By Debbie Adams
W. E. Cundiff Elementary School in Vinton has welcomed several new faculty and staff members for the 2021-2022 school year.
Conner Hill is the new assistant principal at WEC. She is from Troutville and currently lives in Roanoke City with her husband Matt, and their dog, Raleigh.
Hill graduated from James River High School in Buchanan and then earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with her Elementary Education (PK-6) teaching licensure from Roanoke College. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Virginia Tech.
She began her teaching career with Botetourt County Public Schools, where she taught kindergarten for two years in addition to teaching fourth grade for three years at Troutville Elementary School.
“I completed my administrative degree in December of 2020, and then finished up the school year with my fourth graders at Troutville Elementary School,” said Hill. “While I loved teaching, I was eager to become an administrator, therefore when Roanoke County posted an assistant principal position opening, I was excited to apply! I ended up at W.E. Cundiff with Ashley McCallum, principal, and I couldn’t be happier!”
“I am thrilled to begin my administrative career at W.E. Cundiff Elementary School!” Hill says. “Throughout my first month of work, I have had nothing but positive interactions with RCPS administrators, teachers, students, and families. Ms. McCallum will be an excellent mentor to me, and I enjoy learning from her on a daily basis. Most importantly, I am excited to get to know all of our Cundiff kiddos and help them have a fantastic school year! Our Cundiff teachers and staff have been nothing but welcoming to me, and I am thankful to be a part of Team Cundiff!
“I remember traveling to Vinton and playing against William Byrd in high school sports,” Hill said. “Troutville is a small town filled with great support systems, which reminds me a lot of Vinton. I am looking forward to building relationships with the broader Vinton community.
“A fun fact about me is that I interviewed (virtually) for this assistant principal position when I was out of the country in St. Lucia for my postponed honeymoon,” Hill said. “While there, a volcano erupted on a nearby island that kept us from getting home to my second in-person interview, which had to be postponed until I could arrive back in Roanoke.”
Laura Barton is working this year as an instructional assistant at W.E. Cundiff. She was born and raised in Vinton and graduated from William Byrd High School with the Class of 2005. She has been an IA at Herman L. Horn Elementary since 2019.
Barton spent 12 years in both restaurant and retail management and decided she would look for a career with more fulfillment.
Her grandmother and both parents attended William Byrd High School. She herself was a student at W.E. Cundiff Elementary. Barton’s sister, Lyndsey Partsch, is a special education teacher at William Byrd Middle. Her father, Greg Barton, is the coach of the William Byrd High School softball team. Her son attends HLH and wrestles for the Big Orange Wrestling Club that her fiancé coaches.
Drew Basham is teaching fifth grade Language Arts at Cundiff. She is from Salem and a graduate of Salem High School. She received her Master’s Degree in Education from Liberty University and her BA in Psychology from Radford University.
Basham was an instructional assistant at Burlington Elementary for two years before student teaching (hybrid) at Green Valley. She then taught fourth grade virtually at two separate schools.
“I taught virtually in the spring at Masons Cove and W.E. Cundiff,” Basham said. “I knew from the second I walked through the doors that Cundiff was home.
“I am happy to be teaching at Cundiff because I know the staff cares immensely about the students,” Basham said. “They put the whole child first above anything else. The fifth grade teachers are very knowledgeable, and I am humbled to be a part of their team. I am excited to begin fulfilling my purpose and will always be driven by my ‘why.’”
Jade Claunch is one of the new Special Education teachers at W.E. Cundiff this year. She grew up in Ohio and now lives in Bedford County. She graduated from James Madison University with her master’s degree in May 2021.
“I am a first-year teacher, and I am excited to be part of Team Cundiff!” Claunch says.
She spends her spare time at Smith Mountain Lake and is a dog lover.
Sarah Dolan is an instructional assistant at Cundiff this year. She grew up in Covington and graduated from Covington High School. She graduated from the Staunton School of Cosmetology as a Cosmetologist, and then from the ECPI Medical Careers Institute with an Associate Degree in Medical Assisting.
“My husband and I moved to Virginia Beach, where he was stationed at NAS Oceana in the U.S. Navy,” Dolan says. “We lived there for eight years and in the meantime had our twin boys. After discharging from the Navy, we moved back to be near family, and my husband’s job opportunity brought us to Vinton.”
