Outstanding High School Students

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Provided by PWCS

Two local high school students are already hard at work on their future careers. Meet future teacher Kaydence Costello from C.D. Hylton High School and artist Sofia Smirnova from Charles J. Colgan Sr. High School.

Student Finds Success Pursuing Her Passion For Teaching

Kaydence Costello

Kaydence Costello is a sophomore at C.D. Hylton High School and already passionate about a future career in education. “It’s the only thing I can truly see myself doing,” she shared about becoming a teacher.

Costello is a member of Educators Rising, a Career and Technical Education student organization that aligns with Teachers for Tomorrow, a program that helps students pursue a career in education.

Educators Rising hosts a national conference each year to convene their network of future educators and teacher leaders. The conference holds breakout sessions and competitive events designed to help students develop and showcase their teaching skills. These competitions are performance-based events in which aspiring educators demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and leadership in education.

Costello was one of five students from Hylton High who attended the 2022-23 conference in Orlando and the first underclassman to represent PWCS at the national conference. She earned that privilege by placing first in the state event.

Competing within the state category of ‘Lesson Planning & Delivery-Arts,’ Costello chose to create a lesson plan for a second-grade art class. She went to McAuliffe Elementary School and recorded herself teaching the class based on her lesson plan. She submitted the 10-minute video to the judges who asked her multiple questions about the lesson plan and her implementation of the plan. With her first-place victory in the state competition, she advanced to nationals.

The process for the national conference was similar to the state’s. Costello returned to McAuliffe Elementary where she replicated the video recording process and lesson plan implementation with a different class. The judges reviewed the video and asked her to present her reflections from the lessons as part of their assessment.

At the awards ceremony, Costello, her fellow classmates, and Hylton’s Education Rising sponsor, Katherine Jackson, did not know what to expect. The top 10 contestants in Costello’s category were announced in no ranking order and she was among the 10. The top three were then announced. After not hearing her name called after third and second places were announced, she was sure she was in the lower of the top 10.

When they called Costello’s name as the winner she froze, “I was shocked. Everyone at the table was just in awe because we didn’t think it would happen.” she said.

Jackson was the one person at the table not totally shocked. She said, “I’m not surprised that she took the first place. She’s a very hardworking student and she thrived on that project.”

Costello now has three more years to learn and compete before going to college and pursuing her dream of being a teacher, with hopes of coming back to PWCS.

 Student Designs Digital Mural For Facilities Department Building

Sofia Smirnova

Among the several Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) buildings that encompass the Independent Hill Complex (IHC) sits Building 52, the hub of support services provided by the PWCS Facilities Department. From building repair and maintenance to pest control and snow removal, the building may not be the first that comes to mind for an art mural. However, that’s exactly what Nicole Barclay, a facilities records management specialist who works in the building, requested.

“I wanted a way to bring some color and positivity to all the hard work staff do for the facilities,” said Barclay. “Having a student create the art felt like the perfect way to remind us that we do our jobs for the amazing students of Prince William County.”

Barclay reached out to Charles J. Colgan Sr. High School, the school division’s fine and performing arts high school, for help. Brad Nance, a visual art teacher at the school, learned of the request and put together an art contest for students to submit designs for the mural. Each design was to incorporate the many different services and supports provided by the Facilities Department. Nance noted one design that stood out – that of Colgan High School junior Sofia Smirnova.

“I knew it was the perfect fit for Building 52,” said Nance.

Elizabeth Byrnes, Smirnova’s art teacher at Colgan, echoed the sentiment from Nance. “It’s an eye catcher and gives the viewer something to stop and truly investigate. The composition, color, and stylized representation shares a message of community, and captures the essence of how important each PWCS department is to all of us within the school division,” she said.

For Smirnova, the contest was a chance to gain valuable experience and competition credits needed for her master classes. “I wanted to challenge myself in creating a detailed artwork piece about subjects I do not draw often,” she said. “I mostly draw figures and portraits, so this was a brand-new experience for me.”

Smirnova also said that the art piece allowed her to step outside of her artistic comfort zone and to push herself to use her strengths and weaknesses to create something that incorporated “wacky perspectives, tools, and structures.”

“Providing real-life opportunities for students to showcase their creativity is crucial. Not only does it give them a sense of accomplishment, but it also adds valuable content to their portfolio and resume,” said Nance.

“I hope the mural starts conversation between those who enter Building 52,” said Barclay. “I hope it is a reminder that we are all so important to the success of the students and I hope it makes people stop even for just a few seconds to be still and reflect on the amazing artwork.”

Smirnova plans to attend art school after high school to continue expanding her artistic skills with the hope of becoming a freelance artist.

colgan high school artist, building 52

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