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Three Columbia Union Teachers Receive National Awards

Story by Kayce Foote and Lauren Brooks
Published 6/12/13

Keith White, an Alumni Awards Foundation representative, presents Rachel Simons her 2013 Excellence in Teaching Award, while her principal Malcom Hutchinson looks on.

Three Columbia Union teachers were recently recognized with a 2013 Excellence in Teaching Award from the Alumni Awards Foundation (AAF). Rachel Simons, a high school English and history teacher at Potomac Conference’s Richmond Academy (RA) in Richmond, Va.; Ophelia Barizo, chair of the science department at Chesapeake Conference’s Highland View Academy (HVA) in Hagerstown, Md.; and Jim Minty, teacher at Potomac’s Shenandoah Valley Adventist Elementary School (SVAES) in New Market, Va., were among this year’s 10 awardees.
While their principals and superintendents nominate the teachers, AAF selects the 10 finalists each year and awards each one a $2,000 cash gift, as well as a medallion and certificate of excellence. The awards are presented at either the finalist’s school or church.
Simons received her award on Saturday, June 8 at RA. When Simons first began teaching at RA, she taught third and fourth grade with great success, but as the needs of the school changed, she was offered the challenge of teaching secondary English, art and history. Teaching in both elementary and secondary education, she adjusted her methods to meet the different learning styles of each student while keeping them on track to meet all common core standards.
“Her upbeat and warm spirit is predictable and infectious in the halls and classrooms of the school,” said Principal Malcolm Hutchinson.
Simons has taken on the duties of testing and guidance, making it possible for students to have a local option for national testing at a Sunday center verses driving great distances and compromising their faith to sit for a national test on Sabbath.
Simons goes beyond the textbook to share the love of Christ and is an example of a practical Christian whose words and deeds cannot help but reveal her love for God, family and students. “I get to be a part of Christ’s work in teaching His children and influencing them for His good through my lesson plans and modeling Christian behavior,” Simons explains.
Ophelia Barizo
Barizo received her award on Friday, May 31 at the Highland View Academy church. Barizo inspires her students to learn by modeling the excitement, which comes with learning and discovery. “Teaching, for me, is a ministry—to educate the youth of our church, not only to face the challenges of life on this Earth, but more important, for eternity,” she explains. “I would like to make a difference in the lives of my students and to lead them to the Master Teacher.”
Barizo teaches to provide young people with relevant and quality, project-based science education that gives excellent opportunities for hands-on learning, scientific-inquiry and a development of critical thinking skills. Winona Hudson, vice principal at HVA, says, “Her excellence in teaching is transforming the quality of education at HVA.”
When Barizo is not in the classroom or out teaching in the field with her students, she is writing grants and attending workshops. Through her efforts, HVA has been awarded approximately $750,000 in grants.
Jim Minty
Minty received his award on Tuesday, May 14 at SVAE. According to his colleagues, Minty teaches valuable skills to his students in the fifth and eighth grades. He adapts assignments to a variety of learners. He also arrives at school early and stays late to help students. His classes had a combined average in the 95th percentile on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.
“Without a doubt, Jim is a true professional educator [who is] dedicated to his students learning,” says Keith Hallam, Potomac’s vice president of education.
“I believe as strongly today as when I started that our young people need good teachers, good role models, and good friends as they are growing up,” Minty says. “That is what I strive to be each day with God’s help.”
AAF is a nonprofit organization that has awarded grants to Seventh-day Adventist schools and teachers totaling more than $2 million. Since its establishment in 1995, the organization has recognized 115 exceptional teachers with an Excellence in Teaching Award.

Carole Smith, Chesapeake Conference’s superintendent, stands with 2013 Excellence in Teaching Award recipient Ophelia Barizo.


Minty is pictured receiving his award from Joyce White, an AAF representative.


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