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RSD #17’s 2019 Staff & Teachers of the Year

Editorial Staff.

Each year, each school in Regional School District #17 chooses a Teacher of the Year and a Staff Member of the Year. 2019’s stellar staff members are listed below, with a write up from each building’s principal.

Burr District Elementary School – Announced by Eric Larson, Principal.

I am pleased to announce Dorie Donvito as Burr District Elementary’s Outstanding Staff Member of the Year. Dorie has been a paraprofessional at BES since 2011. In her time here, her dedication to the students has been superb. She has a wonderful work ethic – often giving of her own time to make sure she is well-prepared to meet the needs of the children. She works hard to develop a great relationship with the students. It is clear to me through our discussions and my observations that Dorie takes pride in being the best assistant that she can be to the children with whom she works.

An advocate for the deaf both in and out of school, Dorie works to educate the staff and students on sign language, often teaching whole classes how to sign and even works with our music teacher to help add sign to some of the children’s performances. This year, Dorie also volunteered to come in before school a couple of days a week to meet with a student and his mother who are learning how to deal with the slow loss of his hearing.

Dorie exhibits a kind and positive attitude that infects those around her. She greets me daily with a “Hi boss” and a big smile that bring a little sunshine to my morning.

BES is proud to name Katie Burt as our Outstanding Teacher of the Year! Katie has been a teacher at BES since 2014. For the last couple of years she has been one of our kindergarten teachers. Katie is the type of teacher that we would want all of our five year olds to have. She is kind, creative, loving, and a master of the kindergarten curriculum.

I asked some of her students why she was such a great teacher. One said, “She does crafts with us!” Now some of you are thinking, sure, she teaches them how to cut out shapes and paste them. Of course she does, but this year, it was to recreate works of Monet and Mattisse as they learned about the techniques and subjects of the great master artists.

Another said, “We like to play with her.” Mrs. Burt has been exploring purposeful play the last couple of years. During the afternoon, the students daily choose an area to play with others in the classroom. Through their exploration of building materials and a classroom store, they are learning valuable conversational skills. By mixing up their groupings regularly, the children form friendships with so many of their classmates. Through the chance to try new things and struggle and sometimes fail, they learn to persevere.

A third student said, “She helps us learn.” Katie Burt is a master practitioner of our workshop model. She also worked with the entire kindergarten team to personalize phonemic awareness lessons for every child.

Another student said, “I like to hug Mrs. Burt.” Above all, Katie is caring. She strives to meet the emotional needs of each of her children. Through all the ups and downs of a kindergartener’s day and year, Mrs. Burt provides a stable and predictable environment. Her children feel safe and loved.

Haddam Elementary School – announced by Brienne Whidden, Principal

Leo Lomuntad serves as a special education paraprofessional at Haddam Elementary and is well-deserving of the recognition of staff member of the year. He has a natural talent for working with children of all ages and he possesses a deep sense of respect for children. Leo works hard to build rapport with students and his calm and caring presence allow students to feel safe to take risks and make mistakes. He is a master at offering just the right amount of scaffolding to allow students to be successful while simultaneously pushing the student to become more independent. In addition, Leo is a team player in every sense of the word. He goes above and beyond his responsibilities on a daily basis and is one of the first people to step in and offer help or assistance to colleagues.

Ms. Smedley flanked by First Grade teachers Miss James and Mrs. Reynolds

Kelly Smedley is not one to seek the spotlight but she needs to know that she is deeply valued by our district as an exemplary teacher. Kelly embodies what we look for in our educators on a daily basis-flexibility and positivity. She is flexible in her teaching and her thinking. Kelly can differentiate lessons to meet students’ needs on the spot and is capable of adapting at a moment’s notice to a change in plans or schedule. Kelly does this with ease as a result of the careful planning she does on a daily basis. Similarly, when asked to change grade levels on several occasions, Kelly’s dedication to planning and flexible thinking allowed her to seamlessly transition to new curriculum and content.

Kelly’s classroom is always humming with productivity. Her students love her because the know that she respects and cares deeply for them. Kelly has high expectations for all of her students and she puts in any supports necessary to make sure that everyone can achieve success. If you walk into her classroom at any given time, you will see Kelly working with small groups of students providing instruction right at their level. Simultaneously, she is complimenting and encouraging those working independently. Kelly takes the time to get to know her students on a personal level, listens to them when problems arise, and lets them know that her classroom is a safe place to learn and grow.

As a colleague, Kelly is the epitome of positivity. She takes the time to listen to her colleagues, offer support and suggestions, and help them to see situations in a positive light. Kelly brings a growth mindset to any grade level team she works on and is a collaborative colleague and a consummate professional. She is truly deserving of this recognition!

Killingworth Elementary School

Dennis Reed, Principal, announces Lori Lloyd as the Killingworth Elementary School Staff member of the year. “When I stop and reflect upon what we do every day, and what I think is most important when working with children, I always land on one thing…relationships. Developing positive rapport or relationships with students is critical and that is what I admire most about Lori. She does whatever it takes to connect with the students she works with and it shows in the way they trust her, work hard for her, and count on her each day.

