WALLINGFORD — Three local educators were honored at a recent Board of Education meeting as recipients of the school district’s awards for paraeducator of the year, teacher of the year and administrator of the year.
Debra Remick, from Highland Elementary School, was chosen as the district’s paraeducator of the year, while Emily Banach, the school’s principal, was selected administrator of the year.
The teacher of the year is Kristen Borer, a speech and language pathologist at E.C. Stevens Elementary School.
“When I found out, I was very surprised and excited,” Borer said. “I didn’t think I was going to get (the award). My principal kept saying to me, ‘I think this is your year.’”
E.C. Stevens Elementary School Principal Kristina Kiely said Borer is a vital part of the STARS program, which provides students with individualized instruction in all developmental areas. Borer helps run the program.
“Kristen is a natural leader who is highly respected by her peers,” Kiely said. “I cannot think of a better educator to represent the Wallingford Public Schools as our district teacher of the year.”
At the Board of Education meeting, School Superintendent Danielle Bellizzi highlighted Borer’s work on the STARS program.
“This has helped our entire school community build their knowledge of autism,” Bellizzi said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Kristen has organized fundraising events for the STARS program, resulting in sensory and playground equipment. Kristen has been the primary communication hub for much of the STARS autism program.”
Borer said she has been working on new projects for the STARS program.
Borer and Jenna Migliozzi, a special education teacher, implemented a life skills curriculum for Pre-K through second grade students in the STARS program. Some of the funds raised went to this new curriculum, which began this month.
“In the beginning they’re working on personal hygiene like washing your hands and brushing your teeth, taking a shower, getting dressed,” Borer said.
Borer is also working with Kiely to put in an adaptive playscape in the courtyard, which was made possible through the help of the Parent Teacher Organization.
“The PTO has agreed to fund the wood chips because they have to be special wood chips,” Borer said.Highland
Remick has worked in the Wallingford school district for 22 years and is currently a paraprofessional in a kindergarten classroom at Highland Elementary School.
Banach said they are “very happy” that Remick was the winner of the paraeducator of the year award.
“That was so lovely for her to have that honor,” Banach said.
Remick said her role as a paraeducator is to support needs in the classroom.
“We provide nurturing for the students, academic learning,” Remick said.
At the meeting, Bellizzi said students “love” Remick due to her nurturing personality.
“Mrs. Remick handles the stressful intricacies of managing a kindergarten classroom with composure and compassion without complaint or criticism,” Bellizzi said.
Banach, who is in her second year as principal at Highland, said she was “very humbled” by the award.
“She truly wants the best for all of us,” Bellizzi said. “As a first year principal, Mrs. Banach has done an excellent job with students and staff at Highland, but also with staff at the other K-2 schools, specifically the elementary principals.”
Banach said during her first year it was wonderful to engage with the school community and now she would like to expand those relationships and understanding of Highland.
“Now that I’ve done that for the year, I’d like to continue to obviously build those connections, but now have the opportunity to really understand all of the intricacies of the school instructionally, behaviorally, emotionally, socially for our students and specifically what our staff needs,” Banach said. How the district picks the winners
Francis Thompson, assistant superintendent for personnel, said that in the spring of each year, three committees composed of teachers, paraeducators and administrators are created to help with the award selection process.
“These educators are chosen in consultation with our union leadership teams so as to get a representative sample of staff from across our twelve schools,” Thompson said.
Once nomination forms are collected, the committee reviews them.
The application includes information such as professional responsibilities beyond the classroom and top accomplishments.
The district winners are then invited to apply to be a part of the state level program.
Erin Berthold, teacher at Cook Hill Elementary School, was selected as Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year in 2018.
“There’s a lot of different factors that people look at in terms of maybe somebody has started a new program in their classroom or went to a conference and brought back some innovative ideas or they lead various committees in their school,” Thompson said. “Things like that.”