Mona Tomlinson Kanode ’81, ’84 MEd has been named Bedford County’s 2019 Teacher of the Year for her work at Big Island Elementary School in Big Island, Virginia. A library media specialist and school counselor, Kanode also has served as a mentor for new teachers and worked to supervise University of Lynchburg students completing internships at her school.
Asked about receiving the award, Kanode said it was “really exciting” and added, “I work with a lot of great people, who teach their hearts out, and I was honored to be chosen as their representative.”
Kanode graduated summa cum laude from Lynchburg with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature-Writing. While at Lynchburg, she also was named Sommerville Scholar, the most prestigious academic accolade presented by the College. Later, she earned a Master of Education in guidance and counseling from Lynchburg.
Kanode has worked at Big Island Elementary School since 1991, and while her duties have changed somewhat over the years, her passion remains in counseling. “I consider myself more of a counselor,” she said. “That’s where my heart lies. … As far as my philosophy of teaching, I just feel that it’s important for the kids to know that people care about them and will celebrate their success and also give them support when they need it. I try to have positive relationships with the kids.”
At Big Island, Kanode has helped start a number of programs that help children in the surrounding community, where she grew up and lives today. “We helped start a Secret Shepherd program with the PTA, helping get kids clothing at Christmas who would otherwise not have new clothes,” she said, adding that a couple of years ago, “in conjunction with the United Way and Georgia Pacific, we started a school backpack program. I worked with that a lot, too.”
Kanode describes Big Island Elementary as a “tight-knit community school” and said she taught the parents of many kids who go there today. “[I] know their grandparents. In some cases, I know their great-grandparents,” she said. “I feel a connection to the community to try to do what I can do to help, not just on the education level, but on some of the other needs.”
According to a press release from Bedford County Public Schools, Kanode is known at Big Island Elementary and in the Big Island community as a team player who “wears many hats.” She has more than 30 years of experience working in public schools, coming to Bedford after working in the Roanoke City Public Schools. The release also details her involvement in various other community and professional organizations over the years, including the Virginia Counselors Association, Chi Sigma Iota, the Piedmont Area Reading Council, and others.