LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Shella Cherry

Position: Assistant Principal
School: Shady Grove Middle School
School District: Montgomery County Public Schools
City, State: Gaithersburg, MD

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Shella Cherry was nominated by her principal, Edward Owusu.

Ms. Cherry believes in and promotes success for all students, and she exemplifies this daily. She uses relevant demographic and achievement data in supporting her school’s vision, analyzing and presenting data from a variety of sources as they relate to student achievement and school improvement. She also works with teams/departments to interpret and use data to make instructional improvements. Ms. Cherry assists in meeting with the community to facilitate their understanding of and garner their support for practices which keep the school’s vision in the forefront of collaborative decision making. On several occasions, Ms. Cherry has met with parents and students regarding student performance, as well as concerns regarding decisions made or actions in and around Shady Grove Middle School. Ms. Cherry sends the following key belief messages to students, staff, and parents:

  • Learning is important
  • All students can learn
  • We must not give up on students and their learning
  • Effective effort leads to student achievement

Ms. Cherry sends these messages in her daily interactions with all stakeholders. Her concern for students’ wellbeing and diligence in making sure instruction proceeds at the highest levels are noteworthy. Her use of home visits during the year, use of flipped offices, presence in grade level hallways for full work days, and interactions with students, staff, and parents are testimony to some of the ways she ensures that key messages are in her core beliefs and shared in all she does.

Ms. Cherry uses technology tools to assist in managing school operations and streamlining tasks. She works with team/department leaders to enhance their understanding of the technology tools. She assists the principal in encouraging community and business participation in the school for a variety of activities (e.g., volunteering in classes, participating in career days with her husband, speaking engagements, providing mentors for service learning and internships, and organizing and leading fundraising opportunity that raised over $4000). Ms. Cherry demonstrates a personal and professional code of ethics (e.g., core values and beliefs such as honesty and integrity) in formal and informal settings, models lifelong learning and encourages lifelong learning in others.

"Ms. Cherry goes above and beyond to meet the needs of all students, staff, and stakeholders," Owusu said. "She defines excellence in all she does."

Comments (43)

Kim Skufca Posted over a year ago

Shella Cherry is an amazing administrator and advocate for children. She is the best administrator I have worked for in my 17 years of teaching. Shella is the whole package - high expectations for staff & students while being extremely supportive, enthusiastic, and truly caring about each & every person in our building. Her presence can be felt in such a positive way throughout our entire building. Her love for what she does comes shining through every interaction she has with both students and staff. Her students, whom she thinks of as her kids, know Mrs. Cherry is there for them. Whether it be through a personal & motivating story she shares in a class meeting, walking the halls greeting them each morning, or meeting with individual students for a quick check-in just to let them know she believes in them; she gives so much of herself to each & everyone of them. She has also had such a positive impact on the staff morale in our building. Mrs. Cherry goes above & beyond to make each staff member feel valued. Her door is always open for advice & she asks for feedback and truly listens to what people share. I have learned so much from Shella in the three years I have worked with her, but more importantly, I have been witness to the amazing positive impact one person can have on a school.

Vanessa Varela Posted over a year ago

Shella was the first Shady Grove staff member that I talked to. I knew almost immediately that she would be an inspiring person to work with. After the first few conversations, I could tell that Shella was honest, hardworking, supportive, and enthusiastic. I also had the impression that Shella would be highly motivated - the kind of person who sets high goals and reaches them because she is persistent. Although I've only been at Shady Grove one year, I can say that Shella is definitely everything that I guessed she would be as an administrator and person. She works hard and works well with everyone. She's supportive of all the staff and the Shady Grove community. She brings enthusiasm and persistence to everything she does, which ultimately makes everyone around her better. But even with all of these awesome qualities, I think the best thing about Shella is that her personality is in everything that she does. Her humor and positive attitude is always present, and it makes working with her such a genuine, enjoyable experience. She makes a difference in a way that only Shella Cherry can!

Brook Jefferson Posted over a year ago

Ms. Cherry is one of the hardest working individuals I have ever worked with. She consistently makes the best interest of her students and her staff her number one priority. The amount of care and effort she puts into everything she does is impressive and inspiring. I am very grateful to have had the chance to work with her.

