Rhonda Hatter, a business and information technology teacher at South Lakes High School, was awarded the 2003 Walter L. Shell Business Teacher of the Year Award by the Virginia Business Education Association on Aug. 5.
As past president of the association, Hatter was responsible for running the annual awards dinner in Roanoke, but she had no idea she had won until her name was called. "I was very surprised. It was very exciting," she said.
While currently on a year-long maternity leave at home with her 4-month-old son Brice, Hatter, who also runs the school's job placement program and oversees its Future Business Leaders of America club, has been at South Lakes for four years and with the county for 10 years. She and her husband, Douglas Wagner, live in Leesburg. Previously, Hatter, who is a graduate of Fairfax County Schools, taught at three other locations including Edison High School, her alma mater.
It was at Edison that Linda Rounsavall, a business teacher, first spotted Hatter's promise 20 years ago when Hatter was a "hard-working student" in Rounsavall's business education class. Ten years later, Rounsavall helped convince her former student to come back to Fairfax County schools, this time as a teacher. Hatter decided to teach rather than choosing to go into business with her father's exhibit company.
"Linda Rounsavall was a wonderful teacher and a big influence on me," Hatter said. "She just made it fun and interesting and that is what I try to do everyday. The most fun and satisfying thing for me is when a kid really gets something and gets excited about it."
Hatter called business education, which includes everything from computer technology to balancing a checkbook, a "life skill," and she thinks it is important tool for students whether they are going to college or straight into the workforce. "We provide life skills so that they are able to function in the world," she said.
Holly Messinger, an assistant principal at Woodson High School, hired Hatter 10 years ago when Messinger was at Falls Church High School and she was not surprised to hear about Hatter's latest accolades. "When we first met, I felt this immediate connection," Messinger said. "She has always been at the forefront of keeping up with technology which is so important in this field. Plus, I have always been impressed with her rapport with the students."
Hatter's current boss, South Lake's principal Realista "Rely" Rodriguez, is equally enamored with Hatter, adding that she cannot wait for her business teacher to return from maternity leave. "We miss her," Rodriguez said. "Rhonda really accomplishes what she puts her mind to and that is why she has been such a good leader. Rhonda is a do-er."