By Debbie Adams
William Byrd Middle School is welcoming several new faculty members for the 2022-2023 school year.
First and foremost, WBMS has a new principal this year— Dana Stevens— although she is a familiar face to many, since she served as assistant principal at the school before becoming principal at Mount Pleasant Elementary in 2019. She replaces Todd Kageals, who is now Director of Facilities and Operations for Roanoke County Public Schools (RCPS).
Stevens has worked for RCPS for 33 years with nine years of administrative experience. She grew up in Vinton, attended W.E. Cundiff Elementary, and graduated from William Byrd High in 1985. She went on to earn her degree in Elementary Education from Radford University.
She began her teaching career in Roanoke County at Clearbrook Elementary and then in 1991 moved to Mount Pleasant Elementary where she spent the next 22 years teaching “most everything from kindergarten through fifth grade” and was even the reading specialist for a time.
She completed her master’s degree in administration from Virginia Tech in May 2013 and became Assistant Principal at W.E. Cundiff. In 2017, she moved to William Byrd Middle School as an assistant principal and then to Mount Pleasant as principal.
Laura Baldwin is teaching 7th grade Special Education at WBMS. She graduated from Covington High School. Baldwin earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Arts from Roanoke College with a minor in education. She is currently working towards her Master’s degree at Radford University. Her husband is one of the PE/Health teachers at the middle school and recommended her for the position. She now has six years of teaching experience and 15 years of related experiences with youth and school-age children.
Outside of the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two daughters, their son, and their dog. The family especially likes traveling and trying new foods. Baldwin loves painting, culturally rich activities centered around the arts, and “loving on” all animals.
Andrew Close is teaching 6th grade science at William Byrd Middle. He is from Salem and a graduate of Salem High School. He is also a graduate of Washington and Lee University. Close says he has been working on becoming a teacher in the past couple of years. He spent last year as an assistant football coach at William Byrd High School. He was a four-year letter winner in football in college.
He has also spent two years as a substitute teacher and remediation teacher.
“I am in education because I enjoy the opportunity to help children learn and grow in not just their academics, but life,” Close said.
Jordan Downing is a new English teacher at both WBHS and WBMS. She will be teaching 7th grade English and 9th grade English. She is also the new assistant director for the Marching Terriers band. Downing is originally from Fredericksburg, Va., and a graduate of Massaponax High School. She graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 with his Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature and creative writing. In 2022, she completed her Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Tech.
Ashley Farrer is teaching Advanced 6th and 7th grade English at WBMS. She is from Chesapeake and a graduate of Hickory High School. She has lived in Roanoke since entering Hollins University in 2011. She earned her BA in English and History from Hollins in 2015 and her Master of Arts in Teaching in 2017. She has been teaching for four years. Farrer says she accepted the position at William Byrd because the school was “highly recommended” by colleagues and friends.
As for why she chose to major in English and history, “Not only do I have a deep love of reading, but I had teachers who recognized that. They nurtured my desire to learn.”
This school year is not only going to be special for her because of teaching at WBMS – she also has wedding plans for January 2023.
Annette Gilmore is working as a Reading Specialist/Literacy Coach this year at William Byrd. She grew up in Vinton, where she attended Hardy Road Elementary School (now W.E. Cundiff), William Byrd Intermediate School, and graduated from William Byrd High School.
Gilmore majored in Psychology at Roanoke College, received her teaching certificate for grades PK-8, and then her master’s from Radford University in Literacy Education.
She has been working in the field of education for 20 years, beginning in 2002 as an instructional assistant.
She taught 7th grade English for three years at WBMS, and then stayed home with her youngest son. When she returned to the classroom, she taught 4th and 5th grades at W.E. Cundiff. She made her way back to WBMS in 2018, teaching 6th and 7th grade English.
“I love teaching reading,” Gilmore says. “It is my passion. I enjoy working with students at different levels and the challenge of helping them develop into lifelong readers. RCPS hired Reading Specialists for the first time in secondary schools and I’m so excited to be part of it. This is a role that has been needed for a long time and will positively impact RCPS students.”
Johannes Grow is teaching 6th grade U.S. History 1 at William Byrd. He was born in Germany to a German Mom and an American Dad. He and his family moved back and forth between the two countries 11 times or so. He graduated from Jamestown High School in Williamsburg, Va.
Grow earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies and German from Virginia Tech, as well as his Master’s in Public and International Affairs. He speaks German fluently.
He is teaching at three schools this year – Hidden Valley Middle, William Byrd Middle, and William Byrd High School.
Grow has been teaching at the college/university level since 2014. Prior to teaching at William Byrd Middle he was a faculty member at Radford University where he had been teaching since 2017.
Becky Gruber’s position at WBMS this year is as Special Education Coordinator. She is originally from Massachusetts but has lived in Virginia for the past 12 years. She majored in Special Education and Early Childhood Education at Cedarville University.
Gruber has held various positions in Roanoke County Schools, and she accepted the Special Education Coordinator position when it opened up this summer. She has 15 years of experience in the field of education. As for why she chose to work in Special Education, “I love working with students and parents and problem solving for student success.”
Outside of school, her focus in on her family, which grew by one this year. She now has a 6-year-old and a 6-month old!
Ryan Hathaway will be teaching U.S. History at WBMS this year. He studied history, archaeology, and anthropology in college. He is especially interested in the late Bronze Age, Greco-Roman, the Crusades, the English Monarchy during the Middle Ages, and Napoleonic and U.S. History.
