2020 district/charter Teachers of the Year named

Twenty Delaware teachers are finalists to be named Delaware’s 2020 State Teacher of the Year.

Selected from among the 9,000 public school teachers in the state, the candidates were nominated by their districts or the Delaware Charter School Network because of their ability to inspire students with a love of learning, demonstration of professional traits and devotion to teaching. Already leaders among the colleagues in their buildings, each now has assumed a role representing educators in their districts or the charter network. In October, one will take over the state title from 2019 Delaware Teacher of the Year Dana Bowe, a special education teacher at West Seaford Elementary in the Seaford School District.

The 2020 District/Charter Teachers of the Year are:

District/Charters       Name                                     School                                   Content area

Appoquinimink           Stephen Landry                   Appoquinimink High             Mathematics

Brandywine               Lauren Conrad                     Concord High                       Music (vocal)

Caesar Rodney         Sabra Collins                        Caesar Rodney High          Physical education

Cape Henlopen          Brennan Clarke                    Shields Elementary             English as a second language

Capital                       Erica Richard                        East Dover Elementary       K-4 mathematics specialist

Charters                     Kayla Sweet                          Kuumba Academy               6th grade mathematics

Christina                    Lindsey Muldoon                 Shue Medill Middle              8th grade English language arts

Colonial                     Rebecca Vitelli                     Colwyck Center                    Prekindergarten

Delmar                       Donna Huston                      Delmar High                         English language arts

Indian River              Arthur Henry                         Millsboro Middle                   Music (band)

Lake Forest               Christina Hughes-Gallo      Lake Forest High                 Social studies

Laurel                         Donna Sava                          Laurel Elementary               1st grade

Milford                        Jaime Hill                              Morris Elementary               Kindergarten

NCCVT                      Anthony Webb                     Delcastle High                      Mathematics

POLYTECH              Nick Post                               POLYTECH High                 Electrical trades technology

Red Clay                   Richard Weaver                   AI duPont High                    Music (band)

Seaford                      Laura Burke                          Central Elementary              3rd grade

Smyrna                      Denise Balcerak                   Sunnyside Elementary       Kindergarten

Sussex Tech             Dontez Collins                      Sussex Tech High               Mathematics

Woodbridge              Stephanie Vodvarka            Wheatley Elementary          4th grade


Media contact: Alison May, alison.may@doe.k12.de.us, 302-735-4006

New survey targets educators who change positions

The Delaware Department of Education has launched a new survey to learn more from educators changing positions and help stakeholders better understand educator workforce patterns across the state.


Understanding why educators change roles or leave their positions will help local leaders to target approaches to improve recruitment and retention efforts in their districts or schools. The Delaware Department of Education will use statewide data to identify and implement new strategies to attract and retain teachers, school leaders, and other educators across the state. 


“We want all Delaware students to have well-prepared and effective educators supporting their learning every day. Understanding why educators choose to change positions or schools will help us to better support educators and both keep them in or attract them to the areas in which we need them the most,” Secretary of Education Susan Bunting said.



In addition to the department analyzing the statewide data, local school districts and charter schools will be provided local data, which will aid them in developing local strategies to address recruitment and retention challenges.


“Our district appreciates the work and collaboration that the department put into funding and developing the statewide Educator Mobility Survey. The data that both the department and districts and charter schools will have access to as a result of these survey responses will be significant in making necessary and meaningful improvements to our recruitment and retention practices,” Laurel School District Director of Finance and Human Resources Monet Whaley Smith said. “With the increasing shortage of certified teachers across our state, retaining our most impactful educators is of critical importance. This survey will help take the guess work out of determining why teachers leave schools, districts, and Delaware and, what we can do about it.”


The department plans to release a report in early 2020 based on the survey results.   




Media Contact: Alison May, alison.may@doe.k12.de.us, 302-735-4006

2018 Education Preparation reports show programs’ progress

The Delaware Department of Education today released 2018 biennial reports on the state’s teacher and specialist educator preparation programs, part of a comprehensive effort to strengthen educator preparation programs in the First State.