Amrit Singh Posted over a year ago

I truly admire Ms. Cherry ability to connect with all types of people and her "down to earth "personality. She was always willing to work with you for the best outcome and not consider herself as the only person in charge. She considered everyone as part of her team and was definitely a team player. Personally, Shella has provided me a lot of inspiration being an Asian woman and a vice principal. I will miss her humor at staff meetings and enthusiasm.

Marc Amnott Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Cherry is the type of person who gives everyone all of her attention and support. She has always been there for every staff member and student. She never gives up on anyone and always finds positive words of encouragement.

Anne Kozma Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Shella Cherry is an innovative thinker who uses a variety of strategies to support both her students and staff in making progress. Mrs. Cherry uses data to make meaningful decisions for school-wide programming as well as individual student needs. She also builds relationships which create a sense of community at our school and encourage active engagement in moving forward to the next level of work. Creating and implementing effective interventions is a strength of Mrs. Cherry. Over the past three years working with Shella, it has become evident that she is not only an elite leader, but also a helpful team member. This is evident through her ever-growing to-do list and seeing her walk through the hallways on Friday afternoons distributing grade reports and pep talks to students in her grade. Shella is the "real deal" and is definitely a game changer in the world of education.

Cynthia Simonson Posted over a year ago

Ms. Cherry has the heart of an advocate and, without question, makes no apology for it! I've watched Ms. Cherry for the last several years -- the perfect blend of toughness and compassion -- meeting students exactly where they are and motivating them to achieve their next milestone. It would be easy to let kids slip through, those students that others have already dismissed. But, not on Ms. Cherry's watch! As the SGMS PTA President, I can attest, Ms. Cherry is "a true believer" that every interaction is an opportunity to change the course of someone's life. I find "Lifechanger of the Year" a most fitting award for her!

Tina Weidner Posted over a year ago

Ms. Cherry is the hardest working individual I've ever seen! She has made a huge positive addition to SGMS and will be sorely missed. We love her and the wonderful, positive energy she provides each and every day. Makes you smile just to see her enter the room. She is extremely supportive and creative.

Cora Hines Posted over a year ago

It's very difficult to put into words the impact Shella's had on my life in two short years. Shella is an exceptional administrator and an amazing human-being. Being a first year teacher last year was quite difficult, but Shella made me feel comfortable. She helped me to see Shady Grove Middle School as more than just a place to work, but as a home. Shella has that effect on everything she does. What's truly inspiring is that every single day she comes to work, she brings a positive attitude and encourages students and staff to do the same. More than anything, the way that Shella loves and supports her students is astounding. She's got that never-ending and unshakable love for her students. It's seen in the time that she gives, the meals that she forgoes for meetings, and the way that she sacrifices herself for them every single day. It's sad that the students will never know how loved, supported, and cared for they are by an administrator. I've never seen an administrator love on the students the way that Shella does and its hard to imagine that I ever will again.

Joel Dechter Posted over a year ago

I have known Shella professionally for the past 15 yrs. I first met her when she was a new teacher. She cares deeply about children and the community where they live. She has boundless enthusiasm and laser like focus. When you collaborate with Shella you have a sense of purpose that encourages and motivates you to give your very best. Children sense this about her. They know she is fair and kind. Shella Cherry represents all that is great about the world of education. If she lived in the corporate world she would be in upper management of a highly successful corporation. It is a pleasure to know her and an honor to work with her.

Kata Kane Posted over a year ago

Shella "Coach Burch" encouraged a love of teamwork and friendship when she started coaching the James Hubert Blake high school field hockey team. She built our community from the ground up as our role model and our friend. She gave us positive reinforcement and pushed us to be better athletes and women. I feel so lucky to have had such a genuine and wonderful role model at a very formative age. I'm forever grateful for her love and guidance!