“I am very excited to teach U.S. History at William Byrd Middle School, and I hope to incorporate some practical elements of historical interpretation into my lesson plans,” Hathaway said.
Crystal Ingle will be teaching 7th grade Special Education. She is from Roanoke, and a graduate of Northside High School. She earned her degree in Theatre/Music from Bethany University in Santa Cruz, California.
As for why she chose to teach, Ingle says, “I love to help facilitate and see those ‘light bulb’ moments when content becomes understandable. I hope to see students gain a love for learning for life.”
Catie Long will be serving as the English Language Learner (ELL) teacher at both William Byrd Middle and William Byrd High. She is from Roanoke and a graduate of Roanoke Valley Christian School. She graduated from Cedarville University with a degree in Elementary Education. She has been teaching for 25 years.
Long says she chose to teach English as a Second Language because of her love for internationals. Her special interests include knitting and reading.
Hannah Moore is teaching 7th grade English this year at WBMS. She is from Mount Olive, N.C., and graduated from Southern Wayne High School in Dudley, N.C. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education from the University of Mount Olive, and her Master’s in Music Education from Anderson University.
Moore and her family moved to the Roanoke area from North Carolina this past April. She applied at William Byrd after hearing several friends from the area talk about what a wonderful school it was.
This will be her 8th year in public education. She also teaches online at Reynolds Community College in Richmond. Moore says she “loves teaching and helping students succeed.”
“I have three young kids (ages 8, 7, and 3) and look forward to watching them grow up here in Roanoke,” Moore said.
Megan Peery is teaching 6th grade English at WBMS. She is from Salem and a 2006 graduate of Northside High School. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Radford University and her Master of Arts in Teaching from Mary Baldwin University. This is her first year in teaching.
Prior to coming to William Byrd Middle, she worked for Salem City Schools as an instructional assistant, substitute teacher, and also did her student teaching there.
“I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher, but it became more apparent when I witnessed the impact that I was making on my students and the impact that they were making on me,” Peery said. “I chose to teach English because I love the complexity of it and how it can introduce you to a world that you did not know existed. Reading helps ignite a child’s imagination and creativity while also helping them build their self-confidence. Writing is an invaluable tool because it is an outlet for self-expression. As a teacher, there is nothing more amazing than seeing a child discover who they are through their own unique words.”
Codé Sizemore is teaching 6th grade English at WBMS. She is from Roanoke and a graduate of William Byrd High School. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Roanoke College and her teacher certification from the University of Virginia. Sizemore previously taught at WBMS and returned after eight years in Bath County (first and third grades) and as lead elementary STEM teacher in Montgomery County schools. This is her 20th year in teaching.
“I love teaching English because I absolutely love teaching reading and writing,” Sizemore said.
Sizemore and her husband taught together at Byrd Middle for many years. He is now principal at an elementary school in Blacksburg.
“I am so excited to be returning to WBMS,” Sizemore said. “It feels like coming home!”
Ki’ara Stanley is William Byrd Middle School’s psychologist for grades 6-8. She is from Roanoke and a graduate of Northside High School. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development from Virginia Tech and her Master of Science degree in Psychology from Radford University.
“I am beginning my internship to complete my EdS degree in School Psychology (Radford University) with Roanoke County Public Schools,” Stanley explained.
She has one year of experience as a school psychologist practicum student.
As for why she chose to become a school psychologist, “I want to be a positive influence on students and help build children’s chances of success.”
Stanley says one of her special interests is the promotion of mental health care for students and their families.
Julie Vest is the Speech-Language Pathologist at WBMS. She graduated from James Madison University with her Master of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology and has been a speech-language pathologist for seven years.
“I have a passion for working with students and am excited about this upcoming school year,” Vest says.
Laury Ward is teaching Latin I to 8th graders at William Byrd. She says she has “lived all over seven states in the United States and overseas in Germany.” She graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va. Ward earned her BA in Philosophy and Classical Studies and a BS in Psychology from Virginia Teach. She received her Ph.D. in Classical Studies from Duke University and has taught for 11 years on the collegiate level.
“I was teaching at a college in Michigan, but my family was looking to relocate to Virginia, and I was looking to move to teaching Latin at the secondary level – William Byrd was the perfect fit!” says Ward.
“I love the classics!” Ward says. “Greek and Latin were the first foreign languages that really clicked for me, and I adore getting to share my love of the ancients with a new generation of students!”
Ward will also be teaching at WBHS this year.
Michelle Yamatani is the new SOL testing coordinator at WBMS. She is originally from Pennsylvania but moved here five years ago. She taught math at Read Mountain Middle School for the past four years.
Yamatani graduated from Upper Moreland High School and from Millersville University in Pennsylvania with a major in Elementary Education and a minor in coaching. She also has endorsements in Middle School Math and Algebra I.
This year, she wanted to try something new and thought SOL coordinator would be a good fit since she loves data.
“I have taught at just about every grade level,” Yamatani says. “I was a director of a preschool for three years, taught first grade for two years, then landed in my passion of middle school math. I taught advanced math for three years in Pennsylvania (grades 5-8) before moving to Virginia, and then four years of advanced math at RMMS.”
“I always wanted to be a teacher,” Yamatani says. “I developed a passion for it in 3rd grade and it stuck!”
As for special interests, Yamatani says, “I love soccer; I played it my entire life and watch it whenever I can. I have two children, Mia and Michael; both are in high school at Lord Botetourt. I am looking forward to the next journey in my career.”