Durham parents praise their children’s teachers, school staff and other educators who have gone above and beyond in these unprecedented times
In fifth grade, my son created a marble arcade using recycled materials and explained the physics; became excited about examining the causes of the American Revolution to the extent that he insisted we look through his class materials together; and enthusiastically solved optional math problems. He looked forward to school every day, despite [being] in the midst of a pandemic that completely transformed the classroom environment. My child’s year of joyous learning was the result of many factors, including the outstanding leadership and teaching team at Triangle Day School. More than any factor, though, it was Dan Forringer who made my son’s year amazing. He inspired and engaged his students in every possible way. Even teaching hybrid, with some students on a screen and others masked and distanced in the classroom, Dan managed to make learning fun and appropriately challenging. We are beyond grateful for the impact he had on our child. – Kersten Jacobson Biehn, parent of Grant Biehn, 11
Randy Lent was a shining light in an unprecedented and arduous year. He worked Zoom like he’d been doing it forever and managed to keep my stellar student engaged and excited throughout all of second grade! He was patient, understanding, creative and set appropriate expectations for his students all while maintaining control of his virtual classroom and enabling student accountability. We will always be grateful to Mr. Lent and everyone at Parkwood Elementary School for going above and beyond and fighting to give my child the best second grade experience under the most difficult conditions. – Colleen Bennett Ellis, parent of Avery Ellis, third grade
I would like to shout out Dionne Jimenez, the Spanish teacher at Sherwood Githens Middle School. She encouraged my son to continue taking Spanish with her this year, and I am so glad, because she uses creative teaching methods like coding to make learning the language and culture fun! She has such a strong and positive presence beyond the classroom, too, planning a multicultural night, career night and events for our Latinx families. I am grateful for all that she does for my son and her students! – Hallie Davis-Penders, parent of Toryn Penders, 13
We celebrate Malcolm Goff, art teacher at Brogden Middle School. Mr. Goff has been a champion for our son for years as his art teacher in both elementary and middle school (pictured together here before the pandemic). He’s patient, kind and focuses on kids’ strengths while still setting high expectations. He’s encouraged my son and nurtured his love for art and learning new skills even during a season of life when school was challenging and he wanted to give up. We love Mr. Goff and how much he loves our kids! – Jessie Larkins, parent of Elijah Larkins, eighth grade
I’d like to give a shoutout to Principal James Hopkins, who is an incredible force at our neighborhood school, Lakewood Elementary. His positive energy is infectious, and it’s so clear that he cares deeply about the 400-plus kids in his care and his staff. Principal Hopkins is outside greeting children and their families with a smile and a fist bump each morning in the carpool line, dresses up as a bulldog (our school mascot) or ice-cream vendor to give out hugs and sweet treats at school events, and is always looking for ways to show support for his incredible staff. He leads with kindness and wisdom, and is a true example of the type of school leader that every school in Durham needs and deserves. – Jessica Carda-Auten, parent of Georgia, 7, and Iris, 5
Dr. Chip Denton has been at the helm of Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill since its inception 26 years ago. COVID-19 brought a brand new storm to weather. But with steady reliability and consistent communication, my daughter’s kindergarten experience took off without a hitch and without any campus exposure the whole year. Such a testament to solid leadership, careful protocols and prayer!
Lindsay Rogers was everything and more I could have dreamed of in a kindergarten teacher for my daughter. She and her assistants shifted from round, collaborative tables to desks, with personal supplies in individually curated boxes to give students safe ways to explore, build and create, and a whole lot of pool noodles to encourage the play that young children need for their growth and development. My daughter waited all year for that last-day-of-school hug! – Karman Kent, parent of Maeve Kent, 6
Our daughter is in person at Parkwood Elementary this year, whereas last year we kept her virtual for the entire year. Our kindergarten teacher, Shannon Ferrell, was amazing. She was so caring and made virtual classes fun. She always communicated the plan to families and was so attentive to the needs of the kids. She knew that several kids needed a challenge and made sure she had the AIG coordinator provide weekly opportunities for those kids to meet with her for an academic enrichment opportunity. Our daughter loved that challenge and looked forward to it every week.
This year we are also lucky to have Callie Markus. She is the epitome of an excellent communicator. There were very few questions to ask because she’s likely already addressed those questions for you when she gave out the first grade packet for her room. It certainly put us at ease to know what would happen. Her weekly newsletter is amazing. It provides what the plans for the following week will be so you know in advance.
We have truly had a great experience at Parkwood with every single educator we have met. It’s likely a reflection of our awesome principal, Anna Rusconi, who is so pleasant and uplifting all the time. I think she demands that her staff bring that same level of energy to the classroom. – Shanna Weaver and Corey Weaver, parents of Kennedy Weaver, first grade
Jeff Barger at Hill Learning Center is incredibly patient and encouraging with Lachlan. He is always positive and promotes a growth mindset. He keeps high standards and makes students see the value of hard work and practice. We are lucky to have Mr. Barger as a teacher! – Lauren Rivers, parent of Lachlan Rivers, fifth grade