Difference Makers 2023

DAR honors its first teacher as Difference Maker of the Year
Posted on 08/29/2023
Bridget Epps, Jennie Randolph, Staci Barker and Marc Roderick.

Jennie Randolph of Poplar Bluff High School recently became the first educator to be named Difference Maker of the Year by the Daily American Republic newspaper.

Randolph, who teaches communication arts and serves as adviser for Student Council and Unified Champions, was honored before several hundred in attendance during the fifth annual Difference Makers banquet held Thursday, Aug. 17, at the Black River Coliseum.

“It’s what we do as teachers,” said Randolph, pointing out the record number of faculty who were finalists. “I’m just honored to stand beside this group.”

Among the 10 nominees chosen were Oak Grove reading teacher Staci Barker, who serves as the commissioner of the Optimist Soccer League; PBHS assistant librarian Bridget Epps, who volunteers at the Giving Closet and tutors students; and PBHS JROTC instructor Command Sgt. Maj. Marc Roderick, who with wife Mercedes has helped foster 23 children. Also nominated was Greg Gilberto, Northpoint Nazarene Church pastor, who volunteers to serve as life coach for PBHS Mules Football.

During the inaugural year of Difference Makers in 2019, school partner Becky Winters with AmeriCorps received the top honor for her efforts with Project Christmas Promise, the Rotary 'Good Habits' Store and the Salvation Army. The following year Dave Elledge was selected for founding Sleep in Heavenly Peace, supplying beds for children in need, as well as Buddy Ball, which provides sports services for those with mental and physical developmental disabilities. Elledge was elected to the R-I Board of Education earlier this year.

In total, there have been multiple active employees, retired educators, future staff members, volunteers and community partners affiliated with the Poplar Bluff school system named finalists. Randolph was nominated by colleague Joshua Allen, PBHS music director, among more than 60 submissions this year, reported DAR Publisher Chris Pruett.

Soon after Pruett took the helm at the DAR, he brought the tradition to Poplar Bluff in order to spotlight volunteerism in the community, and those who go above and beyond the call to duty. This year the newspaper made a $7,600 donation to the Boys & Girls Club of the Heartland as its annual charity of choice to receive a portion of the event’s proceeds.


Cutline: (From left) Bridget Epps, Jennie Randolph, Staci Barker and Marc Roderick, all employed by Poplar Bluff Schools, were named top 10 finalists at the fifth annual Difference Makers banquet.

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