ACPS Announces Four Licensed Specialists as VIP Award Winners
Congratulations to the recipients of Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) 2024 Vision, Integrity and Passion (VIP) awards in the category of licensed specialists. This award honors outstanding employees who work every day to make a difference in ACPS.
- Jessica Angelo, academic interventionist at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School.
- Jacquelyn Lusk, school social worker at Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School.
- Shannon McLaughlin, speech pathologist at Early Childhood Center.
- Janet Reese, parent support specialist for the Parent Resource Center at Alexandria City High School Minnie Howard Campus.
Jessica Angelo is a true VIP that goes above and beyond on all projects, especially those related to literacy growth for students. She first joined ACPS in 2013 and, as an academic interventionist at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School (Douglas MacArthur), facilitates literacy testing and assessment for the school and organizes the data by skill for easy grouping not only for the interventionists, but also for special education, English learner and classroom teachers.
“Jessica Angelo is a stellar employee. Everything she does is focused on our students and our school,” Douglas MacArthur Principal Penny Hairston said. “Her exceptional dedication, innovative approach and positive impact on student outcomes make her a truly superior employee. Celebrating her excellence as an invaluable educator is one of the highlights of this school year!”
As the Literacy Committee lead, Angelo spearheaded the "Seasons Readings" literacy night which drew more than 250 students and their families. She also led the way in setting up two reading rooms at the new Douglas MacArthur school. Angelo is always available to help teachers and also works with new teachers as she runs the New Teacher Academy.
What makes Jacquelyn “Jackie” Lusk a VIP are the ways in which she considers the needs within the school community and then takes on leadership roles or projects outside of the traditional social work role in order to meet those requirements. Lusk first came to ACPS in 2014 and serves as a school social worker at Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School (Brooks).
“Jackie is a dedicated, passionate and highly skilled school social worker. She consistently provides the students, families and staff at Brooks with social emotional support as well as being a link to needed community resources,” Director of School Social Work Faiza Jackson said. “Jackie would describe her efforts as ‘just doing her job,’ however, her work is done with heart and her care and compassion shine through all her actions. She truly loves her school community and she is always willing to think outside the box or go the extra mile to make sure that the needs of her students and families are met. Jackie models the qualities of a school social worker on a daily basis and we are lucky to have her on our team.”
Lusk runs the Blessings in a Backpack program that provides families experiencing food insecurity with weekly food resources. She stepped up as this year as Brooks has seen an increased level of family and student need. The care Lusk shows for helping new families facing challenges integrate and feel welcomed into the school community is valuable beyond measure.
Shannon McLaughlin first came to ACPS in 2013 and has been a speech-language pathologist for more than 20 years. At the Early Childhood Center (ECC), McLaughlin always takes the time to provide each student with an inclusive experience to help them learn and grow academically and socially.
“The Early Childhood Center is thrilled that Ms. McLaughlin's important work is being recognized. Her technical expertise, dedication and compassion distinguish her contribution and we see this award as validating the important role that related services providers play across the division,” ECC Principal Heidi Haggerty Wagner said. “We embrace the opportunity to educate our students with disabilities and recognize that this work is best done as a team. Ms. McLaughlin's work is a powerful example of our ECC core values of teamwork, inclusion, relationships, empowerment and equity.”
One nomination stated how McLaughlin interacts with all students in the classroom — not just those on her caseload — and how she creates fun, engaging and amazing learning opportunities. Every week she teaches students two new sign language words, sings a song using the signs and then plays an interactive game that incorporates the words.
Janet Reese plays a critical role in helping families understand and work with teachers to foster an effective teaching-learning system through her work at the Parent Resource Center (PRC) at the Alexandria City High School (ACHS) Minnie Howard Campus. Reese joined ACPS in 2013 and serves as a parent support specialist, possessing the qualities of commitment, dedication, empathy and resourcefulness in supporting families.
“Janet is an amazing advocate for our students with disabilities and their families. She is committed to ensuring our families have ample resources and opportunities both in school and in the community. I am so grateful for all of her hard work in supporting families through the special education process,” Acting Executive Director of Specialized Instruction Amy Creed said.
Families appreciate Reese’s dedication, willingness to help and, most importantly, her respectful and professional advice. In nominating Reese, bilingual family liaison at the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Center Tesfaye Amberber applauded her for preparing and delivering workshops for Amharic-speaking families to cover wide-ranging issues in the area of special education. This is crucial because the families she supports are non-native English speakers and face difficulty in navigating the special education process due to cultural traditions. Reese also shares her own experiences so parents can learn from her and do the right thing for their children.
VIP Award recipients were honored at their worksites and received a special ACPS gift. They were also publicly recognized for their contributions at the Jan. 18, 2024, School Board meeting.
- VIP Awards