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Varsity Brands 2017 School Spirit Awards Recognizes High School Staff Members Making a Difference in Students’ Lives

March 2, 2017

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Varsity Brands School Spirit Awards, presented by Varsity Spirit, Herff Jones and BSN SPORTS, has announced the finalists from 45 states in its 2017 School Spirit Awards Staff category. Awards include Legacy Coaching Award, Outstanding Athletic Director Award, Top-Notch Teacher Award, Top Athletic Trainer Award, Star Staff Member Award and Greatest Guidance Counselor Award.

The second annual Varsity Brands School Spirit Awards celebrates the very best of America’s high schools with 23 categories and over $100,000 in award money to honor students, staff and school organizations that make a positive and lasting impact in their schools and communities. Through this initiative, Varsity Brands aims to elevate the student experience and promote school spirit nationwide.

“Varsity Brands is proud to honor the staff members who go above and beyond their duties to contribute to our schools. These staff members put forth a great deal of extra work to make high school engaging and memorable in and out the classroom,” said Jeff Webb, Founder and Chairman of Varsity Brands.

This award will honor one principal that understands the essential link between school spirit and student achievement and therefore supports academics and athletics alike. This principal is personable, active in school activities, encouraging to students and faculty and innovative in his/her approach to education and engagement.

Finalists include:
• Peter Winniger
Bristol Central
Bristol, CT

• Toby Pearce
Flora High School
Flora, IL

• Frances Clare
Mater Dei High School
Santa Ana, CA

• Dennis "Chip" Medders
Troup Central High School
LaGrange, GA

This award will honor one coach with a long-standing history of success. This coach recognizes the link between athletic involvement and student achievement, and therefore encourages both academic excellence and good character. This coach also prioritizes sportsmanship, both on and off the playing field.

Finalists include:
• Vicki Williams
Chapin High School
Chapin, SC

• Angie Stage
Davie County High School
Mocksville, NC

• John Hinkleman
San Bernardino High School
San Bernardino, CA

• Scott Ellett
Wayne High School
Bicknell, UT

• Douglas Snyder
William Allen High School
Allentown, PA

This award will honor one athletic director who supports all school teams enthusiastically and equally, regardless of success level. He/she encourages athletes to excel on the playing field and in the classroom and attends a variety of sporting events to maintain spirit and school pride.

Finalists include:

• Cindy Roach
Blue Valley West High School
Overland Park, KS

• Randy Garrett
Coffee High School
Douglas, GA

• Molly Feesler
Pickerington High School
Pickerington, OH

• Luke Beach
Rochester High School
Rochester Hills, MI

This award will honor one teacher who understands that achievement means more than a number in a gradebook. It means helping students discover their strengths and passions. Students feel this teacher cares about them both academically and personally. This teacher has a genuine love and loyalty for his/her school and supports it in every way possible.

Finalists include:
• Billie Williams
Chapin High School
Chapin, SC

• Nicholas Copeland
Frenship High School
Wolfforth, TX

• Mary Hagedorn
Perry Central High School
Leopold, IN

• Justin Johnson
St. Vincent's Academy
Savannah, GA

No team is complete with a dedicated athletic trainer to support athletes both on and off the field. This award is for an athletic trainer with a long history of success. This athletic trainer’s expertise is partnered with unwavering enthusiasm and encouragement toward all students. Students know they can count on this athletic trainer through the ups and downs of life as a student athlete.

Finalists include:
• John Hansen
Los Alamitos High School
Los Alamitos, CA

• Chad Abrams
Reeltown High School
Notasulga, AL

• Danielle Cote
San Benito High School
Hollister, CA

• Becky Taylor
Sherwood High School
Sandy Spring, MD

This award will honor a school staff member who makes outstanding contributions to a school’s spirit culture. This person turns their otherwise ordinary job into an extraordinary opportunity to make others happy, without expecting anything in return. This person holds an important, but sometimes underappreciated role within the school district (i.e., cafeteria staff, bus driver, crossing guard, custodians or administrative staff) but is still known and loved by students, faculty and community members alike.

Finalists include:
• Gina Vessella
Central High School
Providence, RI

• Jan Shaffer
Fort Walton Beach High School
Fort Walton Beach, FL

• Jeff Lehman
Kettle Moraine High School
Wales, WI

• Randy Kepley
Strafford High School
Strafford, MO

This award honors the guidance counselors who devote their careers to serving as advocates for students. The winner of the Greatest Guidance Counselor award skillfully balances the many demands of their profession. This person is well-loved by students and parents and works hard to assess the academic, social and emotional needs of students. This person also works hard to ensure that students are prepared for life after high school and assists students in finding their best post-graduate options.

Finalists include:
• Melody Dickens
Calvary Christian School
Covington, KY

• Christopher Rogers
Cass Technical High School
Detroit, MI

• Nancy Medling
Dyer County High School
Newbern, TN

• Richard Sypniewski
Great Oak High School
Temecula , CA

The $25,000 grand prize award, America’s Most Spirited High School, will honor one high school that demonstrates unparalleled school spirit and community pride. The winner of this category will be determined by online voting at, and the public can vote for their favorite. Winners from all 23 categories will be announced in an award ceremony on May 15th, at the Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando, Florida.

To learn more about Varsity Brands and its School Spirit Awards, please visit