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BSISD Elementary Principal, Donna Varnado and Norma Penney - Photo by Linda Baggett

This award began several years ago and is named for two amazing men: BSISD Superintendent Charles Penney and BSISD High School Principal and teacher Odis Hammock. Since their passing, their wives, Norma Penney and Dorothy Hammock, have been choosing the recipient. This year’s honoree is Donna Varnado, BSISD Elementary Principal.

Mrs. Varnado is a veteran educator of forty-one years who started her career at Big Sandy Elementary in 1979 as a sixth-grade teacher. Nine years later, she became principal of our elementary school. This year will mark her thirty-second year in this position. Under her leadership, students and staff have earned numerous “Recognitions” over the years, in addition to achieving multiple “Gold Performance Acknowledgement Awards” and Distinctions.

A graduate of Union Grove High School, Mrs. Varnado attended college at Kilgore College, The University of Texas at Tyler, and Stephen F. Austin State University. She has earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in education and certifications in the school Principalship and Superintendancy.

As a college student, she served as a United States Friendship Ambassador to China, South Korea, and Romania and performed for over 10,000 servicemen in South Korea. (The first performance was at Camp Casey…only a few miles from the DMZ (demilitarized zone). In 1990, she travelled to Belize, Central America to participate in mission work as a teacher in the local churches and two of the area schools. The targeted region of service was deep in the jungles of this Central American Country as well as the surrounding villages of San Ramon.

In addition to this honor, Mrs. Varnado has been named “Teacher of the Year” by the Upshur County Soil and Water Conservation District, “Educator of the Year” by the Big Sandy Chamber of Commerce, Beta Sigma Phi’s “Woman of the Year” (3 times), and former Big Sandy Mayor Buzz Long, proclaimed May 26, 1994 as “Donna Varnado Day” in recognition of contributions and service to the school and community.

Of all her accomplishments, Mrs. Varnado is most proud when she speaks of her family – daughter, Casey; son, Adam; their spouses; and particularly grandchildren, Cameron, Brody, Mason, and Blakelee! Casey and Adam are both graduates of Big Sandy High School and both played sports on the college levels. Casey is a CPA, certified fraud examiner, and forensic accountant. Adam teaches Personal Finance on the high school level and serves as Assistant Head football coach, offensive coordinator, and Head boy’s track coach. Success runs strong in this family.

As you can see, Mrs. Varnado is an excellent choice for this award. She was well-known by both Mr. Penney and Mr. Hammock and this correspondent believes they would be very pleased with her selection.