“A colleague who nominated Lori wrote, ‘Simply put, she is MAGICAL with kids. She connects to all students, not just the students she services. She knows their interests, their needs and whether someone might just need an extra smile.’

“Lori has been in the midst of many challenging situations in her role as a Paraeducator, and each and every time she has been able to maintain a calm presence and put the children first. She provides a safe environment, both physically and emotionally for her students.

Lori Lloyd (l) and Georganna Munz (r)

“Another colleague of Lori’s wrote in her nomination form that “what sets her apart from most is the amount of effort she puts into bonding with the students she works with. She learns their passions, strengths, and weaknesses and builds off of them.’”

Dennis Reed announces Georganna Munz as the Killingworth Elementary School teacher of the year.

“From the moment I first met Georganna, I knew she was a special educator and truly worthy of this honor. In fact, this isn’t her first time being recognized as the teacher of the year as she has received this honor in the previous district that she worked for as well. Georganna’s enthusiastic, energetic, yet confident and professional presence has had a huge impact on the culture and climate of our school. Whether she is wearing a frog costume on Dr. Seuss’ birthday or leading students down the red carpet for a writing celebration, she consistently sets a positive tone for our school that others feed off of.

“One of her nominating colleagues has recently said that ‘Georganna has brought a sense of community to 4th grade. Any staff member who comes in contact with her is welcomed with a smile, a laugh, and her undivided attention.’

“Her impact upon our school is highlighted by another nominating colleague who wrote that ‘Georganna is one of the biggest reasons I look forward to coming to school each day.’

“Her impact on staff has been huge, but her impact on students is even greater. She has created a positive learning environment for all students while also recognizing and responding to the various needs of each individual. She sets high expectations for learning and holds students accountable to the expectations.

“Georganna also recognizes the value in celebrating student learning as she often goes out of her way to create exciting opportunities for students to showcase their work and celebrate their successes.”

Haddam Killingworth Middle School

Dr. Jennifer Olsen, Principal, is pleased to announce that Monica Hansen is the Staff Member of the School from Haddam-Killingworth Middle School. Monica has served as a paraprofessional at HKMS for the past two years and has also worked at several other schools in the district. Monica has the tremendous capability to support and challenge a child at the same time. She promotes independence in the students she works with, and she has a talent to know just the right level of support for a student. Her students have grown tremendously this year and this is due to Monica’s patience and kind heart.

Dr. Olsen is honored to introduce Lisa Castlevetro as the Haddam-Killingworth Middle School teacher of the year. Lisa is a special education teacher in grades 6 and 7 this year. I had the pleasure of co-teaching with Lisa back in the late 90s, and she was an incredibly talented teacher then and recognized as the HKMS teacher of the year. Her skills and talents have continue to grow since then, and her colleagues recognized her again this year. One of Lisa’s colleagues wrote, “Lisa is the voice to advocate for all students and what will work best for each and every one of them. Her dedication and professionalism shines through in all she does.” Another colleague said of Lisa, “She is completely aware of her students’ needs and learning strategies and challenges. Furthermore, she is empathetic and shows an intuition for the feelings of her students. Lisa is truly a professional educator.”

Haddam Killingworth High School – announced by Donna Hayward, Principal

Tyler Wilcox, HKHS Staff Member of the Year, is known for his skillful interactions with students, his knowledge across several subject areas and his creativity in developing strategies to deliver individualized remediation to diverse learners. Colleagues describe Tyler’s active collaboration with them in developing and implementing behavior strategies in our school. He is an outstanding para educator in all respects. He has proven through his conscientious work ethic, consistent follow-through and open and collaborative nature that he can accomplish complex tasks and overcome obstacles with seeming ease. He has an unfailing positive attitude and an innate understanding of students with diverse needs. He is reflective and seeks advice as to how to improve his craft. Students sense his dedication to them and their learning and his colleagues do as well. Furthermore, Tyler has been a long-time assistant football coach at our school and is a role model for all students. He is beloved and an integral member of our team.

Jon Todzia, HKHS Teacher of the Year, is an unsung hero at HK. He does not draw attention to himself but quietly leads by example. Jon is a mentor to students who learn not only how to work in the technology fields, but also how to be good human beings. He took the challenge to teach in areas outside of carpentry when the tech department was revamped several years ago and he demonstrates great enthusiasm for this new adventure. The special education department says about Jon, “We feel truly blessed to have such a kind and patient teacher in a department that many of our students naturally gravitate to. He has welcomed some of our neediest students into his classroom and consistently reaches out to us to find out how he can better meet their needs and develop relationships.” Jon has mentored students in many fields of study by assisting them in career development, offering in-school internship options and supporting them with employment contacts and recommendations. Our students know that he holds high standards for behavior and performance and they try to hit the bar he sets because they know that he respects them and is routing for their success. Jon always has a smile and a kind word for students and staff and he is our Teacher of the Year.

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