The reports provide information ranging from the diversity of programs’ candidate classes to student performance outcomes of graduates, to employment placement and retention within the state. The reports show progress on some fronts, most notably that the state’s institutes of higher education are making some progress in attracting a more diverse class of future educators.


In 2018, across all educator preparation programs in Delaware, 1 in 4 candidates identified as an individual of color, compared to 1 in 5 two years ago. While about 56 percent of Delaware’s student population identifies as a race other than white, only 15 percent of the educator workforce does.


“Diversifying the teaching workforce is an important priority for the state as we strive to create an educator workforce that is more reflective of our student population,” Secretary of Education Susan Bunting said. “While we still have work to do, I commend the work our colleges and universities have undertaken to more successfully attract candidates of color to and retain them in their teacher preparation programs.”


The reports also show gains for specific programs.  Delaware State University has increased its program sizes across the board, for example. And University of Delaware’s Blended Early Childhood Program increased its overall score thanks to increases in student outcomes and the observation of teacher practices in PK-2 classrooms as well as supervisor perceptions of the program graduates’ level of preparedness.


The program reports garner programs continued approval to operate based on data.  Programs are classified into the following categories based on their performance – Renewed, Renewed With Conditions, or Probation.  Some particularly small programs are noted to be a Program Under Further Review due to extremely limited data. 


The reports provide prospective students considering educator preparation programs in Delaware a resource for learning about their options while the state’s districts and charter schools have additional information on the strengths of each program.


About half of Delaware’s novice educators are prepared by Delaware preparation programs; the reports are a part of the state’s overall strategy to strengthen such programs throughout the state. 


All available performance data is used to classify all programs, whether or not they generated a program report. Overall the 2018 results show 28 programs categorized as renewed, 9 programs renewed with conditions, and two programs on probation. Additionally, 14 programs are classified as a program under further review due to insufficient data. Programs that are renewed with conditions or placed on probation will be required to submit a plan of action for improvement to the Delaware Department of Education.  Programs under further review must demonstrate the workforce need the program is meeting and additional evidence of meeting program standards.   A state summary of all programs is also included in the release.


Media Contact: Alison May, alison.may@doe.k12.de.us, 302-735-4006


Sussex Tech teacher named Delaware’s 2018 Teacher of the Year

Virginia Forcucci becomes Delaware’s nominee in national competition

A high school English teacher from the Sussex Technical School District is Delaware’s 2018 State Teacher of the Year.

Governor John Carney made the announcement tonight at the annual banquet honoring the 20 district and charter teachers of the year at Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center in Dover.

Virginia “Jinni” Forcucci became an educator because of her love of literature, but her students are the inspiration for her 20-year career.

Met with blank stares and a collective sense of disinterest on her first days in the classroom, Forcucci questioned her curricula, her strategies and her motivation for becoming a teacher, she said.

It took a challenging student to show her that the problem wasn’t her lessons — it was her approach. What she viewed as apathy in her learners was more likely insecurity, inability or misdirection, she said. Her students needed advocates, and Forcucci became their biggest.

Forcucci uses literature “to overturn perspectives, to generate critical thought and fruitful discussion, and, ultimately and inevitably in her classroom, to change lives,” Zoe James-Collins said in a letter nominating her former teacher for the state honor. “My classmates and I would often joke that her class was like church: We’d leave her sanctuary each day renewed, enlightened and inspired to be a better person … for many of us, she was the agent of change she urged us to be.”

Her colleagues see the connections she makes with students, too.

“Whether she’s laughing so hard at a clever comment from a class clown or suffering along with a student as they share their darkest moment in a piece for creative writing, Virginia Forcucci will cry. Her passion shows through tears,” Anthony Natoli, another English instructor at Sussex Tech, said in his nomination letter. “That’s what makes Virginia Forcucci special. That’s what makes her an incredible educator. That’s what makes her an incredible person.”

Forcucci said she found what best motivates learning is demanding content, freedom to explore and academic discourse. With this discovery, she redesigned her curricula, enhancing rigor and relying more on student-driven discussions. Even her most resistant learners responded.

