CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Education hosted its annual Celebration of Excellence in Education to honor exemplary educators and school service personnel who are in running for the title of West Virginia Teacher of the Year and School Service Personnel of the Year Tuesday.
There were three finalists nominated for West Virginia Teacher of the Year in North Central West Virginia out of ten total nominees from around the Mountain State. At the ceremony at the Culture Center in Charleston, Brian Casto, an eighth grade West Virginia Studies teacher from Milton Middle School in Cabell County was selected as the 2022 Teacher of the Year.
“There is a saying in the National Park Service to ‘leave it better than you found it’ and that perfectly sums up the way that I view my mission as an educator. I want to provide a safe and comfortable environment for my students, and I want to provide them with the tools they need to be successful in life. And specifically for West Virginia Studies, I want to teach them to have a little bit of appreciation of how wonderful the state is that we’re able to live in,” Casto said.
West Virginia Department of Education officials added Casto prides himself on creating lessons and two-minute animated videos that preserve the history and culture of the state. In addition to his classroom duties, he serves his school as a member of Milton Middle School’s leadership team, a team leader and a West Virginia Quiz Bowl coach. Outside of school, Casto coaches T-Ball, works with teens in his church’s youth group and enjoys exploring the state with his wife and three children.
“Mr. Casto is an exemplary teacher that embodies the purpose of this award,” said Superintendent Burch. “He is an innovative educator who positively impacts his students and his community. I am so proud to have him serving our students in the classroom, and I know he will be an exceptional representative of West Virginia and the profession as the Teacher of the Year.”
As the 2022 winner, Casto will receive a vehicle for use for Teacher of the Year engagements throughout the year from Toyota; $5,000 from both Highmark West Virginia and The Horace Mann Companies; $500 from the American Federation of Teachers, West Virginia; and a $1,000 school grant from the West Virginia Education Association Foundation.
Also, awarded during the ceremony was West Virginia School Service Personnel of the Year to Kathy Miller, a Cafeteria Manager with Wayne High School in Wayne County.
“I volunteer and am a big help with our church youth group and have always been around kids. I love being around kids, I love helping with kids. I just felt that is where my calling is. So, I love my job, I love my school and I love what I do. So, it’s a pleasure to get up every morning and be able to go to work because I really love what I do. I love seeing their faces and being right there for them,” Miller said.
Also, West Virginia Department of Education officials stated that Miller’s consistent dedication is displayed by her involvement in the development and implementation of her school’s meal pick-up program, school improvement days and cooking pre-game meals for the football team. Additionally, she participates in fundraising dinners for Hospice of Huntington and is involved with the Wayne County Special Olympics.
“Ms. Miller has an incredible heart for her students and her school community,” said President Hall. “She is a trusted and caring adult in their lives and a vital resource at Wayne High School. As with all school service personnel finalists, I am grateful to her for her years of dedication and so very proud of her accomplishments.”
As the 2022 winner, Miller will receive $2,500 from The Horace Mann Companies; a $500 award, a tumbler, and a glass ornament from the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association (WVSSPA); a two-night stay at Chief Logan Lodge from West Virginia State Parks; a glass paperweight from Blenko Glass; and an iPad, plaque and certificate from the West Virginia Department of Education.
Also, a video message from West Virginia Governor, Jim Justice, was played for those in attendance. Justice commended all of the nominees for their dedication and working through the struggles students and educators are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Students look to you as their heroes in lots, lots, of way. Students look to you as someone who they really trust and that they absolutely believe in,” Justice said. “Not only do you educate but I know of all the different things that you do. You absolutely have so many tasks to do and yet every day you come, every day you stand up. And absolutely we can never thank you enough.”
Justice also expressed thanks to all the school service personnel and teachers that were nominated for the awards and the work they are doing in their schools.