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2021-22 SNAColades

The Special Needs Advisory Council (SNAC) created SNAColades to honor CHCCS teachers, staff and administrators who, through their hard work and creativity, make our children's school experience more meaningful. The following have been selected for this recognition based on the testimonials of the Exceptional Children community. Below each name is a quote from an appreciative parent or CHCCS administrator.

Carrboro Elementary

Lee Newbold 

This teacher is EXCEPTIONAL.  She goes so above and beyond in all the ways! My 2nd grader with Down syndrome, adores her.  The hard parts of the day, where say my daughter reluctantly transfers between tasks, Ms. Newbold knows exactly how to get her on board with the flow of the day.  Since working with my daughter when she started kindergarten at Carrboro Elementary, she has shown tremendous growth even to becoming a leader for other children with special needs as supported by Ms. Newbold.  I can't imagine my daughter not being with her, and it brings me such comfort knowing Ms. Newbold is with her during the school day.  She is a blessing to not just my child but others as well and she deserves all the recognition for it!

Carrboro High

Cheryl Valle 

Ms. Valle is such a positive presence as a TA at CHS. She works with my son daily in Art and Fashion Design and always has great things to tell me at car pick up.  She loves working with my son and is proud of him for completing his work. She says he is very creative and some of his work is displayed.

Chapel Hill High School
Maggie Filer
Maggie Filer was one of the very few bright spots in the pandemic-remote schooling year.  The care and dedication she poured into every single online morning meeting with my son's class was truly extraordinary.  Somehow, she conveyed through the computer screen the same qualities she exudes in person----joy, calm, enthusiasm, and absolute respect for each of her students.  She treats all her students with dignity and kindness.  She holds them to expected levels of behavior and achievement, while modifying work as needed in line with each student's level of ability.  With the return to in person learning, she has rolled with the punches, as my son has made the difficult adjustment back to school after so much disruption.  His behavior has been quite challenging at times, and she is unfailingly positive, and sympathetic and optimistic that we will find our way through.  I am more grateful for her in our lives than I can properly express.

Frank Riggsbee

Mr. Frank has always gone above and beyond at making our kids in the AC classroom feel comfortable and included, even on their hard days. Lately, my son has struggled with eating his lunch in such a unique setting as the Covid-safety requirements. Naturally, Mr Frank wants all students to eat their lunch, so when he saw my son struggling to conform and refused lunch, he immediately went into action and changed up the lunch routine just for him. He was kind enough to invite him into the separate teacher lunch classroom and eat with my son. My son was overjoyed and continues to now eat lunch with the staff on tough days and with his friends in the classroom on other most days. So creative and we appreciate him for all that he does every day. THANK YOU MR FRANK!!

Culbreth Middle

Jessica Cox
Jessica goes above and beyond to help my boys, both of whom have exceptional needs. She is in constant contact with us, and always works towards finding solutions that work. She sees their strengths as well as their challenges and encourages them to be the best they can be. We are so grateful she’s in our lives!

East Chapel Hill High

Gayatri Balasubramanium

Ms. B worked as a TA in my daughter's AC classroom in the Spring and for 6 weeks this year. She helped her with her reading and during her electives. She is caring and supportive of our students.

Robin Betts

Ms. Betts worked as a TA sub on and off with my daughter in the AC classroom for the past 3 years. She helped her participate in the electives and encouraged conversations and turn taking with my daughter who has limited expressive language. She truly cares for our kids.

Christopher Gibson

Mr. Gibson is responsive to parent input, he regularly checks in with the student /parent throughout the year and he works to help students plan for their transition into adulthood. He connected with students at lunch bunch once a week last year when they were online.

Constance Leder

She is a young, new teacher in the AC classroom this year. Despite being new to the district, and having a very diverse group of learners ;she has been able to provide instruction and support to our students. She communicates well with parents and is organized. She follows up and is responsive to parent requests. 

Constance Leder

Ms. Leder is a new teacher to East Chapel Hill and despite having to learn a new school and district has responded with incredible grace and professionalism to so many unforeseen challenges this year already.  She manages to adapt to so many different students' needs in the classroom despite almost continuous staff turnover.  She is also communicating well with parents.

Rhonda Maiani

Ms. Maiani organized lunch bunch once a week last year, which was a lifesaver for students in the OCS and AC classrooms. 

Bryant Rice
Mr. Rice is so patient. He helps my son stay calm and stay on task.

Tonya Stanley

She cares a lot for my son.  She is making a huge impact on his education. Tonya has worked hard to keep her students safe during the pandemic.

Tonya Stanley

She supports all my morals and values as mother and she cares for my son like I would in a classroom setting 

Ephesus Elementary
Jessie Mewshaw
Jessie is so supportive of our child and our family. She goes above and beyond to personalize speech activities to student interest and is constantly problem solving in the best interest of students.  Our son knows he is safe and loved at school because Mrs. Jessie is there!

