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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 2020-2021

Brewster Elementary School
 
Christy Barrett - nominated by the First Grade Team at Brewster School
 
The words that come to mind when thinking about this “Good Apple” are collaborative, flexible, professional, organized, and knowledgeable.  Christy Barrett is all of these things and then some.  Christy leads with integrity and knows the curriculum.  Her understanding of what kids need to be successful well-rounded readers and writers is apparent through her work.  She not only engages the students in new learning but the teachers as well.  Christy is eager to model lessons, gather resources, organize materials, and participate in an open dialogue on how to improve instruction in the classroom.
 
Through the uncharted waters of “distance learning” Christy led the way!  She stepped up to the challenge and helped teachers organize the process, worked tirelessly on making sure the students were engaged but not overwhelmed, and worked hand in hand with her colleagues each day.  Christy is not only a dedicated professional but kind as well.
 
This is why the First Grade Team at Brewster School would like to nominate Christy Barrett for a good apple award.
 
Sharon Criscuolo - nominated by Lori Robison and Sandy Simon
 
The office staff would like to nominate Sharon Criscuolo for her willingness to come in during the Covid closure and help us out anyway she could.  Sharon came in many days to help wrap up the school year.  Her willingness to do whatever was needed from gathering student materials and belongings to packing up classrooms and labeling furniture was greatly appreciated.
 
Noelle Durkin - nominated by the Brewster First Grade Team
 
Whether she is sitting around a table for a team PLC, laying on the carpet with kids during math workshop or skipping down the hallway, she is always around with energy and a smile on her face. We all know Noelle is extremely passionate about all things math, but deep down she is truly passionate about everything, especially kids. Creating videos and lessons for fact fluency, sharing new resources and manipulatives for teachers or supporting one of us as we  try a brand new lesson or strategy in our classroom, Noelle is the biggest cheerleader. We can’t thank Noelle enough for the time, energy and dedication to math but also to a collaborative member of our team and school.
 
Through “Distance Learning” Noelle made individualized videos to teach math concepts, joined meetings with our team to collaborate, and thought outside the box for all of your learners.
 
This is why the First Grade Team at Brewster School would like to nominate Noelle Durkin for a Good Apple Award.
 
Susan Michael - nominated by the Brewster First Grade Team
 
When you think about Science in Regional School District 13, one important name should come to mind. Susan Michael is passionate about making Science a strategic facet of learning for all students in the district. Whether it be out on our beautiful nature trails, field trips or in classroom visits, Sue captivates student interest in Science by being motivating and hands on. She worked tirelessly integrating CREC units, developing district plans, and scopes of sequence for teachers in the hopes that Science would be fun and engaging for not just students, but teachers as well.
 
This was no exception during Distance Learning. Sue made students countless videos, pulling plants from her backyard, doing simple experiments and even doing cartwheels for Earth Day!
 
In the words of Neil deGrasse Tyson, “The best educators are the ones that inspire their students. That inspiration comes from a passion that teachers have for the subject they’re teaching. Most commonly, that person spent their lives studying that subject, and they bring an infectious enthusiasm to the audience.”
This is why the Brewster First Grade Team would like to honor Susan Michael with a Good Apple Award!
 
Susan Michael - nominated by Kristen Ciccone, Margo Novak, Carole Sibiskie, Sarina Spotlow, Valerie Swiantek 
 
Everyone in Regional School District 13 probably recognizes Susan’s most recent role as the go-to NGSS guru as a daunting task.  She has taken on this “new” position over the past few years and works really hard to make science education rigorous and accessible to students and staff alike in K-5.
 
She has a passion for science and a love of education that has prompted her to become a life-long learner. With a smile on her face and a willingness to go the extra mile (literally- this woman has to walk and hike trails in preparation for lessons!), Susan inspires others through her diligent work ethic.
 
Sue teaches based on the idea that knowledge is best acquired through experience. The experiences she creates for teachers and students are the ones that shape us the most.  Through her teaching and modeling she is able to guide us to build critical thinkers in and out of the science classroom. She engages students in inquisitive and engaging discussions where she introduces new vocabulary and concepts. 
 
