Regional School District 13

135A Pickett Lane, Durham, CT 06422 | 860.349.7200

Regional School District 13 Good Apple Award Winners

One of the most valuable assets of Regional School District 13 is its employees - the teachers, support staff, food service workers, custodians, administrators, and all others who contribute daily to the education of District 13 children. Each has an integral role to play in the overall successful operation of the school system.

To recognize the outstanding contributions of the many people who are helping to ensure that Regional School District 13 is "Very Good and Getting Better," the Good Apple Award was established.

Each of these Good Apples were presented with an award on the first day of the school year. Anyone wishing to make a nomination can find the Nomination Form here: Resources/GoodAppleAwardNomination.pdf

Good Apple Award Winners 2015-16

Sharon Berndt – nominated by the First and Second Grade Teams

Sharon is a leader and a “Champion of the HOT Schools!”  She is well-spoken about how the arts impact the students’ learning and development.  Sharon leads the way by invigorating those around her with HOT stuff.  As a Co-site coordinator for John Lyman School’s participation in HOT Schools, Sharon goes way above and beyond what is expected.  This past year, Sharon was instrumental in pulling together a grant writing team with other staff members, which lead to a new mural collaboration with Wesleyan University staff and students. This is just one more example of how Sharon is always finding paths to make things happen with artists, staff and children.  She takes initiative over and over again.  Sharon continues to facilitate professional development in school and at other sites.  She has also mentored new artists to help them develop successful collaborations with teachers and students. We think Sharon makes an outstanding contribution of her time, talents and effort.


Nancy Earls – nominated by Lindsay Banas, Emily DelGrego, Renee Brajczewski

Nancy comes to Strong School every day exhibiting the Core Ethical Values of District 13.  She welcomes both teammates and students with the same enthusiasm for learning each day. Her classroom is the hub of the Green Team where the habits of mind are emphasized and the Core Ethical Values exhibited.  Writing workshop is a sight to be seen.  She provides such a nurturing and caring environment for her students to share with each other the writing pieces they do individually.  Nancy’s 8th grade Humanities class inspires critical thought, discussion and active citizenship.  Green Team students know her to be compassionate, supportive, and inspiring.  Nancy is the team’s fearless leader.  She has a natural ability to multitask with such ease that you would never know she has a hundred things on her plate.  Her passion and enthusiasm allow her to balance her commitments and keep her always looking for the next opportunity to help out and get involved. Her door is always open to come in and chat about anything. Her advice is always sound and comes from genuine reflection and concern.  Nancy’s leadership style, a balance of function and fun, of reflection and innovation, brings out the best in each of us.  The Green Team, Strong School and District 13 are so lucky to have her as a teacher, mentor and resident.


Steven Fitzgerald – nominated by Dan Carcaud and Mike Meurs

Steve has exemplified each of the district’s values since his first day stepping into Strong School.  Our maestro walks the halls, constantly hearing praise and good-natured banter from all students – whether in band or not.  Steve showed his responsibility and courage as he went to aid those affected by Superstorm Sandy.  He reinforces the values of being a serviceman each Memorial Day when he brings in his uniform to show his band students what dedication to one’s country is all about.  Steve can often be seen rehearsing early with the jazz band every single school day.  Students are rewarded for their hard work and commitment to coming to school early with donuts, all purchased out of Steve’s generosity.  Steve has supervised a variety of band programs from organizing activities with the Hartford Wolfpack and Six Flags to showing up as the “volleyball wizard” each student-staff game. When student commitments take them away from band lessons, Steve still allows them to meet with him after school for added rehearsals and practice.  Steve has shown us what it means to put your 100% into this profession.


Maureen Johnson – nominated by Franciene Lehmann

Maureen is the epitome of grace under pressure.  She never appears flustered or aggravated, though she deals with nit-picky problems and complaints all day long by virtue of her position. She greets everyone with a smile and a kind word, is timely with her phone calls, and is most efficient in finding obscure information for us when we need it relative to our insurance coverages and paperwork.  We are most appreciative of her attention to detail, her consummate professionalism, and most of all her just plain good eagerness.  It is a comfort to know that we have Maureen to guide us through the intricacies of our insurance plans, and that there is always a gentle word in the midst of what can be a maze of aggravation.


Robert Lawson – nominated by the Brewster School Special Education Staff

Mr. Bobby is a very enthusiastic and dedicated staff member to all faculty and students at Brewster.  He is always smiling and laughing with all.  When we walk into Room 13, we never know what our stuffed animals have been up to all night. Every day when we come in, Mr. Bobby has set up creative, surprising scenes for the students in our room.  We don’t know if they will be fishing, painting, riding a tricycle or reading maps in a geography class.  Bobby’s helpful hands are always working and he is dedicated to the whole school community.


