Standing off to the side of the school auditorium with a large cup of coffee in his hand, Gregory Lyndaker had no idea the Henrico High School senior class assembly Thursday morning would turn into a ceremony to honor him as Teacher of the Year for the Richmond region.
Recognized as the Henrico County Teacher of the Year in a ceremony last May, the high school psychology teacher was elevated Thursday to best teacher in the region for the 2019-2020 school year, setting him up to compete with seven other teachers across the state for Virginia Teacher of the Year.
Even as he was called to the stage Thursday morning, Lyndaker thought he was being recognized for the county-level award he won last spring. “I didn’t expect this at all today when I came in or even while I was standing in the meeting. I had no idea what it was about,” Lyndaker said in an interview after the assembly. “I thought it was our senior meeting that we normally have at the beginning of the year. I was shocked.”
Once the clapping ended and Superintendent Amy Cashwell called him to the stage, she made the surprise announcement that Lyndaker had been named the top teacher for Virginia Region 1, unleashing a thunderous round of applause for the beloved teacher.
Region 1 consists of 15 localities: the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent, Powhatan, Prince George, Surry and Sussex, plus the cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell, Petersburg and Richmond.
The last winner of Teacher of the Year in Region 1, Rodney Robinson, a history and social studies teacher at the Virgie Binford Education Center in Richmond, went on to win National Teacher of the Year last spring.
Several students and faculty members stood as they cheered for Lyndaker. And in the hallway afterward, on the way to a faculty reception, several teachers shouted congratulations or stopped him for a quick embrace to share their appreciation.
Officials said what sets Lyndaker apart is his engaging lesson plans, the care he shows for his students, and his involvement in peer development and with student teams and clubs, such as the soccer team and the National Honor Society.
Deputy Secretary of Education Holly Coy, who presented him with an award certificate and a letter signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, said he has demonstrated leadership as both a teacher and a mentor to his students and colleagues.
“It’s clear you’re dedicated to serving those around you wholeheartedly,” she said. “We’re so grateful for you inspiring a love of learning in your students and taking the time to build those relationships with them. These are truly the greatest accomplishments in an educator’s life.”
Originally from upstate New York, Lyndaker comes from a family of educators and school guidance counselors. Lyndaker, who teaches International Baccalaureate Psychology and a course called Theory of Knowledge, joined the Henrico High School faculty in 2013 after working for a middle school near his hometown and at the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls.
Lyndaker said he hopes to build on his successes and to help push the school district to “innovate more and find new ways to teach our kids the best we can.”
A panel made up of professionals from various educational organizations selected Lyndaker and seven other teachers for the award in their respective regions, according to Virginia Director of Teacher Education Tara McDaniel. The same group will decide who is named the Virginia Teacher of the Year on Oct. 7.