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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.
The purpose of the Good Apple Award is to acknowledge and celebrate members of our school community who exemplify the core ethical values of respect, responsibility, honesty, kindness and courage and in so doing strengthen our community and inspire others through their example.

Each of these Good Apples were presented with an award on the first day of the school year. Please use the Good Apple Award Nomination Form to nominate a member of our staff.

Good Apple Award Winners 2019-2020

Laura Bernstein - nominated by Carla Muskatallo

I am nominating Laura Bernstein for a Good Apple Award. With the increased academic demands and expectations, students are often feeling anxious and overwhelmed.  I asked her to pilot a theory of embedding self-regulations activities and movement into the daily routines of her classroom for 8 weeks to see if she noticed an increased level of availability for learning with her class as well as improvement with overall classroom behavior.  Based on a conference I attended, I gave Laura a few suggestions to help with the 8-week trial.  Laura not only embraced the suggestions, she ran with them.  She was so motivated to help the students in her class succeed.  Laura found more and more simple activities and was always adding new tools to her toolbox of success.  Laura willingly accepted this opportunity to enhance the mind-fullness and learning in her classroom. It is clear to me that Laura loves being a teacher and she exemplifies the core ethical values to strengthen her classroom. Laura's enthusiasm and passion for teaching and eagerness to make a positive impact in her students inspires me every day to follow her lead. 
Laura Bernstein

Sue Gaudreau and Jimmy Croteau - nominated by Bryden Whiting

Sue and Jimmy have done an exemplary job at taking over for Rob Francis as our Building and Grounds Operations Manager and Facilities Manager.  The last week of April building and grounds oversaw the repair of our A/C unit in our main server room at CRHS.  The server room temperature reached over 90 degrees, overheated equipment and caused issues for the entire school district.  Jimmy stayed on-site into the evening that day until the job was 100% complete and the temperature was regulated.

Over April break my key broke off inside one of the doors at memorial school, leaving us locked out of one of the rooms, unable to gain entry. Within minutes Sue Gaudreau had my key replaced, access regained and the locksmith scheduled for repair minimizing the impact to our workday. Sue and Jimmy Continually put in 110%. I thank them for their service, support, and dedication to Regional School District 13.

Ali Glassman - nominated by the CRHS SPED Department

Ali is always smiling and brings positive energy wherever she goes. She is a team player!  She is consistently the first to step-in and offer support, whether it's helping with various needs within the department, or planning school wide events, like the awesome annual CRHS holiday lunch she loves to decorate for.  

Ali has a creative and cheerful approach when working with students. She loves what she does and this is evident to all, staff and students alike! This is one of the keys to having a successful impact and motivating students to learn. Ali is always willing to go the extra mile to help students and her colleagues. 

On a daily basis, students request to meet with her, whether it's to talk through a plan or to get strategies from her for effective studying. Ali seamlessly supports all areas of academics, very often going above and beyond when students need support in areas that are outside of the scope of core academics; for example, helping students study for EMT exams and DMV exams.

Ali maintains a sense of humor and people are drawn to her because she is witty, fun, light-hearted, professional and intelligent.
Ali Glassman
Gail Harris and Maria Prifitera (CRHS Food Service Cafeteria Dynamic Duo) - nominated by Mark Basil

It is very difficult to talk about one without saying something about the other one. Both Gail & Marie work together unbelievably well. There is nothing that they cannot do or will not do for the students and the program. Their pleasant day in day out approach to their job makes for a lively work environment and healthy relationships among students and staff. They are the CORE of the high school food service team.Gail has been a full time employee of the district for 10 years now and Maria 7 years. Since their arrival our menu has expanded to cover made to order items such as; Fruit Smoothies, Ice Cream Sundae Bar, Asian Noodle Bars, Burrito Bars, Chili Bars,
Sliders Bar, Chipolte Station, and the most popular station, the Deli Station with all of the daily variations that are offered.

They always do their work with a special touch of kindness and a thorough attention to detail & quality. They are extremely valuable to our operation and are a big reason for the program's success.