Stacey Brooks Posted over a year ago

I know Ms. cherry from her role as assistant principal at Francis Scott Key Middle School several years ago. What impressed me the most about her was her dedication, love and commitment to the students and staff of our school. There was no task too great, nor problem too insignificant for her to solve. She had an open door policy for the staff, and an open heart policy for the students. She was at Francis Scott Key, and continues to be an exemplary role model for anyone working in the field of education.

Chris Jones Posted over a year ago

Shella is one of those people who are able to join you in your struggle, yet inspire you to press forward to bigger and better things. Shella is an extremely hard worker, dedicates every minute of her day to the betterment of our students and our communities, and is the perfect example of what leadership should look like. As a mental health professional working in the schools, I see the need for emotional and behavioral support for students, and Shella has always been an enthusiastic supporter of the needs of all children across many domains, and her attitude and support of my work has made my job not only easier to do, but has helped to improve the outcomes for those about whom we collaborate. Shella shines a light onto an often dark or poorly lit path and provides guidance and reassurance to everyone who she touches with her work, and does so with a smile, integrity, consistency, and fairness. I am proud to call Shella a colleague, and I pass my congratulations along to her on her work bettering our future.

Rachel Bennett Posted over a year ago

Shella is an outstanding leader, colleague, and friend. Her brilliance, compassion, and dedication are a daily inspiration. The students know Ms. Cherry cares deeply about their success. Shella works tirelessly to support both her students and teachers--and her energy and enthusiasm are contagious. I often think about Shella's capacity to understand the whole student, to think creatively and critically about tough situations, and to change people's lives for the better. I'm grateful for Shella!

Nancy Petrie Posted over a year ago

As a parent who volunteers weekly at the school, I was able to see and hear how Mrs Cherry interacts with the students. She is firm but kind, never speaking down to them but rather patiently reminding them of how capable they are. You can tell by her tone and actions that she truly cares and wants them to succeed. There is no doubt that she believes they are able to accomplish great things with hard work. And knowing there is someone who believes in you is life changing.

Danielle Momtaz Posted over a year ago

Shella Cherry's hard work and dedication to her students and colleagues shows them in everything she does. She goes above and beyond to provide support to her staff and to meet all of her students' needs. She implements innovative ways to promote education and develops strong rapports with her students and staff.

Alison Hyman Posted over a year ago

My first memory of Ms. Cherry was listening to the way she interacted with our summer student office aids. She was so, naturally amazing with them. The way that she spoke to them was incredibly genuine & real. It was a true breath of fresh air for me and I walked up to her, gave her a huge hug, and gushed that I was so happy to have her at SGMS with us. She probably thought I was a crazy person, but it really meant that much to me to have someone who cared about our students as much as I did. Ms. Cherry & I partnered as grade-level administrator and grade-level counselor for 2 years at Shady Grove MS. She is the most dedicated and hard-working person I've ever met. She is a shoulder to cry on, a giver of tough love when needed, and the consummate professional all in one. She is one of my favorite people with whom I've worked in my 12 years with MCPS. She changes the lives of students & staff alike and I can think of no one more deserving than Ms. Shella Cherry for this award!

Kim Cook Posted over a year ago

I speak from the perspective of a parent. We are one of the families who benefitted from one of her home visits. This was prior to our son's entry to the sixth grade. I have been continually impressed by Shella Cherry's attention to and ability in both personal relationship building and effective executive administration. I have experienced her academic leadership and the advocacy for students making sure each is individually supported and challenged. I have witnessed her fair assessment of discipline issues and implementation of responses that call out the very best in students. I have listened as she addressed groups of parents and students, relating and partnering with all simultaneously. She encourages, "shows up", and models what she expects from others. That level of integrity and aspiration is probably the most important factor in the extreme regard students have for her and their willingness to strive for excellence under her leadership. The parent community has been grateful for her investment in all of our kids.

