Fresh faces coming to Fluvanna County schools

“We didn’t hire any new teachers, we simply replaced teachers who left,” said Brenda Gilliam, director of secondary education for Fluvanna County Schools. Although the new high school will receive two new career and technical education positions, they are replacing eliminated positions from other departments. “The culinary arts teacher hired replaced a social studies teacher who left. I think it was a math position that we lost that we replaced with nursing.”

In addition to inaugurating culinary arts and nursing programs in the new high school, Fluco pride is reinforced by the four new hires that are also Fluvanna County High School graduates. These four women loved and valued their own education so much, that they have come back to Fluvanna to make a difference for future generations.

Central Elementary

Julie Ann Buck

1st grade

Buck is a recent graduate of Radford University, and a 2008 graduate of Fluvanna County High School. While at Fluvanna County High School she was a football cheerleader and danced at Brushwood school of dance in Gordonsville. Buck cites her grandfather, John Shuttleworth, for her interest in becoming a teacher, which was sparked when she was just six-years-old. “He was a high school science teacher in New York and volunteered here in Fluvanna for a while,” said Buck. “I’m looking forward to finally starting to educate kids myself. I’ve been decorating my classroom for a week and a half.”

Lucinda “Cindy” Garrett

1st grade

Garrett has been a substitute teacher in Fluvanna since her family moved here in 2005, when her husband retired from the Air Force. Her two children, eleventh and eighth graders, are enrolled in Fluvanna County schools. Having just graduated from the University of Virginia this past May with a master’s in teaching and a bachelor degree in French, she’s looking forward to being in the classroom full-time and hopes to integrate some French into the curriculum.

Cunningham Elementary

Maria Gallardo-Gonzalez

Academic Intervention Specialist

Gallardo-Gonzalez graduated in 2008 with her Master’s in school counseling from Spring Harbor University in Michigan. A native of Puerto Rico, she worked there last year until her fiancé was transferred to a nearby American military university, where he works as a professor. “I don’t live in the community, so I’m excited to get to know the kids and the community,” said Gallardo-Gonzalez. “I want to have a great year and help the kids and parents in any way we can.”

Steve Heritage

2nd grade special education

“I moved here from Wilmington, North Carolina to be closer to my family who lives in Lynchburg,” said Heritage, who has been teaching special education for 12 years. He says he chose to be a special education teacher because of “the relationships you form with the children, they really need your support more than other kids … the bond you can form with them [is unique].” Heritage also played lacrosse at Damantha Catholic High School in Washington D.C., and later at St. Mary’s College in Maryland. He is excited to be a part of Fluvanna’s fledgling lacrosse program.

Columbia Elementary

Tess Clark


Still a newlywed, this will be the first year Tess Clark will go by Ms. Clark and not her maiden name, Ms. Lucas. “It’s going to be very confusing at first,” she said. Although Clark is originally from Richmond, has been living in Fluvanna for two years, teaching preschool at Malcolm Cole childcare center at U. Va. Health System. But teaching kindergarten is what she has always wanted to do. “Preschool gave me some experience and allowed me to get this job, but elementary education is what I went to college for and kindergarten was my number one choice,” said Clark, a graduate of Radford University. “I student taught in Pulaski County, so I have some experience with rural districts. I’m looking forward to getting to know the kids and giving them the best education that I can.”

Carysbrook Elementary

Mallory Bullock

Speech language pathologist

Bullock previously worked in Henrico County public schools until she recently moved to Charlottesville, where her fiancé lives. “I’m looking forward to working in a smaller school system and also having a concentration with older children,” said Bullock, who will work with third and fourth graders. “I had a lot of preschoolers last year, [so this will be different.]”

Amy Franek

School psychologist

On Saturday, Franek graduated with a doctorate degree in school psychology from Duquesne University. Fresh out of school, she is passionate about working with children. “[School psychology] is a way to work with kids where I have more flexibility. I can work with kids of all ages,” said Franek, who is originally from Pennsylvania. “I really like the role of a school psychologist here in Virginia, as opposed to my home state. In Pennsylvania a lot of the decision making and tough calls all rest on the psychologists, but here it’s a team decision. It’s a lot less pressure on one person.”