It is a WIN WIN situation when you have people who really enjoy their jobs and do it very well. These are two GOOD APPLES!!
Maria & Gail

Paul VanSteenbergen - nominated by Diane Walsh

Mr. Paul is one of the most thoughtful employees in our district. He is an observant man and his brain is forever storing little tidbits of information matching needs with solutions by finding or crafting objects that fit the part. When he noticed that my students had designed and built shin guards for an engineering project, he constructed the class a wooden leg test fixture so that students could run an impact test. When I mentioned that a cabinet broke in my home kitchen and many of my glass casserole dishes had shattered, he magically produced the extras from his own home. When he saw my mess of papers on the back counter, he built me a shelf so I could be better organized. Most importantly, he interacts with the students as well as the teachers. He never gets angry about the sticky glue on my desks or the amount of pasta I manage to spread around the first floor with projects. He always waves me off with a smile and makes some quip like, "as long as it's not cooked." When a student spills something in the hallway, he gets right to cleaning it; if there is a scolding, it is said with a smile and usually followed by a song. Mr. Paul is always thinking of ways to improve our lives in RSD13. For example, when he noticed me struggling with my box of robots that I drag back and forth between home and school, he not only bought me a cart, but he modified it to be a double decker and fashioned a protective cover to keep the electronics dry on rainy days. When they say, "it takes a village," I am glad to be in the same village as Mr. Paul. He makes a difference and is an important part of my own bubble of wellness.   
Picture of Mr. Paul