FPG-B Elementary
Sherry Del Valle

Sherry Del Valle is the EC specialist working with my fifth grader.  He has had a rough transition back to school after the pandemic. Ms. Del Valle has remained remarkably patient during his ups and downs. She continues to support him and doesn't give up on him even during the hardest times.  She also highlights his successes at school, focusing on his growth in social and emotional learning. I have been impressed with Ms. Del Valle's ability to keep showing up for him, staying positive and proactive even during tough times.  It has paid off, as he is slowly coming to trust her and recognize that she is someone who is on his side as he navigates his day.  We are grateful for Ms. Del Valle's persistence and willingness to look for creative ways to help our son. 

Karen Galassi-Ferrer

Karen Galassi-Ferrer is the principal of FPG-B elementary.  We had a rough start to the beginning of the school year for my neurodiverse fifth grader. He struggled many days during recess, since he tends to interpret social situations differently than his peers.  During each of these incidents, Ms. Galassi didn't jump to conclusions. She got information about each case from multiple people who were there. When my son was in her office, she would make sure to connect with him on a personal level about his interests (ex. scootering at the skate park) before discussing negative issues on the playground.  She then would ask him about what happened, and made sure he felt comfortable sharing his side of events. With his support team at school, we identified that he struggled the most during unstructured times at recess and lunch with other kids.  We were able to come up with a plan where he spends recess each day with a teacher and a small group of kids-- often playing catch with Ms. Galassi herself. He also has a behavior plan where he earns time each day to be a 'class helper' in his younger sister's classroom-- Ms. Galassi's idea. This has been the most successful behavior reward program he has ever had at school, since he loves being with his sister and he loves taking on a leadership role helping the little kids.  I have been impressed with Ms. Galassi's leadership and her ability to see my kid as a whole person, and not just a problem that needed to be solved.  Her dedication and compassion is much appreciated.

Jenna Nielson

Ms. Neilson has maintained a positive, empathetic, and encouraging attitude during our kid's transition back to in person school after an unusual 20-21 school year.  The transition back to school was bumpy, with lots of anxiety.  Ms. Nielson has made her classroom a positive and welcoming place for our son, and she has provided compassion when his anxiety has run high.  She's been able to strike the right balance between being firm and being flexible depending on what is needed in the situation.  We are grateful for her hard work this year.

McDougle Middle

Kelly Brenneis

Ms. Brenneis has been a very supportive case manager for my son as he made the jolting transition from virtual 5th grade to in-person middle school!

Natalie Sarcona
Ms. Sarcona has been an excellent case manager for our son. She is new to our district this school year and jumped right into action. We are impressed with her specific EC knowledge and creative solutions. She is outstanding! 

Jason Sheets

Mr. Sheets goes the extra mile, above and beyond; and it is much appreciated and noticed. He began a social skills group on his own, and our son enjoys attending. It’s so nice to hear positive things from middle schoolers. Mr. Sheets has been a “positive” many days for our son. He is outstanding!

Natalie Boylan and Kayla Stalker

During the time my daughter was in remote school during this past year, both Natalie and Kayla did an awesome job at engaging her and the other students in the class and were very patient giving each student ample time to respond or give feedback to the activity . I know how difficult this must have been given the communication/focus challenges our kids have under normal circumstances. Materials were made available to each student ahead of time which was very much appreciated. Having been my daughter’s smart partner during this entire time, I was able to witness them in action. I am in awe at both of their dedication, patience and love for our kids. Bravo to them! I only wish my daughter could be back in person to be in the classroom with them.

Morris Grove Elementary

Kimberly Bailliard

Ms. Kimberly consistently goes above and beyond to be sure our kids have what they need at school.  She checks in even when she doesn't need to, always with a smile and nod of support.  She is available to us as parents whenever we reach out.  She serves as an amazing conduit between our family, our teachers, and the school as a whole.  She is truly a hero to us.  Thank you for all you do, Ms. Kimberly!

Kimberly Bailliard
Ms Kimberly has accepted my child from day one and is the only teacher that communicates with me personally. She goes above and beyond every day to make a difference!

Northside Elementary

Kimberly Roundtree

She was my son's Kindergarten teacher. He had a very rough time in the beginning of that school year. She then implemented a system that caused him to really excel in school. We will always remember her as the teacher that gave him the opportunity to be the great student he is today.

Erika Vinson
She worked with my son from 1st to 3rd grade and is one of the reasons that he now excels in school. She worked with him on managing his frustrations. She is an excellent communicator with our family. I don't know where we would be without her.

Phillips Middle School
Eimy Rivas Plata

Ms. Rivas was the EC specialist at FPG during the 20-21 school year.  My son had a hard time with the transition to online school.  It was hard for him to stay engaged at school, and the pandemic and stay-at-home order magnified his anxiety.  Ms. Rivas was endlessly creative in coming up with ideas to reduce his anxiety and make him continue to feel connected at school.  For the 21-22 school year, she is at Phillips Middle School. She has made an effort to visit our son  on her own time on the weekend, do to a quick check-in-- even though he is no longer one of her students.  She has also helped us brainstorm strategies for him when the transition back to in-person school was bumpy.  We are grateful to her for her compassion, her expertise, and her above and beyond support.