Sue reaches out to others in our district to offer help and support in any way she can, no matter how much is on her plate.  She is always there to supply the materials necessary for any activity, and is willing to come in to teach a science lesson when we could use an extra hand or guidance.
 
There is no doubt that Sue leads by example, inspiring students and co-workers alike.  Sue will not stop until the job is complete and is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure it is completed to the highest standard.  

Coginchaug Regional High School
 
The CRHS Math Department (Kathy Zygmont, Meg Kavanaugh, Maria Altieri, Kendra Havens-McColgan, Melody Lee, Craig Bradanini and Karen Perry) - nominated by Diane Walsh
 
Most people would be quick to admit that math is the hardest subject to learn with or without a pandemic.  However, teaching math remotely poses a unique set of challenges due to its symbolic nature.  The CRHS math department members are colleagues, yes, but we are also friends.  We have had a long-standing group chat going for years.  We have lost a few members over time, but we have also gained new friends.  We are all very different but we have a common goal to make math engaging while also embracing our core ethical values.  When there are opposing viewpoints, we discuss, review, sometimes compromise, and resolve.  We started planning immediately the first weekend of our two-week break for how we would approach distance learning.  During this pandemic, we regularly shared successes and difficulties.  For the latter, we helped each other problem-solve.  We shared ideas and brainstormed projects.  We maintained high standards.  We checked in on students to see how they were adjusting.  We checked in on them, not just their missing work.  We reached out to the students we thought may be struggling—some were not even our current students.  Some of us maintained contact with Study Hall students.  We experimented with technology from YouTube videos, to external webcams, to Educreations and tablets, to selfie sticks, to small and large whiteboards, to camera phones, to EdPuzzle, Screencastify, and Screencastomatic.  Together we have made hundreds of videos.  We gave honest feedback as we held students responsible for their learning while showing kindness and flexibility when warranted.  We respected the ever-changing rules from administration while courageously finding new ways to deliver instruction.  We embraced the directive to focus on the experience and developed new performance tasks related to COVID-19 for our upper level classes.  Our students modeled the data, made predictions, and differentiated between true and skewed infographics.  We found ways to be creative (in Math!) via quirky illustrations, corny jokes, puzzles, music, and many photos of both teachers’ and students’ pets.  Two of our members were concurrently finding innovative ways to teach Technology Education classes to students using minimal equipment typically found in a home.  The CRHS Mathematics department continues to deliver engaging new content with high standards while focusing on the well-being of our students.  One of us lives alone; a couple are caring for elderly parents; and even more difficult, some are raising their own children.  I know that all teachers around the world have worked hard during this unprecedented time.  For me, my colleagues did it with humor, intelligence, grace, and kindness.  They constantly help me improve as a teacher, friend, and general human being.   Kathy, Meg, Maria, Kendra, Melody, Craig, and Karen are all deserving of this recognition.

Julie Lagace - nominated by the History/Social Studies Department at CRHS
 
Julie has served as our Team Leader for the past four years and we are ever so grateful for her leadership.  To summarize our good fortune, we have chosen the mnemonic SUPER to describe Julie’s contribution to our department.
 
S - She is SELFLESS.
Julie consistently puts the department and its members' needs before her own.  She is always available to problem solve, listen, emphasize, and advocate.  Her consistent, steady demeanor keeps us all grounded, focused, and together as a team.
 
U - She is UNDERSTANDING.
Julie supports us in any challenges we face professionally and personally.  A true friend and amazing colleague… we are lucky.
 
P - She is PROFESSIONAL.
Julie is a consummate professional as a leader.  She runs organized, efficient meetings and maintains inventory, manages budget, and advocates for our department regularly.  We always have what we need.  She advocates for what is right for kids whether it be support in the classroom, technology needs, or textbook updates - Julie is prepared with data/evidence to demonstrate and justify what’s needed.
 
E - She is an exemplar - she is the best of us all.
She provides an excellent role model for our team and our students every day.  Always prepared with engaging lessons; consistently encouraging collaboration within the classroom and our department.  She sets our bar high for students and department members alike. 
 
R -  She is responsible.
Julie keeps us on track, like herding cats.  She provides the focus for curriculum updates, structure for meetings, and if we can’t find something, we can be sure Julie can.  She’s our glue.

