Culinary arts educator named school division’s top teacher

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CTC@Courthouse’s Jurewicz lauded for cross-curricular collaboration

The perfect recipe for classroom and student success? How about: A fun and engaging teacher, an innovative lab-like setting that encourages students to try different ingredients to solve challenges they are given, and a tasty hands-on learning environment.

Those descriptions (and mouth-watering smells) can be found daily in the Culinary Arts classroom led by Chef Sarah Jurewicz at the Career and Technical Center @ Courthouse. Those traits, YouTube-posted lessons from her own kitchen while schools are closed, and her ability to help students evolve from burgeoning bakers to future restaurateurs helped Jurewicz earn recognition as Chesterfield County Public Schools’ 2021 Teacher of the Year.

Chesterfield County school leaders and School Board members caravanned across the Richmond region today to honor three Chesterfield County educators singled out for being the best of the best. These teachers were surprised at their homes with blaring car horns, balloons, flowers and large yard signs acknowledging their Teacher of the Year status.

“Chesterfield County Public Schools is home to some of the best teachers in our country,” Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty noted. “To be named the best of the best is a tremendous honor for these three teachers, given the stiff competition they faced within their own county.”

Annually, every Chesterfield County school selects a Teacher of the Year. Chesterfield County Public Schools selects from those honorees an Elementary School Teacher of the Year, a Middle School Teacher of the Year and a High School Teacher of the Year, and ultimately chooses the countywide Teacher of the Year from those three honorees. Jurewicz’s nomination will be submitted to the Virginia Department of Education, which will select eight regional Teachers of the Year from across the state.

Chesterfield County Public Schools’ 2021 Teachers of the Year by level are:

  • High school: Chef Sarah Jurewicz, who teaches Culinary Arts I and II at the Career and Technical Center @ Courthouse
  • Middle school: Katie Moore, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Falling Creek Middle
  • Elementary school: Heather Russell, a STEAM teacher at Ecoff Elementary

“Like previous years, our decision in choosing the best of the best wasn’t easy,” Dr. Daugherty said. “These three Teachers of the Year are creating some really amazing learning experiences and making a difference in the lives of our students and families in such meaningful ways. Congratulations to our winners, and thank you to all of our staff members who are working hard to create a better tomorrow today.”

Chef Jurewicz joined Chesterfield County Public Schools in 2005 as a culinary arts teacher at James River High. She moved to the Career and Technical Center @ Hull when it opened in 2014 and taught baking and pastry arts. In 2017, she relocated to CTC@Courthouse, where she continues to teach baking and pastry arts.

After recognizing a need for increased collaboration, Chef Jurewicz spearheaded a cross-curricular, project-based learning event called “Arts & Eats” that encouraged CTC@Courthouse students to showcase their talents. Photography and art students displayed their work among an array of cupcakes created by the baking and pastry arts students and flowers cultivated by students in the landscaping program. Because they were no longer the side feature at someone else’s event, students were motivated and inspired to step out of their comfort zones and flourish.

Her work has caught the attention of colleagues around the school division:

Noted Beth Morris, dean of students at Providence Middle: “Ms. Jurewicz’s classroom is a place where all students thrive. In her current position as a baking and pastry arts instructor, Ms. Jurewicz’s students come from not only high schools across the county, but from all walks of life.  Within the walls of the bake shop are students with severe learning disabilities alongside students who are taking a full load of AP classes. …  In Ms. Jurewicz’s classroom, everyone is honored for their individuality, and students work collaboratively in a way that breaks down the barriers that normally divide them. In the bake shop, everyone is equal and valuable to the team.”

Added Randy Early, a special education teacher at James River High: “Like an episode of Chopped, she doesn’t know exactly what ingredients she is going to have when she opens her basket each year. However, through masterfully “folding” her baking and pastry knowledge with content delivery, student relationships, and classroom management, Chef is able to produce “batch after batch” of students who leave her class each year with more confidence, skills, and preparation for life and work after high school.”