Good Apple Award Winners 2018-2019

 Karen Balavender – nominated by John Lyman office staff
Because of the way she exemplified the Core Ethical Values each day the Lyman office staff would like to nominate Karen Balavender for the Good Apple Award.
We feel Karen is so deserving of this award and her ability to go above and beyond is constant. She approaches each task asked of her with patience, kindness and expertise. From bookmaking to birthday club to daily dismissal, which we know in itself can be challenging, she does it all with a smile!
Karen is always willing to take on any assignment and a pleasure to work with. Thank you for all you do. You are part of the reason our school is so special.
Justin Brochu – nominated by the Strong School staff (Kathleen Davidson)
Justin (JB) definitely deserves the Good Apple Award. He is a joy to work with. Always smiling, singing and working.
Justin is a kind gentle giant! He is a hard worker who strives every day to make our building clean and organized. He responds quickly to any problem. When Gary Penkes retired, there wasn’t a bump in the transition; Justin stepped right into his new role flawlessly. Justin goes out of his way to offer his help in any way anyone needs it, even helping various staff with car issues in the parking lot.
JB is a shining example of our CORE ethical values in every way. His level of caring and consideration for everyone in this building, be it students or staff is exemplary. He goes out of his way each day to keep our school clean and to meet the needs of each student and staff member with kindness and respect. He is conscientious and hardworking, trustworthy and honest. He is our go to man every day, a “Jack of all trades”.
We at Strong are lucky to have Justin as part of our Strong Team.
Dave Duncan – nominated by the math and reading departments at Memorial
Dave Duncan, head custodian at Memorial, improves our school climate by just his presence. He always has a pleasant expression on his face as he walks through the hallway and can often be caught singing or humming to himself! He is always willing to help in any way he is asked and generally improves everyone’s day when they come into contact with him. He makes our school a welcoming space for students and staff.
Dave Duncan – nominated by Memorial School
Dedication, professionalism, and a constant positive attitude are the qualities that exemplify David Duncan, our nominee for a Good Apple Award.
Do you need a lock cut off a locker?
Is there a toilet overflowing?
Do you need help moving a heavy desk?
Has someone dropped a lunch in the cafeteria?
Is there ice in the parking lot?
David Duncan is the man we call at Memorial School to fix all the mechanical problems and make our school spotless. We all know we can count on Dave, no matter what is needed.
He has been a custodian at Memorial School for 35 years and no one who has worked with him can recall a time that he lost his cool or his positive attitude – that alone would be cause for a Good Apple Award, but it does not stop there. Mr. Duncan treats this building as if it were his own. He brings in tools from home and gets to work an hour or more early every day – doing anything that is needed to make the school look its best and run smoothly.
Here are a few of the ways David Duncan has come to the rescue of one of us at Memorial:
Working as the School Secretary, I call Dave for numerous things and often many times a day. One time that really stands out in my mind is when I called him to the office because the radiator was making a loud noise. Dave came in and started to take the radiator apart and when I asked him if he thought he know what it was he just calmly said yes, I believe so and put the cover back on with a big smile, never leading on that he pulled a dead mouse out of the radiator! I cannot think of a more deserving recipient of the Good Apple Award!
Dave Duncan moves table for band rehearsal in the cafeteria almost every day, without complaint. He is kind, helpful and always friendly!
Dave does all our heavy lifting in the kitchen without a complaint and fixes anything that breaks. We would never be able to do our jobs without him!
There are so many wonderful qualities Dave exemplifies; it’s hard to pick just one! His work ethic, willingness to help and gentle spirit are but a few! He has a wonderful sense of humor and kind encouraging words to the students. A true, hardworking gentleman to be emulated.
If you hear a whistle in the hallway, it is most likely Dave. I have never seen him in a bad mood!
Dave is always practicing our Core Ethical Values – he is always kind, respectful, honest, responsible, and yes – courageous (you never know what you’re going to encounter in a middle school!)
Dave saves the day. He rescues us from bees, shares great stories from Maine, and grows blue ribbon vegetables!
Dave always helps when you have a problem, whether it is big or small. He handles it promptly and always responds with a smile and “No problem.”
Dave is so helpful to our students, anytime they need something he isn’t far away, will drop everything to lend a helping hand. Greets the students almost all of them by name. He is always so nice and ready to share a good story. Thank you Mr. Duncan!!!!!!!
Alicia Mancarella – nominated by Katie Bodak and Danielle Hay
Danielle Hay and I would like to nominate Alicia Mancarella for a Good Apple Award. This year would not have been as successful as it was without her daily support to our team. Alicia is always thinking ahead to make sure that students have what they need to be prepared, each and every day. Since she is oftentimes in the classroom with the students, these needs may go unnoticed by her team, and she never fails to advocate for what her students need to be successful. Alicia has gone above and beyond to support the students and staff with whom she works, and her support has been greatly appreciated. Alicia is also organized, timely and concise with all that she does. She plans ahead to support teachers and students alike. We want Alicia to know that all of those little extras she does, each and every day, do not go unnoticed, and are greatly appreciated by her team!
Robert Nemphos – nominated by Clare Matasavage
There are people in this world who continually give to others. Bob Nemphos is certainly one of those people. He is always there to lend a hand to anyone requesting his help. That includes colleagues, coworkers, students, neighbors and even strangers.
He graciously takes on projects such as “teach cooperative games” to a group of college students, or write, produce and start in the “Be-Well Brief”. He does all this on his own time without expecting to be paid.
He willingly helps any other teachers needing help; Just ask and it happens and always with a smile.
Students often come to Bob for a level head to talk to when they are troubled by this or that. He always has time for them. Students seek Bob out years after graduation to talk again and enjoy his company. His friendly open personality is very engaging.
And, Bob is just plain fun. His enthusiasm is contagious. He is unafraid to try anything which in itself encourages his students to do the same.
As for me, as his colleague, he has lent a hand to help, a shoulder to lean on and a foot to kick me forward when I was not feeling brave enough to undertake a new challenge.
Matt Tobias – nominated by The Lunch Ladies at CRHS
Matt hasn’t been with the district very long, however, we have come to depend on him to always have a positive attitude with whatever we ask.
He gets his job done with always a smile and nary a complaint. He always has a kind word and usually takes on tasks above and beyond what is asked or expected of him.
Matt shows great respect and responsibility and that is why we nominate him.

