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In The News

Second Lett Scholar joins NNPS
Warwick HS alum teaches at Passage.

(04/03/2014) -Danielle Lavergne is the second Wayne D. Lett Scholarship recipient to return to Newport News Public Schools as a teacher. After receiving the scholarship in 2008, she attended Old Dominion University, where she earned a double degree in English Education and Women's Studies. She teaches eighth-grade English at Passage Middle School.

What NNPS schools did you attend?

I moved to Newport News the summer before my junior year of high school due to my father being in the military. The only Newport News school I attended was Warwick High School.

Was there a teacher who stands out for you as a role model, someone who might have helped you decide to pursue a teaching career? If so, who, and what was special about that mentor?

I've known I wanted to be a teacher since I was in elementary school. At the end of the year, when other students were throwing away their workbooks and teachers were getting rid of unused worksheets, I was collecting them. I would go home and play school with my brother and cousins. I was always the teacher.

My fifth-grade teacher, Agnes Smith, was a no-nonsense teacher who expected you to walk into her classroom and get your work done. I also look up to Tivika Stephenson. She was my cheerleading coach at Warwick. She has always given me advice and supported me on my path to be a teacher. She is a very hard worker and amazing teacher and has accomplished a lot.

Another teacher who inspired me was Kimberly Grant. She was my Teachers for Tomorrow teacher at Warwick. In that class I learned what it would be like to be a teacher and what I needed to do to become one.

You're a semester into your first year as a teacher. Is there a lesson you've learned that you'd like to share?

I've learned many lessons. The most important is that you have to know your students and build relationships with them. I'm very grateful that I have built relationships with my students. It makes my job that much easier.

I've also learned that when teaching in middle school, having strong teams is very important. When everyone asks me how my first year is going, I always say it is amazing and I love my job. I would not be able to make that response if it were not for the support I receive from my team. From day one, they welcomed me with open arms. They are always there to help me when I have a question about something or need someone to talk to. My eighth-grade English team works as one when it comes to planning, which has been a blessing. Trying to do it all as a first-year teacher would be a nightmare, but we bring our ideas together, split up the work and teach the same lessons with our own personal spins on them.

What do you do to keep learning fresh and interesting for your students?

I try to keep lessons as hands-on and interactive as I can. I use whiteboards for student responses, use the SMART Board to teach and guide students through lessons, allow students to turn and talk and collaborate. I'll also change the classroom seating.

I'm constantly reflecting on the things that work and don't work with my students. Sometimes, I take advice from my students. Making things fun and exciting for students is important - as long as it doesn't take away from learning.

What do you do away from work for fun?

Outside of school, I'm a volunteer cheerleading coach for the Deer Park Cougars and I have been for five years. It brings me joy to be a positive influence on the girls' lives. I was a cheerleader since I was in elementary school, so being able to be a part of the sport brings me joy. Being a teacher is hard work, so I also enjoy being able to relax with family and friends.

Does having attended a district school give you an advantage as a teacher?

I believe it's given me an advantage. I've had support from my former teachers, and I have an understanding of what is expected of me as well as the expectations we have for our students.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself still working with children, but not as a teacher. I love being a teacher and knew this is the job I wanted to do since I was a child, but I always wanted to go beyond that. I've always dreamed of working for or having my own organization that focuses on providing education and resources to children living in poverty. I hope I'm able to accomplish this goal. If I am unable to, I will continue to reach my students through teaching.

The Lett Scholarship is given annually by the Newport News Education Foundation to NNPS students who plan to return to the district to teach. It's named for former Superintendent Wayne D. Lett. Brittany Lahr received the first scholarship, in 2007. She teaches social studies at Denbigh High School. Other Lett scholars are: Warwick graduates Clayton J. Smith, Katie Lovell and Lauren Hudson, Woodside High's Chelsea Brayboy and Kira Kindley and Heritage High School alumnus Thomiah Dudley.