Erin Schilling - nominated by Mike Meurs, Allan Schulenburg, JoAnna Schmidt, Lisa Conant, Steve FitzGerald

The past few months of school have been trying on so many levels within the RSD 13 music department. Not only have we had to navigate the transition to distance learning, we also had to do so without a department head who was injured when we transitioned to the distance learning model.

During these trying times, Erin has stepped up, first as the unofficial department head, then was made the interim department head, and been a unifying force within then music department. During this time she made sure to provide us with help, support, coordination, and also a good friend to talk with when needed. This is all while Erin is working to provide quality distance instruction to her 7-12 grade classes, and also
helping out the long term substitute for Tim. Erin’s willingness to step into this role has been a major factor in the success of the distance learning program for our music department. Her commitment to the music department and her students is why Erin is more than deserving of a Good Apple Award.

Kristi Ullman - nominated by Laura Francis
 
Last year I had the pleasure of having a student that is one of those students that leave a mark on your heart forever, and I know Kristi feels the same. She was this student’s case manager for their four years at CRHS and I saw first hand how dedicated she was to helping them grow and succeed here at CRHS and beyond. She truly cares about the whole person and helping them reach their full potential. I know it was not an easy road, but the consistent calm, kindness, positivity and high expectations she had for this student (and I’m sure all of her others), truly made a difference in their life and for me was inspirational. Kristi is one of the teachers that makes this community better and stronger. 
 
John Lyman Elementary School
 
Lyman Special Ed Paras (Alicia Mancarella, Tara Tuttle, Susan Francis, Tracey Pollitt, Dara Einhorn, Laura DiBenedetto) - nominated by Kristin Allen
 
The paraprofessionals at John Lyman School have always been known to go above and beyond day in and day out This was especially true during Distance Learning. They spent endless hours  attending meetings and taking notes for case managers,  meeting with students  during office hours and modifying work, all to ensure that the students with IEPs experienced success. Their diligence and dedication to the profession was admirable. I personally don’t know what I would have done without their support during these unique  times. To each of you, thank-you for making a difference in students’ lives. Thank-you for making a difference in my life. Love, Kristin. 
 
Erin Gonzales - nominated by Melissa Marteka and Chris Davis
 
It is our absolute pleasure to nominate Erin Gonzales as a recipient of a Good Apple Award.  Erin exemplifies, to the core, what it means to be a responsible and respectful staff member at John Lyman School.  She takes her role as a Literacy tutor very seriously and strives to be the best she can be, whether it means researching the latest best practices in reading, building a rapport with both her students and teachers, or lending a hand whenever she senses the need. Her courage to learn new technology has saved us during Distance Learning and has made for a more efficient transition for us.  Erin takes on each and every  challenge with a smile and the perseverance to do what it takes to “get the job done.”   Her work ethic helps to make everyone around her strive to be the best they can be.  Erin’s positive attitude brings a smile to us all and for those reasons we thank you, Erin, from the bottom of our hearts, for all you do each and every day to better the lives of our John Lyman School community.

Middlefield Memorial School

Maria Fazzino - nominated by Samantha Winkler on behalf of the Memorial School SAT Team

Data. One little four letter word with so many implications, conversations and research behind it.
Maria Fazzino is the queen of data. Our SAT meetings are often fast and furious, with
discussions about student progress and next steps being of the utmost importance. We can
always count on Maria to provide us with relevant, honest and current information about her
students. She is responsible for teaching a large number of students specific reading skills, and
she stays organized and is incredibly diligent about sticking to the schedule that she has made to increase the students’ progress. Maria has the courage to stand up for what she believes is best for children, both when that means increasing or decreasing service hours. She is a role model for accountability at Memorial School, and classroom teachers and the SAT team alike feel more at ease when she is in a meeting, because we know that she will have the data to back up the decisions that she is proposing. Data can be a scary thing, and Maria helps kids graph their progress, and helps teachers keep track of their interventions. She is an inspiration and a model to strive toward. Maria is truly deserving of a good apple award!