Good Apple Award Winners 2017-2018

Tracey Pollitt – nominated by Katie Bodak, Amanda Dobler and Melissa Whitney

We are nominating Tracey Pollitt for a Good Apple award. Tracey is always a thoughtful and considerate co-worker and a remarkable educator. She willingly takes on tasks and often comes up with innovative ideas to implement with our students. Tracey’s commitment to our students and her job is undeniable. She takes on new challenges including technology, plans, data collection systems, and schedule changes with a smile on her face and true devotion to the tasks before her. She works tirelessly to make sure that the students she works with have books published, backpacks organized, projects assembled, a smile on their face and a healthy snack to eat. You can feel her love for the children and her job every single day.

Tracey is a pleasure to work with and her dedication is an inspiration to all. Tracey also shares her talents in the kitchen, which of course makes the students and staff at Lyman very happy. Tracey doesn’t just think about her students and co-workers while she is at school, she is often picking things up for teachers or materials to supplement a current theme or project for our students while she is out shopping. She does this out of the kindness of her heart, and we here at Lyman are forever grateful for her unending thoughtfulness. From her cheerful smile to her generous heart, Tracey is a gift to the students and staff at John Lyman School.


Penny Sawicki – nominated by Carla Muskatallo

Ms. Penny Sawicki exemplifies the core ethical values, literally “strengthens” the school district and community as well as inspires others through her example. Penny is the district’s physical therapist who not only is an advocate for all of her students, but goes above and beyond making sure that her students are integrated to the best of their abilities within their school environment but also their community. Penny educates families on community resources such as Special Olympics, adaptive bowling, therapeutic horseback riding and organizations to buy specialized equipment such as bicycles. Penny is creative with her service delivery ensuring that her students are working hard to achieve their goals and objectives all while having fun. Penny is honest with her students, they respect her and they want to please her. She is very positive and encouraging even with the toughest of challenges, she always strives for her students to be the best they can be. Penny is a holistic therapist that looks at the whole student from head to toe. From her work with the preschool age students through transition academy age young adults, Penny is an amazing therapist who makes an amazing difference in the lives of the students she works with.


Patricia Smith – nominated by (1) Anonymous and (2) Susan Michael

  1. Patty Smith has done so much to strengthen the teaching and learning community in District 13. Her work in the curriculum office has been invaluable this year. She has contributed to the consistency in programming, the meeting of deadlines and the dissemination of materials and information. Patty is wealth of information and if she can’t answer a question she finds the answer. Patty is creative and brings that flair into all that she does. Meetings and events are made more special because of her organization and creative flair. Patty cares deeply for the people she works with and supports. Regional School District 13 is a stronger professional learning community because of Patty Smith.
  2. Patty Smith has been extremely helpful to Susan Michael as she transitioned to her new role as the elementary science specialist this year. She has gone above and beyond the call of duty to make cost effective purchase choices, process P.O. requests in a timely manner, schedule and reschedule meetings, process paperwork efficiently, and obtain needed information.

Patty always works with her colleagues in a respectful and kindly manner. She has gone out of her way to help Susan and others with projects that helped professional development sessions go more smoothly. She is always willing to lend a helping hand. Her organizational skills are helpful. We are eternally grateful for her professionalism and cooperation. She truly is a gem.


Rita Van Steenbergen, Catherine Crocker and Gail Foreman – nominated by Strong School staff and submitted by Kathleen Davidson

Our cafeteria staff deserves the Good Apple award for many reasons. Every day they take their time to make us delicious, balanced and healthy food. They are kind and courteous both to the students and to the staff.

For World Language week they worked with us to have a different international food each day, helping us to celebrate our world cultures even in the cafeteria!

As for many of us, food is a comfort in an otherwise very stressful environment, the lunch ladies help us each day to nourish our tummies and our spirits.

Each year, on the second day of school, I ask my students to share their favorite thing about Strong School. The number one answer is always the food!

Gail makes a killer wrap and her chicken and turkey salads are delicious. To misquote Napoleon, it is not just an army that moves on its belly – it’s also a middle school.

They are smiling, willing to help – be it lending out ladles for the Chili Cookoff – pieces of foil or wrap for a science experiment.