Laura Schrader Posted over a year ago

While I only had the pleasure of working with Shella for one year, I can say with great confidence that she consistently goes over and above in the interest of students! While many people have spoken to this, I would like to speak to a way she does it indirectly and that is through environment. Each year Shella takes on a summer project to improve the asthetics of the school and make it more like home. To me, this shows you what kind of leader she is. While she is data driven and has exceptional instructional leadership, she knows the value of welcoming others, staff, students and parents into an environment of comfort and belonging. To her, this has never been a job, instead it's a mission or a passion. As an administrator to take your time to come in and paint a wall and hang decorations that create a sense of "us," is a very, very rare characteristic and, to me, exemplifies why she is exceptional. She does everything an administrator *should* do AND she goes beyond to do what she knows is right to do as well.

Colleen Conrad Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Cherry has been changing lives long before her days as an Assistant Principal! I first met her 14 years ago when she changed my life. She was a middle school teacher at the time and my high school lacrosse and field hockey coach. She was an excellent leader, a great listener, and a motivator to say the least. Fourteen years later we don't have much contact anymore but her impact on me will never be forgotten. I think the most wonderful thing about Shella is that everything she does is done from the bottom of her heart, with all of her effort, and simply because she cares. Thanks Shella!

Lisa Shorts Posted over a year ago

Ms. Cherry is absolutely the most appropriate candidate to be named as Lifechanger of the Year. She is dedicated to being an educator and looks for opportunities beyond her assigned duties to impact her school community. She builds meaningful relationships with her students and supports them even outside of the normal school day. She is dedicated to her school and often works long hours during the week and even on weekends ensuring she is present for students. She is a mom and wife who has welcomed her school family as part of her extended family. She seeks opportunities to continue her professional development and is frequently involved in professional development sessions designed to share her skills and develop other educators. Ms. Cherry's dedication to her students and her continued persuit of professional development opportunities make her the most qualified candidate for this award.

Beverly Bell Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Cherry is the epitome of excellence! She cares for all students and performs her responsibilities with the utmost integrity. Her caring attitude is displayed in all she does!

Dana Donohue Posted over a year ago

Shella Burch Cherry is an amazing teacher. She cares about eaxhbof her students, not only their academic successes, but also personally. She has a unique ability to connect personally with her students, whether it's through sports, music, or pop culture. She is also super creative and seeks to engage all her students in meaningful ways. Shells is a leader among her peers as well. I feel super proud to have known and worked with Shella Burch Cherry.

Portia Bates Posted over a year ago

I learned so much about leadership by working with Mrs. Cherry. I know her to be kind, professional, and patient. Any school is blessed to have her. She deserves any honor that crosses her path.

Dana Donohue Posted over a year ago

Shella Burch Cherry is an amazing teacher. She cares about eaxhbof her students, not only their academic successes, but also personally. She has a unique ability to connect personally with her students, whether it's through sports, music, or pop culture. She is also super creative and seeks to engage all her students in meaningful ways. Shells is a leader among her peers as well. I feel super proud to have known and worked with Shella Burch Cherry.

Maura Moore Posted over a year ago

Shella Cherry leads the right way, by example. She is hard working, but brings an element of fun to the job. She inspires others to try harder and believ in themselves. Both staff and students alike want to perform well for her because of all of the amazing thing she does. She inspires girls to be leaders. Out of my almost two decades of teaching, she is the person I most want to emulate. She creates a sense of community, and encourages others to take part. Truly the most well rounded administrator I've ever had the pleasure to work for.

Stacy Gray Posted over a year ago

I had the pleasure of working with Shella about 10 years ago when we served as Assistant Principals together. She had an uncanny way of enlisting teachers and students to meet high performance expectations. With teachers, I recall her being a servant leader and an impeccable listener. She would remove all barriers to help a child to succeed: help him individually before or after school, provide incentives, connect with his parents, build on his gifts & talents, and show genuine care. Shella labored long hours, lended collegial help, and encouraged others to replicate her great ideas. Her unwavering belief in children enabled success for many children when we worked together. Additionally, Shella made the work fun! I miss working with her!!