Heather Russell is the school division’s 2021 Elementary School Teacher of the Year 

A STEAM teacher at Ecoff Elementary, Russell is known for her positive, can-do attitude, student engagement and desire to always do what is best for children while teaching them science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Noted former central office Science Instructional Specialist Dr. Emily Loving, “From the beginning, Mrs. Russell stood out as a charismatic teacher with passion for collaboration and integrating subjects to make learning fun and engaging for all students.”

Katie Moore is the school division’s 2021 Middle School Teacher of the Year

A sixth-grade social studies teacher at Falling Creek Middle, Moore is known for her engaging, hands-on lessons and building strong relationships with her students.

“Katie has a seemingly endless reach when it comes to benefiting her students and school community,” wrote Vanessa Bigdeli, a teacher at Falling Creek Middle. “Katie is serious about making positive change, and is a reminder to us all that the change we want starts with us.”

Here are the 2020 Teachers of the Year from Chesterfield County Public Schools:

Elementary schools

  • Bellwood Elementary — Jessica Felice
  • Bensley Elementary — Grinnell Gibson
  • Beulah Elementary — Jacqueline Frisinger
  • Bon Air Elementary — Alison Hill
  • Chalkley Elementary — Rhonda Hawks
  • Marguerite Christian Elementary — Brooke Moseley
  • Clover Hill Elementary — Rhonda Blake
  • Crenshaw Elementary — Audrey Surma
  • Crestwood Elementary — Maria Bediako
  • Curtis Elementary — Aaron Dunbar
  • Davis Elementary — Wendy Collins
  • Ecoff Elementary — Heather Russell
  • Enon Elementary — Rebecca Liggitt
  • Ettrick Elementary — Elizabeth Kyser
  • Evergreen Elementary — Diane Camardella
  • Falling Creek Elementary — Sonia Winnegan
  • Gates Elementary — Pamela Enslen
  • Gordon Elementary — Jennifer Harton
  • Grange Hall Elementary — Kristen Bray
  • Greenfield Elementary — Nick Leonard
  • Harrowgate Elementary — Amy Fisher
  • Hening Elementary — Rachel Rapada
  • Hopkins Elementary — Amanda Linn
  • Jacobs Road Elementary — Kaitlyn Shook
  • Matoaca Elementary — Gary Haney
  • Old Hundred Elementary —  Eliza Gemmill
  • Providence Elementary — Dana Belcher
  • Reams Road Elementary — Sara Kenney
  • Robious Elementary — Stephanie Cosby
  • Salem Church Elementary — Alison Becker
  • Elizabeth Scott Elementary — April Cousins
  • Alberta Smith Elementary — Peggy Price
  • Spring Run Elementary — Natalie Hlava
  • Swift Creek Elementary — Tracy Crostic
  • Watkins Elementary — Lynne Owen
  • Bettie Weaver Elementary — Ashley Mertz
  • Wells Elementary — Nicole Joyner
  • Winterpock Elementary — Rachel Delaney
  • Woolridge Elementary — Michelle Daniels

Middle schools

  • Bailey Bridge Middle — Deborah Vasco
  • Carver Middle — McLin Choate
  • Elizabeth Davis Middle — Johanna Kistner
  • Falling Creek Middle — Katherine Moore
  • Manchester Middle — Victoria Higdon
  • Matoaca Middle — Eden DiMarco
  • Midlothian Middle — Contessa Spinner
  • Providence Middle — Sharon Hundley
  • Robious Middle — Mary MacKenzie Swenck
  • Salem Church Middle — Ian Pifer
  • Swift Creek Middle — Alisa Rushing
  • Tomahawk Creek Middle — Nat Tuck

High schools

  • Bird High — Pamela Hooper
  • Career and Technical Center @ Courthouse — Sarah Jurewicz
  • Career and Technical Center @ Hull — Amy Nunnelley
  • Carver College and Career Academy — Erin Woodby
  • Clover Hill High — Brianna Gatch
  • Cosby High — Deirdre Mercado
  • Thomas Dale High — Lauren Spain
  • James River High — Gregory Dommisse
  • Manchester High — Jodi Bowen-Taylor
  • Matoaca High — Jill Anderson
  • Meadowbrook High — Stuart Spangler
  • Midlothian High — Mark Spewak
  • Monacan High — Alissa Yazinski