I am lactose intolerant, so every time they make cheeseburgers, they make and set aside a hamburger for me.

One of my students suddenly stopped buying lunch. Rita was concerned since she observed that she wasn’t bringing lunch from home either. She let me know.

Our cafeteria staff are critical in helping to manage student and staff food allergies. The Strong café ladies go above and beyond to help keep students and staff safe.

Good Apple Award Winners 2016-17

Erika Anderson – nominated by Susan Michael

Erika Anderson has gone above and beyond her professional duties ever since taking on the co-chair position of the last high school NEASC evaluation. She has spent countless hours coordinating schedules, organizing materials, and processing information. She also served on the follow-up committee and the two year report committee. She has been the go-to person for three administrators. In addition to this, she is an excellent educator and friend.

Robert Bajoros – nominated by Ron Melnik

On November 18, 2015 Robb Bajoros appeared before the RSD13 Board of Education. At that time he presented to the Board of Education the work he had done with the new Unified Sports Program. The presentation was very thorough and heartfelt. I don’t often use this term but his presentation was moving. He stated that he had coached athletics for 10+ years and this was the best experience he ever had. 

Robb appeared before the Board of Education again on January 13, 2016 as part of Nick Barbieri’s presentation on the state of athletics in RSD13. At this time Robb shared with the Board of Education just how much this program meant to the students involved. He defined the students involved as those in the Unified Sports and those involved in all other athletic programs.

Robb has integrated the Unified Sports Program fully into the district with his hard work and complete conviction. If you want further proof, just look at the pictures of the students with pure joy on their faces.

One can only imagine how much time and effort go into starting a program from the ground up. It is my honor to nominate Robb for a Good Apple Award.

Crystal Castro – Katie Bodak and the Lyman Special Education Team

We would like to nominate Crystal Castro for a Good Apple Award. Crystal’s support is easy to go unnoticed, as she does it so seamlessly. I think to really appreciate it, you have to have experienced what it is like without her, and we have. Each and every meeting we go to, we do not have to worry that a form will not be in the folder, she has already taken care of that. When we need an invitation sent out, all we need to do is email that information and she will take care of it… and if we forget to invite someone… she notices! She is a wonderful resource whenever you have a question about IEP regulations, and if she does not know off-hand, she knows right where to look. She doesn’t only tell us what needs to be done or do it for us, she teaches us along the way. In the insanity of the season, she is always willing to organize the paperwork and send it home. She has been a true lifesaver! Everyone needs a little “fairy”, as I call her, to keep us all on the right side of the paperwork tracks. Unfortunately, we are so sorry that she will no longer be our “fairy” as she will be moving on to bigger and better duties, to a place she is no doubt needed. We know she will be still be there to answer our questions and guide us in the right direction, but we didn’t want her to leave before we got to recognize her for all that she has done. It may seem minimal, but oh it was so, so much more. Thank you Crystal Castro, you have been a lifesaver!

Community Round-Up Planning Committee – nominated by Kathy Bottini, Melissa Cook and Becca Sinusas

Wilda Castro

Bronwyn Commins

Kathleen Davidson

Anne Doyle

Samantha Grayeck

Greg Morrone

Bridgette Schlicker

Lynn Schofield

Carole Sibiskie

Sean Regan

Sharon Rogers

The Community Round-Up celebrated its 10th year this past December. This annual food drive would not be possible without the hundreds of volunteers from our schools and community. We would like to recognize one group in particular for their dedication and commitment to this event; they spend many hours in the months before the Round-Up planning, advertising, recruiting students and coordinating this amazing day. Their generosity, kindness and energy are unparalleled. They have been with us from the start and we could not do it without them.

Rich Fielding – nominated by Bryden Whiting

Rich Fielding is a hard working individual who is dedicated to his position here at District 13. Rich leads by example and continually displays excellent communication and professionalism. He is a good teacher, a great boss and an even better role model. He is usually busy working on something important, yet he always finds the time to assist myself and others with their immediate problem. Because of this, I nominate Rich Fielding for the Good Apple Award.