Kristina Cao Posted over a year ago

It is so hard to express my gratitude for Ms. Cherry and her impact on my life as well as her current and other former students. Ms. Cherry was my Assistant Principal during her years at Francis Scott Key Middle School. From the first day I met her she has always pushed me to be the best student and person I can be. She is persistent, dedicated, hard-working, motivated, kind, warm, funny, and so much more. It was because of her belief in me that I returned to Key for many summers all throughout high school and volunteered lending a hand to the office staff and teachers there. She taught me how to be a team leader and team player. I formed great relationships with the staff, teachers, and summer school students during my volunteer experience. Not only was Ms. Cherry my middle school Assistant Principal but she is my mentor, my support system, and great friend whom I looked up to every day during high school and now college. Ms. Cherry gives 110% in everything she does and she does with such joy and pride. She even takes her personal time to make sure a student in need is getting the proper help he/she deserves. Not only is Ms. Cherry a life changer at her school but she is also one outside of the school doors.

Alexis Savage Posted over a year ago

It is hard to put into words how Shella Cherry has changed the life of the kids and the staff at this school, but I will try. Shella always has a sunny disposition and has a great outlook on life. It is hard to be upset or in a bad mood around her because her attitude and humor are infectious. She is always supportive of the staff and there when they need her. The years she has been at Shady Grove has seemed easier because she takes on such a large role, and is magically everywhere at once. I don’t know how she does it! She puts everyone else before herself and it is clear that she truly cares about the people she works with. I have also seen her as a life changer for the students here. She holds each and every student to the highest standard. The students all respect her and because of that, they each try their hardest to reach her standards. I will never forget, one day at an awards assembly she asked a student who was slouching to sit up straight. She did not see it, but standing at the back of the room my field of vision was broad and, I saw at least five other students wiggling in their seats to make sure they were sitting up tall as well. This was not a reaction out of fear, but respect and wanting to do right by her. Not many people have that much pull over an entire grade of students, but that is how much she and they care. She also gives her time and holds an after school group, “The Cherry Stars,” to support kids who are struggling academically and need the extra help. Both the staff and the students look up to her and respect her. She makes each day here better, encourages us all to go above and beyond and brings light into a sometimes dim situation.

Judy Jaskolski Posted over a year ago

Shella Cherry gives all of her energy to make our school a great place for being and learning. She always does "the most!" She helps students with their work even after school, she is a visible presence in the halls,and she holds high standards for all her students. She always has an open door and makes time for staff no matter how much is on her plate. She always has a cheery disposition and she can make you smile even when you are at your wits end. She always reflects the most positive outlook and is willing to do whatever it takes to make the school, the students and the staff successful and enjoy their time here.

Julie Ehrlich Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Cherry is an exceptional administrator, and a true leader at our school. She has an impressive work ethic, always putting the students and staff above all else. I have truly enjoyed working with Mrs. Cherry and can't wait to see the impact she makes on MCPS in the future!

Edwina Kollo Posted over a year ago

What I can say here about Ms. Shella Cherry, would only be a trace of the true impact she has had on my professional and personal growth. I have had the pleasure and honor to work with Ms. Cherry as the supervisor over the Math department. In just the two years that I have been able to work with her, she would work side by side with me as I began my observations and department professional development making sure that I was being truly reflective in a way that produced formative change thereafter. When I am confronted with a large task, she never ceased to work alongside me, whether it was to pull and comb through data, create presentations, or draft communications with our parents. I have watched her sit in a room and carefully think out, plan, organize and delegate a large task, taking something that could take days and working with a team to get it done in a matter of hours. She is one of the most effective AND efficient leaders I have met. So much so, that I self appointed her my mentor (something I joke with her about often). Not only is she an effective leader but, to me, the most impressive aspect is that she has her heart in EVERYTHING that she does. Whether it was Cherry Stars, which was an initiative to support students academically after school on Wednesdays, for which she gave up her own time to do, or whether it was organizing (in a matter of days) a fundraising to help raise money for summer school, Ms. Cherry exudes passion for students and their academic success. Lastly, the support that she gives her staff professional and personally is amazing. She's there for birthdays, and weddings and there to help you recognize your own leadership qualities and push towards growth. I am a better teacher and leader because of her leadership.

