Press Release re-posted with permission from Henrico County Public Schools
Henrico County Public Schools employs more than 4,000 teachers, but only one is honored each year with the division’s Teacher of the Year Award. Lindsey Pantele, an English teacher at Glen Allen High School, was named this year’s winner. Because of HCPS’ closure for the coronavirus pandemic, the school division’s usual announcement ceremony had to be canceled. Instead, Pantele found out she was the 2020 winner when an HCPS school bus pulled up at her house Tuesday for a surprise announcement from Amy Cashwell, HCPS superintendent and Kristi Kinsella, the School Board’s Brookland District representative.
Other finalists for the Teacher of the Year Award were Melinda Pastuszak from Chamberlayne Elementary School, Twin Hickory Elementary School’s Candace Wilcox, Tedra Buckler from Quioccasin Middle School and Jamie Roberts from John Rolfe Middle School. One finalist is selected from each of Henrico’s five magisterial districts.
As part of her award, Pantele received $1,000, courtesy of Henrico Federal Credit Union. The finalists were awarded $500.
Winning is “humbling and rewarding and shocking,” Pantele said from her porch, to a small, socially distanced crowd of well-wishers gathered in her yard. “We don’t enter this profession as teachers to win awards, and I think considering the type of year we all have had, what an honor this is.
“As a product of Henrico County, it has been a privilege getting to work in the county that shaped who I’ve become as a teacher. We have worked so hard for 10 years [since Glen Allen opened] to build a sense of community. I think winning this award is another way for the school and the staff to be proud. I would not be the teacher I am today if not for all of them.”
Pantele graduated from Mills Godwin High School after attending Gayton Elementary School and Harry Byrd (now Quioccasin) and Pocahontas middle schools. She is an alumna of Christopher Newport University, where she earned undergraduate and master’s degrees.
Earlier Tuesday, Jessica Orzechowski, a world history and government teacher at Varina High School, was named HCPS’ First-Year Teacher of the Year. She was surprised with an announcement during an online Varina staff meeting.
Orzechowski grew up in Philadelphia. She earned her undergraduate degree from Delaware Valley University. Orzechowski decided to pursue a career in education after a stint managing horse farms and working in small animal veterinary clinics. She has a master’s degree in secondary education from Gwynedd Mercy University.
“This award means everything to me and my family,” said Orzechowski. “From the moment I stepped onto Varina’s campus, it felt like home — the school’s dedication to professional growth and academic excellence has challenged me in ways I have never been challenged before. The students at Varina are exceptional and I really owe my success to them. They immediately appealed to my Philadelphia roots with their passion and love for their community. They are strong in the face of adversity and will move mountains for you. It is an honor to refer to them as ‘my kids.’ This is as much their award as it is mine and I am so proud to share it with them and my colleagues. Go Blue Devils!”