Christie Fournier – nominated by Katie Bodak

I would like to nominate Christie Fournier for a Good Apple Award. Christie has been an invaluable member of my team this year. Her firm, yet caring demeanor always let the students know that not only does she care about the whole child, but she will follow through with her expectations to help each student grow. And more importantly, she will help them not only grow as a learner, but as a good person as well. She had high, yet appropriate expectations for each individual she was asked to work with and consistently worked tirelessly to ensure that she was doing right by each student. Furthermore, she was always listening to her team members and was not afraid to make suggestions on behalf of the team. Her honesty was always appreciated and represented the type of team that I want to be a part of. I appreciate here honesty and her openness to not only try to do what I am expecting, but to help me grow as a leader through questioning and conversations about best practices as well. Christie is another assistant who will not be with me due to budget cuts this year and that is a true loss for the district. She lives and upholds the Core Ethical Values at all times and I was so very lucky to work alongside such a dedicated and supporting team member. She will be greatly missed.

Susan Francis – nominated by Katie Bodak

I would like to nominate Susan Francis for a Good Apple Award. This was my first year as a teacher at Lyman and her first year as an assistant. Her support in a caring and kind way each and every day made a challenging yea a little easier to get through. Her desire to individualize for each child I asked her to work with and her ability to adapt as requested by me and as necessary for each student I asked her to work with was superb. Susan taught for many years in the classroom and yet she continues to search for best strategies to support individual learners and never made me feel like I was the new one. Her support was unwavering and so very appreciated. I truly believe that without Susan by my side this year I could not have experienced the successes I did. My only sadness is that she will not be with me next year and that is a true loss for the district. She is truly a valuable team player, that challenges students to their limits while also meeting them where they are “beyond the academics” at the same time. Her kindness and compassion for the whole child as well as the whole team is invaluable. I was so lucky to have her with me even if only for a short time. Her support will be missed greatly.

Alex Huffman – nominated by Ann Mallin

I would like to nominate Alex Huffman for a Good Apple Award.  Alex began her career at the MTA as a job coach. She has an excellent rapport and relates well to students with mild, moderate and significant disabilities. Alex has an excellent understanding of each student’s disability and is able to teach the student by modifying specific tasks so that the student can be successful at the work site.

After being a job coach for a few years, Alex became the full time vocational coordinator at the MTA. This is a challenging and time consuming job and Alex performs it exceptionally well. She is responsible for placing 28 students at job sites on campus or in the community, organizes and rotates the job coach schedules for every student, writes comprehensive vocational reports, attends all student PPTs and has ongoing communication with parents throughout the year.  In addition to all this Alex continues to expand job sites on campus and in the community for all of the students.

Alex works quietly and effectively and always places students at appropriate job sites. She has a good relationship with students, parents, teachers and co-workers.  Alex is a talented and committed educator and is truly a Good Apple who is well deserving of this award.

Amy Verre – nominated by Ann Mallin

I would like to nominate Amy Verre for a Good Apple Award.  Amy joined the MTA ten years ago as one of the program’s first job coaches.  She has worked well with all of the students at their respective job sites; many have very challenging behaviors.  Her calm and easy going manner is instrumental in having students meet success at job sites.  As the program expanded from two students to over 20 students, Amy assumed the role of assisting the classroom teacher and also taking care of all the clerical duties involved in running the program.  Amy is conscientious, detailed and flexible in her approach to students in the classroom and in completing all of the clerical duties needed to make the program run smoothly.  She organizes the van schedule every day and reorganizes everything if there are staff absences.  She updates parents on MTA events, dances, lunches and community outings.  She plans and organizes the annual MTA graduation.  For the past few years, she has come in on a Sunday to set up the tables and centerpieces for the graduation. She does this quietly and effectively and never complains.  The MTA program would not run as smoothly as it does without Amy’s constant effort, commitment and support.

Amy is well deserving of a Good Apple Award. She is an excellent employee, co-worker, assistant in the classroom, job coach and administrative assistant. It has been a pleasure having Amy at the MTA.