Rashkis Elementary

Jima Karlen

Ms. Karlen is a wonderful teacher of exceptional children. Her dedication to her profession is admirable and her devotion to her students is evident. She can tackle the most intransigent issues, find the solutions and implement them. She is so patient with her students and marches forward with each new day accepting any challenge that comes her way. She is always professional and positive and will bring hope to even the most despairing parent. We love Ms. Karlen so much and are so fortunate to have had her as our son's teacher at Rashkis.

Jodi Paridon (Cecilia Martinez-Gallardo)

Jodi is the best teacher ever. The work, dedication and love she puts into her work are beyond compare. She encourages my daughter to work and grow, always on her own terms, in her own time. She goes above and beyond looking for ways to make the material accessible. More importantly even, she embodies the ideal of full INCLUSION, finding ways not only to include "her" kids in the general ed class but also to promote relationships between all kids, teach *every* kid how wonderful it is to be just who they are, and teach them how important it is to be kind and loving to each other. She has changed our lives and we are so grateful.  

Meredith Simon
Ms. Simon is the most wonderful Teacher's Assistant. She is always so gentle and kind with students in the AC classroom. She is one of the most patient people in the universe and underneath her  petit, quiet exterior lies a mountain of strength, pragmatism, confidence and experience in managing even the most challenging of AC IEPs. We are so incredibly blessed to have Ms. Simon as part of our son's classroom team and hope she will be part of his life for a long time to come.

Courtney Wilkos

Ms. Wilkos is the most amazing teacher's assistant. She is an experienced professional who understands children in the AC environment. She manages students with confidence, generosity of heart and dependability. She plans ahead and always knows what to do. Our family trusts her judgment and abilities as a TA and we want the world to know that CHCCS is a better district because Ms. Wilkos works there. We love Ms.  Wilkos!

Seawell Elementary

Ms. HC

​​She works closely with my son to manage his frustrations. She has implemented a visual program for him to manage his big feelings. Both my son and I have been very happy with her as his teacher.

Mr. Rod McFarling - Bus Driver for Bus #78

Mr. Rod has been such an amazing constant for our kids through all of the chaos.  He is quiet but stern, he knows each child’s name on his bus and he truly puts his heart into his job.  We cross our fingers every year that we get him again as our bus driver.  

Leigh Stratton-Sharp

Ms. Sharp was our son’s EC teacher for K and 1st grade.  She is genuinely concerned about each student’s well- being and progress and she loves continually learning about the individual special needs for her students.  Many professionals can get through their day-to-day just going through the motions but she is always willing to do more to help.

Scroggs Elementary

Sarada Brown
Ms. Brown is a thoughtful, skilled educator who has taken the time to get to know our son and select effective activities and methodologies that help him to achieve meaningful gains both academically and socially. We are grateful for her hard work, warm demeanor and creativity!

Leigh Stratton-Sharp

She is always going above and beyond in assisting my son. She engages him and gets him to participate when others can't. Quite simply, she is amazing!

Smith Middle

Melissa Barry

Ms. Barry has been excellent at preparing my son to advocate for himself by teaching about his IEP and having him attend a meeting. She also goes above and beyond in supporting parents by offering weekly virtual parent groups. Her authenticity and genuine caring has made our experience at Smith Middle School very positive! She is a gem!

Gina Chapman

Gina Chapman goes above and beyond to help make sure her students' needs are being met.  She is a phenomenal staff trainer, phenomenal planner and exudes patience and compassion.

Courtney Cunningham
Courtney Cunningham is a powerhouse for students, families and colleagues.  She is always willing to ask questions to expand her skills, and works to collaborate with colleagues school wide to enhance learning for all students.

Ashley Hudson
Ashley Hudson is a consistent positive force for students, families and her colleagues. She is an effective thought partner and a strong advocate for children.

Edie Kahn
Edie Kahn is a true listener.  She thoughtfully and deliberately considers all factors that impact student success, and takes the time to thoroughly understand each child and their individual needs

Beth Kinney

Beth Kinney is an extremely experienced, competent and generous teacher.  The EC Department at Smith would not be nearly as strong without her mentorship and sharing of materials and expertise.  She is dedicated to not only her students, but to all students at Smith. She is a true leader in her field.

Adina Moon
Adina Moon has stepped up to help alleviate the pressure on our overworked EC colleagues at Smith.  She tries her best to help students, families and staff.

Leanne Parr
Leanne Parr is a consummate professional.  She is a go-to resource to learn more about child development and protocol.  Leanne is clear headed, deliberate, responsive and a comprehensive thinker.  She is student and family centered and I am grateful to have her on our team!

Panda Rushing
Panda Rushing steps up every day to support our students across all grade levels.  She is continuously on the go, helping to ensure that student needs are met and that teachers feel supported. We could not navigate this year without her!

Tania Treml
Tania consistently helps teams brainstorm for student success for our children on the Autism spectrum.  And in our current era of stepping up to fill needs, Tania has stepped up to help us support all students with behavioral support needs.  She has clarity of insight and can help us form realistic plans for success.


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