Jennifer Sadara Posted over a year ago

Ms. Cherry is a true leader in our building and she is inspiring to me. I have never seen anyone care about students the way she does - in every decision she makes every day. She really thinks about students' futures and is able to see the bigger picture. She also cares so much about the needs of her staff, which makes our school a great place to work. Ms. Cherry goes above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of our kids. She attends every after school, evening, or weekend event to cheer our students on and show her support. I personally feel lucky to have been able to meet her, work with her, learn from her and additionally call her my friend.

Araceli Lopez Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Cherry is the best administrator that I have worked with in my 20 years in the school system. Mrs. Cherry created the "Cherry Stars" program. Mrs. Cherry would identify at risk students and schedule to meet with her after school in the media center. She would print out progress reports for each of the students and have them highlight their missing work. She would set high expectations for those student to improve their grades. In addition, she was very supportive when working with challenging students, giving me feedback as a professional to be a better teacher. I only wish I had more time with her.

Harold Dawkins Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Cherry is one of the most remarkable and dynamic Administrators I’ve ever worked with. I’ve watched as she tirelessly worked with students who struggle both academically and in the socio/emotional realm. Whether it’s after school hours or several home visits during the summer, Mrs. Cherry’s presence in the lives of our students it’s extremely evident. She uses data and partners with students in exploring any weaknesses as well as strengths for the betterment of the student. She investigates outside resources for families in need to help foster partnerships. I’ve literally heard from students that “Mrs. Cherry has saved my life.” Her passion for a strong work ethic is unparalleled. She has the uncanny ability to step in to help strengthen any inconsistencies that may present themselves. If she perceives an upcoming issue that may affect the student body negatively, she will be make sure to part of the solution. I’ve been in meetings when Mrs. Cherry will appear with a newly developed spreadsheet containing additional data to help a school team’s decision making process, unprompted! As a School Counselor it’s inspirational to watch an Administrator focus on helping families partner with outside resources, use data to help promote change, take a solution based approach that ultimately helps the school community. Mrs. Cherry is a dynamic and remarkable Administrator that the Montgomery County Public School system is blessed to have.

Kathleen Dalkiewicz Posted over a year ago

Ms. Cherry has consistently gone above and beyond her duty. She is committed to her staff and her students. She works to make sure that students are succeeding and her staff has what they need. She is a wonderful support to staff and students.

Christopher Hull Posted over a year ago

Ms. Cherry is a true professional. She sees both the big picture and understands all the minute details. She pushes both staff and students to do their best and she does not accept mediocrity. Ms. Cherry keeps her cool in stressful situations and is always reliable, accountable, and supportive of others.

marsha bronsther,rn Posted over a year ago

Ms.Cherry displays an aura of CARING !She makes all around her feel they can achieve excellence through hard work and good character. They say if you change one life it is as if you have changed the world..She has changed the world......

Tama Hobbs Posted over a year ago

Not only is Ms. Cherry a LifeChanger for students, she is a LifeChanger for her staff as well. I have never worked with such a dedicated Instructional Leader as Ms. Cherry. She encourages and supports the personal and the professional growth of each person with whom she comes in contact. Ms. Cherry encourages staff to take risks in both their teaching and their leadership roles. She enthusiastically shares her knowledge and time to support any person who seeks her guidance. Her knowledge and support have changed who I am as an educator, and refocused my vision to the instructional leader that I am striving to become.

Toni Ann Melito Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Cherry renewed my love for education. When I was feeling that my efforts were not enough to affect change in the lives of my students, Mrs Cherry reminded me of my reasons for doing what I do every day. She is a true mentor, educator, and wonderful human being.

Katherine Clark Posted over a year ago

Shella goes above and beyond with the students and staff of her building. he makes everyone feel supported and cherished. She is an amazing Person!

Chanda Stephens Posted over a year ago

Shella Cherry is a phenomenal leader. Her dedication to both her students and staff is absolutely remarkable and admirable.

Elaine Fors-MacKellar Posted over a year ago

Shella Cherry is a wonderful administrator. She is a positive role model for the whole school community, including students and staff. She uses a very positive, supportive style of leadership. Ms. Cherry does not give up or shy away from difficult interactions. She can be very firm, but she is also very positive in her way of always working for positive change. She is an innovator and a consensus-builder.