Rachel Hellinger

3rd grade

Hellinger graduated in 2008 from Fluvanna County High School, and later attended Lynchburg College, where she majored in elementary education, something she’s wanted to do since she was five-years-old. She’s particularly excited to be with third graders, in this her first year of teaching. “I love the passion and energy that third graders still have towards school and learning,” said Hellinger. “I am most excited about teaching them about all of the influential Americans in our history.”

Fluvanna Middle School

Cindy Matejka

7th grade English

Matejka worked 11 years as the technology staff developer for the state of Virginia for Sesame Street, a program orchestrated by the local public broadcaster Community Idea Stations. For the last four years she taught at Louisa County High School, where she was also the yearbook advisor. She also taught for one year in Henrico County. “I’m looking forward to the challenge of teaching English all over again,” said Matjeka. “It’s like being a new teacher, I have to start from scratch … I’m excited to be back in the classroom.”

Felice McDermott

7th grade special education

Originally from New Jersey, McDermott has lived in Goochland for 20 years and has been in the field of special education since the mid 1980s. “I’ve had quite a range of experiences from New Jersey into Virginia, both public and private schools,” said McDermott, who previous to teaching at Fluvanna was the director of a private day school in Richmond. “I’m excited to work in a community like Fluvanna because I think it’s important to partner with the parents and the families in education, and Fluvanna is a community where teachers are able to do that.” This is the first year that Fluvanna Middle School will be located at 3717 Central Plains Road, and although building is still labeled “Fluvanna High School,” McDermott is excited to be part of the transition. “This is an opportunity where they are building anew; they’re creating a new school in what was an existing school,” said McDermott. “It’s an opportunity to start fresh and be a part of that new beginning.”

Fluvanna County High School

Dolores Carr

Culinary arts

“This whole role is riding on my shoulders,” said Carr of the new high school’s culinary arts program. “It’s a wonderful place, a top of the line kitchen. I couldn’t ask for more.” Carr has taught at the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) for the last 11 years, and is looking forward to a community-oriented program such as Fluvanna. “I’ve got a lot of ideas floating in my head,” said Carr. “I’d like to have some local chefs come in, and open it to the community as well as the students. We’re planning on serving lunches after the first semester.” But first and foremost, Carr will be focusing her education efforts on food service industry certification, to provide students with real world job skills. “As the kids would say, ‘it’s going to be awesome,’” concluded Carr.

Wendy Charlton

Special education – history

Like Cindy Matejka, Charlton spent many years in finance and policy analysis in public broadcasting, later teaching in Louisa for five years. But her home is in Fluvanna. “Coming and volunteering in [my kids’] classrooms made me realize how much I love spending time with kids,” said Charlton. “[It’s like] coming back home, I live in Fluvanna and I’ve missed being able to teach here.”

Wendy Custer

Art 1

Wendy Custer is no stranger to the Fluvanna County school system, over the last 14 years she has taught in every school except the middle school either as an art teacher or as a substitute teacher. “There are four teachers in this room that I taught in elementary school,” joked Custer. Nevertheless, Custer is considered a new teacher this year because she’s never the particular role of teaching beginning art to high school students. “It’s an overview of the basics, but we’re also looking at ways of pulling technology and writing in to the art curriculum,” said Custer. “I’m just excited to be back.”

Stacey Holland and Robin Lopez

8th and 9th grade guidance counselors

Holland is another Fluvanna County High School graduate, from the class of 2005, who recently received her school counseling master’s degree from Hampton University. In this, her first year of school counseling, she will sharing the 8th and 9th grades with Robin Lopez, who has 13 years of school counseling experience. The positions include academic and career planning, testing coordination, personal and social development, and classroom guidance. Both of them can’t wait to meet and make an impact on students.

Ashley Wilson

8th grade math

Wilson graduated as valedictorian from Fluvanna County High School in 2007. A native Fluco, she is excited to return to Fluvanna for her first teaching job after graduating from Longwood University. “My mom works at the high school as a math teacher,” said Wilson. “I know all the people who work there, which is awesome. They will be a great resource for me. I just love Fluvanna.”

Photo: Front: Julie Buck, Mallory Bullock, Dolores Carr, Wendy Charlton; second row: Wendy Custer, Amy Frankek,
Maria Gallardo-Gonzalez, Cindy Garrett, Rachel Hellinger, Steve Heritage; third row: Stacey Holland,
Robin Lopez, Cindy Matejka, Felice McDermott and Ashley Wilson.  Photo by Kristin Sancken

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