Teachers Inspired By Teachers

We asked our Teacher Advisory Council members to honor a fellow educator who inspires them. Here’s what they had to say.


“I would like to give a shout-out of appreciation to my friend and colleague Ronda Phillips, a rock star of a second grade teacher! I am continually amazed at her unending encouragement and servant leadership. The dedication she shows to the little ones at Yates Primary School continues throughout their schooling experience and beyond graduation. Her passion for people is remarkable, and her students and their parents agree! Thank you, Ronda, for all that you do for Cleveland City Schools. You truly believe in every child, every day!”

Adam Moss, Cleveland City Schools


Natalie Cravens is a first year kindergarten teacher at my school, and this lady amazes me every single day. She expects the very best from her students, and she never accepts anything less. Her kids are top-notch writers and have challenged my third graders to analyze their evidence in persuasive writing. I have watched her nurture her very full class of kindergartners – and they have blossomed and grown, just as she has. I’ve never seen a first year teacher become such an expert in such a short amount of time, and it’s her unwavering dedication to excellence that has made all the difference. She has inspires me to reach higher, expect more, and never stop growing as a teacher, and I’m blessed to call her a colleague and a friend.”

 —Cathy Whitehead, Chester County


“I have a colleague who really inspires me. He works in a different school system, and we talk at least twice a week. He inspires me because he has such a heart for his students, going the extra mile to motivate others, in the classroom and on the coaching field. He seems to have the capacity to see to the heart of a matter and always helps me see students in a different light—not to see the challenge but the child. He showed me how to think differently about students with learning challenges and orchestrate learning to be accessible to every student.His name is Joel Swartzel, and he teaches special education at Walker Valley High School in Bradley County. I have the honor of being his mom.”

Siema Swartzel, Cleveland City Schools


Patricia Hamlet, our school librarian, inspires me. She is always positive, helpful, encouraging with students and colleagues, and working on new ways to have students reading. Each year, she works diligently to add something to our school wide reading program. For example, this year she added book bags for the lower grade students, implemented a new reading rewards day, assisted me on two different school wide reading nights, and improved the fifth and sixth grade book club. I have worked with this wonderful lady for the past eight years and have always admired her work ethic and positive personality. It is a pleasure to work alongside her at Gordonsville Elementary.”

Laurie Glover, Smith County


“I’ve worked with Marilyn Stout at Chester County Middle School for four years. She teaches me so many lessons through her actions towards her students and colleagues. First, she reminds me to nurture my students in all aspects of their lives. We must teach the whole child. She reminds me that yes, we must teach the standards, but students need to have fun while they’re learning. Yes, friends, learning can and should be fun! Finally, she is the perfect example of how we should treat each other. She always speaks positively of her colleagues, goes above and beyond to encourage everyone around her, and is willing to do anything in her power to help others succeed. This is a rare quality and it is something we all should aspire to do. I love her dearly, and she makes me a better teacher as I emulate her example.”

Christy McManus, Chester County