As a teacher, Forcucci works to encourage her students to understand all sides of an argument before formulating a perspective and to seek common ground as they search for a resolution.

“We live in a climate right now where lines are often drawn in the sand. Instead of listening to one another, we’re thinking about what to say. Instead of considering the perspective of ‘the other,’ we judge or we ignore,” Forcucci said. “Sitting in a circle, my seniors debate media’s impact on race relations, the need for solitude in self-discovery, the absence of cultural literacy in our schools, and I’m inspired.”

Teachers, she said, must be good examples for their students: “We must maintain high expectations for our students, model compassion and reward exploration. My sincere hope is that when we devote ourselves to life-long learning and empathy, our students will, too.”

Forcucci inherits from outgoing Teacher of the Year Wendy Turner the responsibility of representing all teachers in Delaware. She will address community groups, business leaders, legislators, and educational organizations to inform the public about the status of Delaware schools. She also will become Delaware’s candidate in the National Teacher of the Year Program, a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers sponsored by the Voya Foundation.

By action of the General Assembly, she will receive a $5,000 grant to use for the educational benefit of her students, as well two personal grants totaling an additional $5,000. The remaining 19 school district/charter candidates each will receive a personal grant of $2,000.

Forcucci also will receive: a $1,000 grant for educational/classroom use from American Institutes for Research; grants from the Delaware State Education Association and the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce; a State of Delaware Teacher of the Year commemorative plate from the Division of Motor Vehicles; free graduate-level courses from Delaware’s higher education institutions, including a full doctorate program from Wilmington University; a gold watch from the Delaware State Teachers of the Year Association; a 10-karat gold ring from Jostens; and lunch in Washington D.C. with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper.

Other organizations that honored the newly-selected Teacher of the Year include: the Delaware Chief School Officers Association, Delaware Association of School Administrators, Delaware School Boards Association, Delaware State University, Wesley College, Educators Rising and Advantech Incorporated.

This year’s celebration was sponsored in part by Voya Financial.

Media Contact: Alison May, alison.may@doe.k12.de.us, (302) 735-4006


Governor Markell Announces Nomination of Patrice Gilliam-Johnson, Ph.D. to Serve as Secretary of Labor


Dover, DE — Governor Markell announced today the nomination of respected educator and human resources expert Patrice Gilliam-Johnson, Ph.D. to serve as Delaware’s next Secretary of Labor.Patrice

For more than a decade, Dr. Gilliam-Johnson has served as Chairperson of Wilmington University’s Organization Dynamics Program.  In that capacity, she has helped prepare thousands of students for careers through instruction in the social and psychological elements of organizational behavior, leadership, motivation, workplace performance, and management.  Prior to entering academia in 1997, Dr. Gilliam-Johnson was a consultant providing training and consultation relating to workplace competency skills, employee selection, assessment and performance evaluation systems, and grievance procedures.  Prior to that time, Dr. Gilliam-Johnson gained a critical understanding of how organizations and governments can prepare employees for growth while serving in various roles with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the District of Columbia Courts, and the U.S. Department of Labor.

“Patrice’s experience and background coupled with her strong work ethic, dedication to underserved communities, and her passion for public service will make her a strong Labor Secretary if confirmed,” said Governor Jack Markell. “I am confident that Patrice’s understanding of people and how best to support them and their organizations will allow her to help build a stronger workforce in Delaware.”

Dr. Gilliam-Johnson received her Bachelors in Psychology from Morgan State University, and her Masters and Doctorate in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at the University of Maryland. She currently resides in Wilmington.  Dr. Gilliam-Johnson is active in the community, including as President of the Gilliam Foundation.  She has served as a board member or volunteer with the Delaware Community Foundation, the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, and Communities in Schools.  If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Gilliam-Johnson would fill the vacancy created by the retirement of John McMahon.

“I am honored to have been nominated by Governor Markell to serve as Secretary of Labor,” said Gilliam-Johnson. “The Department has a hugely important role connecting people with the training and resources they need to get good jobs.  If confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to helping them with this vitally important work.”