Stafford Schools Honor Teachers of the Year and More at BOE Meeting

May 10, 2017

With the big business of the Stafford Township School District’s public budget hearing still a week away, its board of education meeting on Thursday, April 20, more resembled the Academy Awards as administrators from throughout the district doled out their Teacher of the Year awards and honored other staff members for varying reasons.

“Tonight, our Teacher of the Year awards honor exceptional teachers who provide quality instruction to our students on a daily basis,” explained Superintendent George Chidiac, who presented each with a golden apple award as they were brought on stage. “The teachers we will be recognizing tonight are special, extraordinary individuals who have the gift to inspire, motivate and mentor the students of Stafford Township. They are positive role models and difference-makers in our students’ lives. Thank you for making Stafford schools an exceptional district.”

In conjunction with a video revealed to the audience inside the Stafford Township Arts Center, school administrators Stephanie Bush, Lori Coyne, Susan D’Alessandro, Marge Hoffman and Bill Wilkinson each made brief statements about their respective Teacher of the Year recipient.

First up was Bush, who introduced teacher Suzanne Batullo as the Oxycocus School Teacher of the Year. According to Bush, Batullo is unique as the school “gets two for one with Suzie,” since she fills two specific roles within the school, both as regular preschool class teacher but also as the school’s art teacher.

“She’s very creative. She brings out the best in our students. And the artwork I see from 3- and 4-year-olds is amazing,” Bush said. “She takes home all 20 of her students as if they were her own. She texts me at night, telling me she’s worried about this one or that one. She wears her heart on her sleeve when it comes to her students, and she’s an amazing talent to have with us.”

Next was Coyne, who introduced Lisa Toci as the Ronald L. Meinders Primary Learning Center Teacher of the Year, describing Toci as “an awesome person who’s totally dedicated to her students.”

“She comes in early every day and typically stays late into the afternoon, just because she want everything in place for when her students arrive the next day,” Coyne said. “It’s a real honor to have her at Primary Learning Center. So it wasn’t a surprise that she was awarded our Teacher of the Year.”

D’Alessandro then talked about Ocean Acres School Teacher of the Year Jeanne Marie Burke as being a teacher who had “found her home” with her second-grade class. D’Alessandro also read off the responses from Burke’s students as to what they thought of her – some of which included “smart,” “good at everything” and “the best teacher in the world.”

“Jeanne Marie is dedicated. She’s in early every day and she stays late,” D’Alessandro said. “But beyond that, she’s the master of all schedulers, and I cannot even imagine doing a master schedule without her helping hand in the cookie jar.”

Moments later, as Hoffman took the stage to talk about McKinley Avenue School Teacher of the Year Danielle Haldenwang, she described a fourth-grade teacher who, when she first saw Haldenwang upon her return as principal, “always had that smile, was inquisitive and eager to learn.”

“I could see she was one of those teachers who wanted to become a master at her craft,” Hoffman said. “And she has become just that. She’s constantly trying to learn new things. She’s always articulating with her peers. She’s become one of the leaders and has done so very quietly. She does a lot of things behind the scenes and is very subtle in her delivery. We’re very blessed to have her.”

Hoffman also had the privilege of honoring the district’s Educational Service Professional Award, given to McKinley School guidance counselor Mitch Migdon, a man Hoffman described as “a character.”

“He can give his little jibes, but as much as he can give it, he can take it right back,” Hoffman said. “I’ve learned that he can get on stage and dance and sing – sometimes on key and sometimes off key. But he’s the eyes and ears of McKinley. And why is that? It’s because he cares about the kids and the staff. He’s always aware of who needs help, and he’s always there for them.”

Finally, Wilkinson gave out the Intermediate School Teacher of the Year award to Jenelle Kreybig, an individual he described as somebody with an “enthusiastic smile, both in the morning as well as when she leaves in the evening.”

“All of our district’s teachers are dedicated and driven, organized and care about their students,” he said. “But Jenelle Kreybig is all of those things and then some. She works with some of our most fragile learners and gets the most out of them. And the joy she brings to them, and the education she provides to them, is absolutely wonderful.”

Additionally, each administrator honored those who had either recently retired during the school year or those about to retire at the end of it. Among the certified-staff retirees were Oxycocus School’s Leigh Sweeney, PLC’s Ann Klein and Sandra Nutt, Ocean Acres’ Debora Maros-Smith and Valerie Sweeney, and Intermediate’s Debra Bradley, Linda Nealon and Janice Patti. Among the support-staff retirees honored were Leslie Austin, Greg Breff, William Finke, Jo An Gregg, Nancy Hoover and Carolyne Morris.

— David Biggy

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