Erica Flanagan - nominated by Samantha Winkler on behalf of the Memorial Special Education Team

Erica is kind to all students and staff members that she comes across in the hallways at Memorial school. While this may seem like a simple task, it is complicated by the fact that she is often the sole adult responsible for a student who is at the moment in need of a break, and therefore has been encouraged to go for this walk with Ms. Flanagan. Erica is always ready to accept the next task with a smile, and has shown her incredible capacity for relationship building with our students who require some extra attention. She encourages these students to take risks and try new things, and she exudes genuine happiness when she is with them. When distance learning began, she quickly agreed to check in with these same students, commenting that she had truly missed them. She can always be counted on for a kind word (or comment in google classroom), and she is a true asset to our Memorial School team.

Danielle Miller - nominated by Barbara Allen and the Memorial School 4th Grade Team - Sarah Cerbarano, Nancy Kozlik and Amy MacKay
 
Danielle is truly an invaluable asset to our Memorial family.  Her dedication, flexibility, unflappable patience, sense of humor and kindness is admirable and we are so appreciative of having her as a colleague. Her passion for teaching and love of children are evident throughout the entire school community. The warm, positive environment that she creates in her classroom allows for all children she encounters to learn and grow not only in their academics but also in their social and emotional growth and overall well being.
 
Danielle seamlessly weaves in and out of the 4th grade classrooms connecting and supporting all children. Her gentle nature, dedication and creative teaching practices have supported and promoted children with the most complex learning or behavioral challenges to flourish.
 
Whether at a Student Assistance Team Meeting, Planning and Placement Team Meeting, Grade Level Team Meeting or a scheduled time to collaborate about a child, Danielle is professional, efficient, thorough and precise.  Without fail, she approaches each interaction with the same goal in mind, "What is best for students." The outcome of each exchange becomes a student centered plan based on best practices. She flawlessly gets the job done while truly fulfilling a full time job in a .6 position and then going home to be a wonderful wife and mom to her three children. Not to mention, Danielle brought a dog into their family and completed the Orton Gillingham Program this school year.
 
Parents, Colleagues and the fourth grade students at Memorial School would all agree Danielle is so very deserving of this Good Apple!
 
Strong Middle School
 
Brenda Parness - nominated by Bryden Whiting
 
I just wanted to take this opportunity to nominate and thank, Brenda Parness for her role in Distance Learning. Her communication, leadership and work ethic are exemplary. That inspires myself and other to work harder.  I could not imagine going through Distance Learning without her. Brenda is very polite and kind with her words, even when correcting a mistake. These qualities make for a great teacher and teammate. Thank you for all that you do Brenda!
 
Claire Falvey - nominated by Rebecca Sinusas
 
Claire is an incredible teacher, person, and a true representation of the Core Ethical Values.  She works tirelessly for all students, especially those that struggle, to ensure that they have the opportunity and tools to succeed.  As a former Special Education Teacher, Claire actually replaced me when I became a school counselor.  I was so hesitant to leave this position, as I loved the work and the students so much.  Well I left it in the most dedicated and capable hands that I could’ve imagined.  Not only does she work hard for students, but as the Mid-Level Leader, she represents faculty and staff.  Since our Distance Learning has started, she continues to work countless hours for all of us.  Keeping the staff up to date on the numerous changes happening by the minute, even when that news isn’t popular.  All the while maintaining support for our students.  I am so proud of her and thankful to call her a friend and colleague.
 
Michael Klimas - nominated by Cindi Kuzman on behalf of the Related Arts Team at Strong School
Mike Klimas is an asset to Strong school for all staff and students alike.  He is a welcoming, smiling face in the halls in the morning and a joy each day with his booming and energetic voice on the announcements urging us to “Stay Strong Forever!”   He is always willing to lend a helping hand, be it a technology concern, library resource question or just to listen.  Mike has helped many of us on the related arts team, from easing transitions for new teachers to going above and beyond with any technological or resource question. And when distance learning hit us, his knowledge and skills with technology  helped all of Strong and the entire district get up and running in record time. No matter how frustrated or slow we may be to learn things, he is there with his patience, kindness, and humor to gently lead us through. Thinking about others and going the extra distance to get the job done, makes Mike not only a wonderful and trusted colleague but an asset and invaluable resource to Strong School.  He is truly a “Good Apple”!

District Teachers

RSD 13 Teachers - nominated by Kimberly Barris

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.
 
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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.