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SHINE: Our Way of Saying 'Thank You'

shine our way of saying thank you

By Danielle Nadler

The words “thank you” can go a long way.

My mom was a special education teacher in a small, blue-collar town in South Dakota. She worked with a population that often required an extra ounce of love and patience for a salary that’s among the lowest in the nation. 

Caren MacMurchy SHINE
Caren MacMurchy enjoys a lifetime of teaching.

But ask her about her time in the classroom, and you’ll only hear stories of students’ overcoming the odds and colleagues who kept her laughing through a 25-year teaching career.

Why? Well for one, Caren MacMurchy just down right loves teaching. At 73, she’ll still teach a lesson to anyone willing to sit long enough to hear it.

But also, she says that she always felt appreciated. Sometimes by students, sometimes by families, but most often by her fellow team of educators.

“Simple words of affirmation fuel my tank, not so much awards,” she recently told me.

I love that at the Loudoun Education Foundation, we’ve made encouraging educators a priority. In fact, it’s listed as a top goal in our adopted Strategic Plan.

We develop and encourage LCPS staff through a variety of initiatives, including Continuing Education Scholarships and Innovation in Education Grants.

But one of my favorite ways is through the SHINE program.

SHINE stands for Spotlighting Heroes IN Education, and any community member or LCPS employee can nominate a staff member to be recognized. The nomination note will be shared with the nominee, so they can see just how they improved the life of a student, a colleague, or a parent.

And each month, a nominee is selected to win the SHINE prize, which is a gift of $500 or more given out by the Loudoun Education Foundation.

This week, we got to deliver the monthly prize to Evelyn Ceballos, school nutrition manager at Brambleton Middle School. We showed up to the school loaded with balloons, $500 worth of gift cards to One Loudoun shops and restaurants, and a huge sign that read “We Heart Educators.”

We were joined by Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Aaron Spence, Employee Recognition Supervisor Carrie Simms, and Katie Knight from Apple Federal Credit Union, sponsor of this month’s prize.

Evelyn filed into the library with the rest of the cafeteria team, which keeps middle schoolers happy and fed. She smiled and was certainly appreciative of the gift.

But it wasn’t the thought of dinner out with family or a movie night with friends that brought Evelyn to tears. It was the words of thanks from her colleagues.

“We are lucky to have you,” Brambleton Principal Chad O’Brien said.

In their nomination letter, the principal and assistant principals said, “"Ms. Ceballos and her team work to create school meals that are representative of our students’ family and cultural backgrounds--in addition, they are DELICIOUS! She always leads with love and goes the extra mile to ensure that our large school feels small and welcoming for each and every student."

“Brambleton is my family,” she replied. “This is why I stay. I love everybody here.”

Think of who you know in the LCPS community who you want us to shine a spotlight on and nominate them at:


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For more than 30 years, the Loudoun Education Foundation has demonstrated how community support can make meaningful educational impacts in the classroom and beyond. As an independent nonprofit, we engage our community to invest in critical and innovative programs that foster academic success and the well-being of students and educators. We fund programs that stimulate students’ curiosity, create exceptional learning opportunities, and provide needed resources to educators, students and families.

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