Meg Smith – nominated by the Red Team

Meg is the first person to “grab a glove and get in the game” a phrase she uses frequently.  She will dive into the large trash cans in the cafeteria to reclaim any recyclable bottles or cans discarded by students. She cleans them then brings the bottles and cans to the recycling center to collect the cash refunds that are used, in part, for donations to various local charities and charity fundraisers. Meg is quietly and inconspicuously responsible for so many events at Strong School from the Cheer Fund to the organization, table decorations, sign-up sheet and cooking for the annual Thanksgiving breakfast, to the planning of the end of year staff party, the collection of contributions for the annual gifts for our custodians, as well as other innumerable acts of thoughtfulness and kindness.  Meg does not need to be asked.  She sees what needs to be done and just does it, whether it is last minute bus or detention duty for another teacher, moving heavy computer carts from team to team or joyfully attending Camp Jewell each year so she can get to know the upcoming seventh grade students. She is Strong’s shining, clever, rapier witted, sincerely esteemed historically accurate Good Apple.


Melissa Hoon – nominated by Ann Mallin

Melissa is an important part of the MTA program.  She provides students with individual and group counseling every week.  She has been trained in “social thinking” for students and has incorporated what she has learned not only in her individual and group counseling but also throughout the course of the day.  She has taken a leadership role in coordinating with Wesleyan best buddies and the MTA students and families to provide the students with many social experiences on campus and the Middletown community.  Melissa always goes the extra mile with the students, staff and parents.


Nora Lydon – nominated by Ann Mallin

Nora was hired in March 2003 to teach at the Middlesex Transition Academy which services students with disabilities, ages 18-21 from a variety of school districts on the Wesleyan University campus.  At that time she had one job coach and two students attending the program.  During her tenure from 2003-2015 the program has expanded to include 25 students and 11 staff.  Nora has been instrumental in structuring, organizing, and developing the program to make it the success it is today.  She works well with the students and they really like her as their teacher.  Parents have always been pleased with the MTA program.  Her commitment to the students and their families is evident by all that she does to provide them with a comprehensive transition program.


Sean Regan – nominated by Ann Mallin

Sean was hired as a special education teacher at the MTA in 2011 due to the increased enrollment.  He “jumped on board” and totally committed himself to the MTA, its students and families.  His flexibility and ability to adapt to the changing nature of the program on a daily basis was evident and he quickly learned all aspects of the program and implemented new components as well.  He developed an excellent rapport and an innovative approach in working with students with various disabilities.  Sean also continues to provide guidance and support to the students and their families after school hours and during vacation time.

Teacher of the Year - Noelle Durkin
It is my honor to introduce Regional School District #13’s Teacher of the Year.  I thought a lot about this speech over the summer and mostly before I even knew whom the recipient was.  How would I portray the new Teacher of the Year as eloquently as Greg so kindly did last year?  So I turned to a trusted resource for us all…Google.  Yes, Wikipedia actually has an entry for “Teacher of the Year.”  The entry lists the three areas that a candidate must fulfill in order to be considered for the National Teacher of the Year.  I believe our Teacher of the Year excels in all three areas. 


The first area is that you must have is the respect of colleagues, students and parents.  As a Lead Teacher in her building, this individual has earned the respect of her colleagues and administrator.  When teachers trust a colleague to teach and represent them, this is another sign of respect.  Our Teacher of the Year has shared her love of technology by designing and implementing Teach Camp and building workshops.  She was also asked to represent her grade level at Common Core State Standards writing conferences and has since written ELA standards.  With her students, she gains respect by engaging and connecting with them in her responsive classroom.  Here, she focuses on student centered learning.  According to her administrator, she often receives compliments from both colleagues and parents about the positive climate she embraces and the rapport she has with her students.


The second area is to be an active member of the community.  This individual is not only active herself, but helps her entire school become involved in the community.  The Student Senate the she leads makes donations to local food banks, collects toys for hospitals, and donates to Pennies for Patients yearly.  Using funds collected by this group, she also created a carnival themed event every June that brings faculty and students together to celebrate their accomplishments for the school year.


Finally, to be recognized as the National Teacher of the Year, you must have the ability to inspire children from all backgrounds and abilities.  This is where our Teacher of the Year shines.  Her administrator told me, “Her students will do anything for her because they know that she really loves them.”  By modeling the Core Ethical Values, she has a classroom that embraces individuality while encouraging mutual respect and teamwork.  The words that come to mind when thinking about this teacher are selfless, nurturing, and kind.  She can find the positive in any situation and any student.  She instills a sense of belonging in all members of her classroom.


But we all know that the Teacher of the Year is more than just a list of your accomplishments.  It’s about who you are deep down.  In the infinite wisdom of Dr. Seuss, “Today you are you, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is youer than you.”  And thank goodness you are who you are.  In the 15 years you have been teaching, you inspire students, teacher and families. You connect with everyone around you, and you help us all become better teachers and people.  Thank you for all that you do, everyday.




Good Apple Award WInners 2014-2015

2013-2014 Good Apple Award Winners

2012-2013 Good Apple Award Winners