Sam Grayeck – nominated by Ann Mallin

I would like to nominate Samantha (Sam) Grayeck for a Good Apple Award. Sam has worked as a speech/language pathologist at the Middlesex Transition Academy for the past two years. In addition to working in the classroom, Sam has volunteered to organize various social activities for the students at the Academy and students at Wesleyan University.  This year she organized and hosted a parent and student evening at the First and Last Tavern which was a tremendous success.  She has helped organize and chaperone dances on campus, lunch dates, and community outings for the students at the MTA. Everyone appreciates the time Sam dedicates to the social component of the MTA program.  

Sam has been a tremendous help to teachers at various meetings with parents. She presents an excellent perspective to parents in terms of specific goals and objectives that their son/daughter is working on within the program. Sam volunteered to help market the MTA program by reaching out to social media sites including Facebook, to showcase the various activities in which the MTA students are involved. Her technological skills are a tremendous asset to our program at the MTA. Sam is organized, has excellent time management skills and also has the ability to motivate students both in the classroom and in the community.  Sam makes the students feel safe, happy and productive in their instructional time with her. She always has a positive attitude.

Sam is an excellent teacher and is truly deserving of the Good Apple Award.

Bill Kurtz – nominated by the Strong School Purple Team

Some teachers are a little twisted

Some are straight as a rod

Some have added sweetness

Some are funny or odd

We have a teacher at Strong School

that creates a different kind of vibe

He invokes a spark and is also so cool

He has become a vital part of our tribe

He codes, he creates

He inspires, he collaborates

He listens, he motivates

He jokes, he’s just GREAT

Bill is a teacher that is the salt of the earth

And the many flavors of life he brings

He shows the students what they are worth

And lets their voices sing

So simply said:

Roses are red

Violets are blue

You are an AMAZING teacher

And inspiring too

Ann Majewicz – nominated by Memorial School Faculty and Staff

We would like to nominate this year’s Good Apple Award to a woman who is an integral part of our school. She is a woman who wears many hats. From nurse to library aid to magazine queen, copy machine whisperer, office helper and the snack rapper, Mrs. Majewicz has the work ethic that supports all of us. When any of us need coverage she helps without complaint. She is the only one we know who can get a roomful of students to sit quietly with a blink of an eye. Over the years she has certainly seen many changes in our schools, but she remains loyal and confident. In her quiet way she is a champion to students as she slips them treats, reads stories, and takes time to listen to whoever needs it. So this year we would like to thank Annie Majewicz, our longest working district paraprofessional, by nominating her for the Good Apple Award.

Kate McLaughlin – nominated by the Lyman 1st and 2nd Grade Team

Kate McLaughlin is a very good apple. She always has a warm welcome for everyone entering John Lyman School. No matter how chaotic things might be in the office that day, she still takes a moment to share her bright smile and a thoughtful greeting. The phone and buzzer consistently ring as she kindly lets parents, students, visitors, and forgetful staff into the building. Kate wears many hats, and is willing to take on a wide variety of tasks to make things run smoothly. On any given day you can find Kate busily completing a variety of office tasks, working one on one with students, or providing assistance in the building. Every kindergartener happily begins their time at John Lyman School with a visit with Mrs. McLaughlin. Even though her day is beyond full with tasks to complete, she will drop everything to help a student, make a copy, or retrieve a paper from the machine to save a teacher’s day. Kate is always amazingly helpful, freely shares compliments to brighten your day, and has a good ear to listen when things are challenging. Kate goes above and beyond working well beyond her scheduled hours to make certain things will run smoothly for everyone the next day. John Lyman School would not be the same without her, and the teachers are very grateful for Kate!