The family moved to Vinton in 2018 and her twin boys started at Cundiff in the second grade.
“I have been active on the PTA Board and served as the vice president of Membership and Volunteers the past couple of years,” Dolan said.
“I am very excited to be working at W.E. Cundiff and looking forward to the new school year,” Dolan said.
Bailey Grubb will be teaching kindergarten this year at Cundiff. She is from Roanoke and graduated from Northside High School. She completed her undergraduate degree at Virginia Tech, majoring in Human Development, and earned her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Virginia Tech as well.
“I knew I wanted to teach in Roanoke County and Cundiff has given me that opportunity,” said Grubb, who will be in her first year of teaching.
“I am super excited to be working at Cundiff this year!” Grubb says. “I am excited to be a part of a school with great administrators and other educators I will be able to learn from. I am also super excited to be in Vinton and teach in a great, close-knit community.
“I am a lover of all sports!” said Grubb, who played against William Byrd in high school. “I grew up playing softball and basketball and continue to be involved in the world of sports by coaching.”
Jennifer Hill is teaching third grade math and social sciences at Cundiff this year. She is from Daleville. She graduated from Chancellor High School in Fredericksburg and then earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Communication from Radford University in 1994. She received her teacher certification/licensure in 2013. This will be her ninth year in teaching. She taught kindergarten for one year, second grade for two years, and the rest have been in third grade.
“I am excited to be a part of such a dedicated team!” Hill says.
In her spare time, she loves to spend her time with her family, reading, and working out.
Teresa Johnson will be serving as the Special Education coordinator at Cundiff this year.
“As the Special Education coordinator, I will coordinate all Special Education processes, serve as a consultant and mentor to all instructional staff in the building regarding Special Education services, and assist parents and students with any questions, concerns, or needs in relation to the special education program,” Johnson said.
She was born in Abingdon and has been a resident of Roanoke County since her parents relocated here in 1969, with the exception of five years spent in California and Connecticut while her ex-husband was in the military. Three of her children live in the Roanoke Valley.
She graduated from Northside High School, then earned her B.S. in Family/Child Development from Virginia Tech. She received her Master of Education Degree in Curriculum and Instruction/Reading Education and Certification in Special Education from the University of Virginia. She is working to complete her Certification in Educational Leadership from James Madison University.
Johnson transferred to Cundiff from Northside High School where she served as a Special Education teacher and reading specialist. She has 21 years of teaching experience.
“I enjoy working with elementary age students, and I am looking forward to serving the families of the W.E. Cundiff community and supporting the instructional staff at W.E. Cundiff,” Johnson said.
“I am also a licensed reading specialist trained in Orton Gillingham and Lindamood Bell.” Johnson says. “I have a special interest in dyslexia intervention and am pursuing certification as a Structured Literacy Dyslexia Interventionist through the International Dyslexia Association.”
Hannah Jones is a Remediation teacher at Cundiff this year. She says she was “born and raised in Roanoke” and graduated from William Byrd High School. She earned her Interdisciplinary Studies (Elementary Education) Degree from Radford University.
“This is my first year of full-time teaching!” Jones said. “I have done many internships in all grades except fifth; my student teaching last year was in kindergarten.”
She is excited to be working at WEC this year—“I get to work with an amazing staff, and I get to meet new students and start building relationships!”
Marcie Martin will be an instructional assistant working with first, second, third and fifth graders in reading and math. She is from Roanoke and a graduate of Cave Spring High School. She studied Early Childhood Education at Virginia Western Community College and Radford University. All three of her children “graduated” from W.E. Cundiff.
Martin has worked in the field of education for 10+ years in various capacities.
“I love the TEAM environment at WEC,” Martin says.
As for her spare time, “I love spending time with family and friends and attending sporting events watching my kids.”
Elizabeth McGuire is working as an instructional assistant for kindergarten through fourth grade at Cundiff this year. She is from Roanoke and graduated from William Fleming High School, but recently moved back here after living in Chesapeake for about eight years. She earned her Associate Degree in Science from Tidewater Community College. She taught fifth grade geology with the ODU STEM program.
