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Matoaka Elementary teacher Jane Broe got a welcome surprise during her final round of Standards of Learning testing.
The retiring first-grade teacher was honored with the Virginia Lottery’s SURPRISE Super Teacher award for 2015, receiving a $2,000 prize and a $2,000 stipend for classroom supplies.
For Broe, the award was a heartening — albeit, unexpected — way to end her teaching career.
Broe moved to Virginia from her home state of New Jersey after graduating from college in 1974. She spent most of her nearly 40 years in education as a teacher in Northern Virginia, before taking a job with Williamsburg-James City County Schools eight years ago.
“We just got tired of the hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia,” she said, of her family’s move to the area.
Broe said she was worried she would not be able to find a new teaching position in an unfamiliar division, but was happy Matoaka accepted her.
“I was worried whether I would be able to find a job as a 55-year-old,” Broe said. “I was just so pleased [Matoaka Principal Andy Jacobs] gave me a chance.”
That chance paid off May 22, when Broe received the Super Teacher award.
Living up to its name, Broe was the last to know she had won the honor.
Teachers must be nominated by parents at their school to be eligible for the award. For the 2015 honor, more than 850 teachers across Virginia were nominated. From that pool, a committee would choose eight nominees to receive Super Teacher awards.
“A parent told me that I had been nominated a few months ago,” Broe said. “I thought being nominated was a reward in itself, but I didn’t hear anything else about it.”
The first people to learn Broe had won were her coworkers, who kept the award a secret. The Virginia Lottery then informed her husband of the award.
“That was harder to keep quiet,” Broe said.
Instead of revealing the win to his wife, Broe’s husband told their relatives in Northern Virginia about the upcoming presentation and organized a trip for 10 of them to be at Matoaka when the award would be announced.
When the May 22 award announcement arrived, the school organized a way to bring Broe to the ceremony in the gymnasium without arousing her suspicions.
Broe’s first-grade students were not taking SOL exams that day, completing alternate assignments instead. Broe was called to the gymnasium to be with her students.
What she found instead was a collection of family, friends, colleagues and guests, including School Board members Heather Cordasco (Roberts) and Ruth Larson (Berkeley), and state Sen. Tommy Norment (R-3).
“It didn’t click what was going on until the words came out,” Broe said.
Her fellow teachers are also benefiting from Broe’s award. Because she is retiring at the end of the school year, Broe is using her $2,000 classroom supplies stipend to purchase materials for nine teachers who are changing grade levels at Matoaka.
“Changing grade levels can be very expensive, because you have to buy new things for a new room and a new set of students,” Broe said. “My hope is to help them save some money.”
While she said she was honored by the award, Broe said each of her colleagues was deserving of the honor.
“I work with a group of super teachers,” she said.