Barbara Perigny – nominated by District 13 Secretaries and Transportation Coordinator

She is the best! What I love about Barbara is that she will ALWAYS stop what she is doing, get right on the problem or issue and will never leave you hanging. She handles it right then and there with ALL she has to do. There is no doubt she puts the kids’ safety first! – Pam MacDuff 

Barbara Perigny has always gone above and beyond to make sure bus transportation runs smoothly. Whenever I call her with last minute changes or bus issues she is always willing to go the extra mile to rectify the situation or help accommodate Memorial School’s needs! Both Regional District 13 and DATTCO are so fortunate to have her! – Lynn Davis  

Barbara maintains a calm, friendly and professional approach even when a frantic parent thinks their child was “lost on the way home”. She is able to reassure the parent and us that the child is safe and will be home shortly. She is truly appreciated and an asset to our district. – Eileen Chupron

Barbara is an incredible asset to both District 13 and DATTCO. Her willingness to help both the office staff and parents is nothing short of extraordinary. During our most busy time of the day Barbara communicates between all of the elementary schools, parents and drivers with incredible efficiency. We appreciate Barbara very much. – Darlene Allen

Barbara is not only our colleague she is also our friend. She is always ready to do what is best for kids to keep them safe. Barbara has seen many of us at our worst when we have a parent on the phone line, a teacher on the other, and the bus company on the third, while we try to coordinate getting a child home safely. She knows each route and communicates her concerns about safety to parents and the district. She comes to kindergarten orientation every year and calms new parents about their transportation anxiety. I know I can always count on her because she goes above and beyond to do the right thing for kids. – Patti Checko

Barbara is always there for me when I have a question or bus issue. She is always cool, calm and collected no matter what the issue is. If she doesn’t know the answer right away, she goes out of her way to get the information for you. I have the utmost respect for what her job entails and how well she handles it. – Pat Toth

Barbara and I work so well together. I can always trust that our students’ safety is her greatest concern. She spends many exceptionally long days working at the depot and will not leave until every student is safely home. She knows our streets, our towns, our kids and our concerns. I couldn’t do my job without her support and guidance. She is a true friend to District 13 and most deserving of a Good Apple Award. – Sue Gaudreau

Pat Toth – nominated by the Strong School Purple Team 

A secretary sets the tone for efficiency and climate in any school. We are blessed with one who is not only a consummate professional but also unfailingly kind and patient. She juggles spreadsheets and calendars with more moving parts than an internal combustion engine and yet never fails to put the task down and greet us with a gentle smile when we interrupt her for a form that we were doubtlessly sent at some point but have misplaced. She remembers the names and histories of our children, grandchildren, aging parents, and beloved pets. She maneuvers emergency planning for our classes when we are taken ill during the day and helps send secret emails out to staff to announce surprise showers and celebrations. She is our command central but also our heart. These and many other reasons are why Pat Toth is the core of Strong Middle School and our Good Apple. 

Jane Schmitt – nominated by Mark Basil

Jane has been the high school food service manager for the past fourteen years and I have had the great fortune to have spent the last eight years with her as the food service director. Jane has accepted my perspective and viewpoints on the food service operations with open arms and great support while offering her years of experience and knowledge to help grow and improve the cafeteria experience. We have found a great comfort in each other and I trust her opinion and value her dedication that she gives to her job and this district. All of the hard work that she and her staff up into their jobs was recognized by the students and parents in the Niche nationwide survey that ranked them #3 in Connecticut and #92 in the country for their quality of service.

One of the most challenging parts of running a successful operation is your ability to lead and work with others. She has those skill sets to get the most out of her associates. She also has that personal quality about her that people enjoy interacting with. She expresses a genuine concern for people, always trying to assist in any way to help. That is something that Jane has always brought to RSD 13, her charming personality and love for life. Her bright smile and her glass shattering joy of laughter that echoes throughout the school. You cannot help but to join in on the laughter and smiles.

Jane exemplifies everything that this honor bestows. 

Tammy Stewart – nominated by Jason Korn

Few shape to goodness like Tammy Stewart. Tammy understands implicitly the imperative of patience in the classroom. She holds fast to what is good, what is fair. She is compassionate, cheerful, kind, and scatters loose-leaf those selfsame qualities abroad. Her values abide afresh in her students.

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.