses within the Okinawa District.

Prior to coming to DoDEA, Mr. Renquist taught 3rd grade at Holomua Elementary School and summer enrichment classes for 7th-8th grade students in Hawaii. He also taught Kindergarten through 6th grade and adult level English and Culture in all 20 of Japan's Ishigaki City Schools.

  Mr. Renquist graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Japanese. He received his Master of Education in Teaching from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He also completed an Advanced Japanese Language course at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan.

Mr. Renquist believes that it is a teacher's job to focus learning towards a certain set of concepts. Teachers must then encourage high quality learning by instilling in their students an "intention to learn, stimulating them, and giving them a safe, social environment within which to learn." He believes that teachers should find ways to relate what is to be learned to their students' understandings, experiences, lives, and interests in order to motivate students and engage them in learning.