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Wheeling Chamber of Commerce Names Teachers of the Year

WHEELING — The Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce will celebrate three Ohio County teachers as its 2021-22 teachers of the year.

This year’s honorees are Ryan Stanton, a teacher of Wheeling history and college-level government classes at Wheeling Park High School; Shawna Safreed, a seventh grade reading teacher at Bridge Street Middle School; and Gabrielle Burriss, a fifth grade teacher at Middle Creek Elementary School.

Administrators at each school in Ohio County submitted the names of their nominees for teacher of the year to the chamber, and the chamber’s education committee reviewed them and selected the winners.

The three educators will be honored during the chamber’s annual steak fry on August 11, said Laurie Conway, marketing and communications director for the chamber.

“We’re thankful to our education committee for reviewing all these applications,” she said. “It was a tough choice to make. They expressed how great all the applicants were — both for teacher of the year and for our scholarship. We are excited to honor them in August.”

WPHS student Kaylynn Hall was the winner of a $1,000 scholarship funded by Williams Lea through the Wheeling chamber.

Stanton, a Wheeling native and 2002 graduate of WPHS, has been a teacher for 12 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree from West Liberty University, and a master’s degree from West Virginia University.

“The chance to make an impact in student’s lives and be able to teach them something they didn’t know is what I like about teaching,” Stanton said. “The chance to motivate them is what got me into teaching.”

Stanton is well-known for the decor of his classroom where the walls are adorned with political signs from campaigns happening over the past couple of decades. He said he got the idea from other teachers during discussions happening in their advanced placement teaching certification classes.

“The reason I do that is they are a great conversation piece,” Stanton explained. “Every so often someone will ask, ‘You mean Manchin was our governor? I thought he was our senator.’ We talk about the signs all year.

“Some of the students don’t realize Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, or a U.S. senator before she ran for president.”

Safreed is not only a chamber pick for teacher of the year, but also was selected by Ohio County Schools as its top educator for 2021-2022.

he also is a graduate of WPHS and WLU.

“I always wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to work with children, and help raise children as well.”

She and her husband Rob have one son, but she calls all her students “her kids.”

“They are as much a part of my family as my own child,” Safreed said. “Every single day matters in the classroom. I celebrate the kids in my classroom. We work together as a team. We have strong relationships in the classroom and that makes it easier to teach. Student relationships are so important to me.”

She said she knows of many other teachers who are just as deserving to be teacher of the year.

“I feel honored and blessed,” she said. “I was born to be a teacher. It was what I was meant to do.”

Burriss graduated from WPHS in 2015, and has since gained both her bachelors and masters degrees from WLU. She is working on her doctorate from North Central University.

She has only been teaching for two years, and she said she is where she always wanted to be.

“When I was a student at Elm Grove Elementary School, my mother passed away unexpectedly,” Burriss explained. “The teachers there became my maternal figures, and it was my happy place.

“We weren’t the richest family. Because we had a lot of trauma at a young age, I think I can relate to some students more than other teachers who may come from more privileged backgrounds.”

Burriss looks to have a positive influence in her students’ lives.

“The thing that motivates me is for many I’m the reason they are coming to school,” she continued. “When I think about relationships formed this year, it warms my heart to know they are happy when they come in and sit down.

“Education is my entire life, and I’ve dedicated my life to it,” Burriss said.

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