Emily Overstreet honored, named Regional Teacher of the Year

Published 8:06 am Wednesday, April 10, 2024

“How many of you really like Mrs. Overstreet?” asked Lisa Coons. Reading to a group of students at Cumberland Elementary, the Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction asked about their art teacher, Emily Overstreet, and how much students enjoyed taking her class. 

Hands shot up all over the room in response to the question. 

“Isn’t she amazing?” Coons asked, to which the students gave a resounding “Yes!” 

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And while Coons was there to read to students, that wasn’t the only thing on her mind. She was also at Cumberland Elementary to honor the latest Region 8 Teacher of the Year, which for 2024 is Cumberland’s Emily Overstreet. Chosen by her peers at the school first as their own Teacher of the Year and then the district’s overall nominee, Overstreet now finds herself representing all of Region 8 in the state. 

“Your team and your fellow educators nominated you because of the way you bring art into the classroom, the way you inspire children and the way you really make them want to be here,” Coons said.  

That’s no surprise to Cumberland parents or anyone who visited the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts (LCVA), where work from Overstreets’ students was on display late last year. Overstreet has said she encourages students to be creative not just in art, but to use that mindset in all of their classes, to think outside of the box and explore new ideas. 

“Art has the power to just ignite the imagination,” Overstreet said Tuesday. “We need that in math, we need that in reading, we need that creativity. Without it, you can’t elevate math, science or reading. By having it all together, it elevates the learning experience. And that’s what we want for our children.” 

A time to build up others

When singling out an influence, Emily Overstreet looks back to her grandmother. While growing up, her grandmother taught Emily the importance of building up others, through actions as well as words. Now the elementary teacher does just that, working with students ranging from pre-K through fourth grade. 

Emily Overstreet

Students at Cumberland Elementary all raise their hands when asked who likes Mrs. Overstreet.

“That is a gift, to not just be able to touch a class of 20, but all 500 kids here,” Overstreet said, adding that she goes home every day fulfilled by her job. 

She also helps build up the community by working with her students on a number of different projects. Overstreet’s classes have designed “Buddy Benches” currently used at the school. They also crafted artwork for retirement communities in the area and put their work on display for the world through a YouTube channel labeled “Mrs. O’s Art Studio”. 

Her work stretches even beyond the Cumberland Elementary classroom, as the Longwood University graduate helps with art workshops in Farmville and facilitates the LCVA Photography Program for At-Risk Students. She also serves as Chair of Cumberland County Public Schools’ Art Department, is a member of the Cumberland Elementary Leadership Team and helps mentor new teachers in the district. 

” We are so proud of Ms. Overstreet for being named the Region 8 Teacher of the Year,” Cumberland Superintendent Dr. Chip Jones said. “She is a talented, passionate, and respected educator who inspires her students to be creative and enthusiastic about the world of art. In education we spend a great deal of time focused on core content areas that we forget all of the amazing opportunities that our fine arts provide. This celebration is a reminder of just one of the many examples of our dedicated educational professionals. “

What happens next for Emily Overstreet?

Overstreet is one of eight regional Teachers of the Year in Virginia. Now the group will become part of a Teacher Advisory Council for the Virginia Department of Education. Also, coming up on May 6, that group will join Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin as he announces which one will serve as Virginia’s Teacher of the Year. That person will go on to represent the Commonwealth in the National Teacher of the Year competition.