Her mother, Kim Wood, is a preschool instructional assistant at Cundiff. Her entire family lives in the Roanoke County area, “so I have a lot of love, support, and memories in this area.
“I am so excited to be working at W.E. Cundiff this year!” McGuire says. “All of the staff and community have been wonderful and I’m so excited to be a part of the Terrier family!
“I am the biggest Harry Potter fan you’ll ever meet, and I hope I can spread some magic into all the students at W.E. Cundiff Elementary,” McGuire says.
Tara Montague will be teaching first grade at W.E. Cundiff. She is originally from Berkeley Springs, W.Va., and graduated from Berkeley Springs High School. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in History from Radford University and her Master of Arts in Teaching from Hollins University.
“I originally graduated from Radford with a history degree,” Montague said. “Shortly after I graduated, I realized that I had no idea what I wanted to do with that degree, so I worked as an instructional assistant at Glenvar Elementary for three years. While I was there, I immediately realized that working in education was where I was meant to be, so about halfway through my time at Glenvar, I started working on my Master of Arts in Teaching at Hollins and graduated in May 2016.
“During the 2020-21 school year, I was a virtual first grade teacher for RCPSOnline,” Montague said. “While it wasn’t necessarily what I was trained to do, it was a ‘build-the-plane-as-you-fly-it’ experience that uniquely prepared me for the rest of my career in education.”
Montague has now worked for three years as an instructional assistant and one year as a virtual teacher.
“I am excited to work at WEC for many reasons.” Montague explains. “For one thing, I’ve heard amazing things about the climate, staff, and administration here, and I already feel supported and welcomed by everyone I’ve met! Secondly, my husband and I have lived in the Roanoke Valley for five years, and right up the road from WEC for three of those years. We love Vinton, and I am so excited to be able to serve our community in such an impactful way.”
Shari Olsson is an instructional assistant this year at WEC. She is originally from Omaha, Neb., but has lived here for 22 years. She graduated from Bryan High School and earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
She worked for seven years as a PALS tutor in Franklin County and then applied for the IA position at Cundiff, with “their awesome administration, staff, and students.”
Stephanie Sander will be teaching kindergarten at WEC. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio and graduated from Lakota West High School in West Chester, Ohio. She earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education from Northern Kentucky University and then taught second grade in Northern Kentucky.
“In July 2021, I relocated from Northern Kentucky to Roanoke to be with my high school sweetheart!” Sander said. “Being new to the area, I applied to so many places and was lucky enough to receive an offer from W.E. Cundiff. It is apparent that W.E. Cundiff has the best interests in mind for their team and kids.
“I have wanted to be an elementary teacher since I was in preschool,” Sander said. “Outside of teaching, my favorite thing in the world is being with my family! All of my family (immediate and extended) lives in the Cincinnati area and we are very close.”
Paxton Sauerwald is the ELL teacher working with grades K-5 at W.E Cundiff. She is from Roanoke and a graduate of Hidden Valley High School. She majored in Liberal Studies at Bridgewater College as an undergraduate, and then received her Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from Radford University.
WEC was added to her caseload this year due to ELL student numbers. This will be her sixth year in teaching.
“I am excited for a new opportunity,” Sauerwald said. “My teaching license is PreK-6, so I am excited to get back to the ‘littles’ as I like to call them. For the past five years, I’ve been with middle and high school students.”
As for other interests, “I love soccer. I play for the women’s adult league team here in Roanoke, but I also referee soccer. I’ve been reffing for 15 years (rec, travel, middle school, high school, and college). This upcoming season will be my fifth year reffing college, and my third year reffing D1 for schools like Va. Tech and JMU.
“I love to travel,” she said. “My fiancé and I enjoy travelling to many places around the U.S. and abroad. We just returned from a two-week trip to Montana and Wyoming where we got to go to three National Parks (Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier).”
Maria Williams is the new LIFE Counselor at W.E. Cundiff.
“I will be providing individual and group therapy to students and provide mental health supports to students, families and staff,” Williams explained.
She is a graduate of Glenvar High School. She majored in psychology and minored in Art and Visual Technology at George Mason University and attended Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., where she received her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, specializing in Art Therapy.
“I’m so excited to be working with the students and staff at W. E. Cundiff!” Williams said. “Looking forward to a great year!”