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HIGHTSTOWN: Spotlight shines brightly on top teachers

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The teachers cited included: From the Perry L. Drew School, Theresa Moran and Susan Fernandez; from the Ethel McKnight School, Robert Bucci and Stephanie Tafone; from the Grace N. Rogers School, Michelle Ruff; from the Walter C. Black School, Karen Haug; from the Melvin H. Kreps School, Eliza´beth Somer and Kristen Cifuentes; and from Hightstown High School, Candice Bland and Amy Gazaleh.

HIGHTSTOWN - The East Windsor Regional School District Board of Education recognized district teachers and educational specialist who were selected as Governor’s Educators of the Year at its meeting on March 7.

“Tonight is a very special night we get to recognize our teachers and specialists of the year,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Richard Katz. “We are so fortunate to have an exceptional staff of so many great teachers, great specialists, support staff.”

The program highlights educational innovation, student achievement, the rewards of teaching, and the important services outside the classroom environment that lead to student success, according to the district website.

“It’s really difficult for our committees each year in our schools to pick one person to honor,” said Dr. Katz.

He said that the work that each of the teachers do every day makes a difference for the students, for the colleagues that they work with and for the families that they serve.

“Hopefully for you this recognition is a way to let you know how your colleagues, students, administration, and how the community feels about you,” said Dr. Katz.

Family and friends of the teachers were also in attendance.Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Debbie Feaster provided a brief history of the New Jersey Educator of the Year process before were recognized.

The teachers cited included: From the Perry L. Drew School, Theresa Moran and Susan Fernandez; from the Ethel McKnight School, Robert Bucci and Stephanie Tafone; from the Grace N. Rogers School, Michelle Ruff; from the Walter C. Black School, Karen Haug; from the Melvin H. Kreps School, Elizabeth Somer and Kristen Cifuentes; and from Hightstown High School, Candice Bland and Amy Gazaleh.

Each of the school principals took a few minutes to recognize their staff members, followed by Board President Alice Weisman presented them with their Governor’s Educator of the Year award. Two members of the East Windsor Education Association were also present to congratulate the teachers.

Perry L. Drew Elementary School Principal Robert Dias was the first to start the round of recognitions.

“It is my pleasure to recognize Terry (Theresa) Moran as the Perry L. Drew’s Teacher of the Year,” he said. “Hard-working, ambitious, personable and caring are few ways to describe Terry Moran.”

He said that Ms. Moran has worked in the district for the last 14 years.

“Parents, colleagues and administrators have noted her calm approach with children, her love of education and her dedication to the community,” said. Mr. Dias. “Throughout her outstanding and challenging lessons, she makes children own what they learn.”

Next, Perry L. Drew Elementary School School Nurse Susan Fernandez was recognized.

“Mrs. Fernandez was recognized by several of our colleagues at the Perry L. Drew School as an Educational Specialist of the Year,” said Mr. Dias. “As the school nurse, Ms. Fernandez is approachable and caring and has the best bedside manner to be found.”

He said Mrs. Fernandez is never without a smile, even in the most concerning times she always has a calm and reassuring composure.

“Mrs. Fernandez makes our school safer with her presence and is a true district treasure,” said Mr. Dias.

Ethel McKnight Elementary School Assistant Principal Anthony Aliperti recognized fourth-grade teacher Robert Bucci and school psychologist Stephanie Tafone.

“In nominations, Mr. Bucci is described as a dedicated teacher who uses resources, routines, and procedures to provide a respectful, positive, safe, student center environment that is conducive to learning,” said Mr. Aliperti.

He said that nominations also highlighted Mr. Bucci’s ability to foster a positive classroom rapport with students and parents as well as promote an environment that is academically appropriate, stimulating and challenging for all.“In nominations, Ms. Tafone is described as advocate for her students in their individual, academic, and social and emotional needs,” said Mr. Aliperti.

She consistently interacts with students, staff and families to promote the academic environment to any and all students so they can reach their fullest potential, he added.

Her nominations also included her ability to serve as a professional resource amongst her colleagues as evidence of her ongoing communication and collaboration with others regarding the improvement of student learning and the compassion and concern for the whole child.

Grace N. Rogers Elementary School Principal Heather Gladkowski recognized Michelle Ruff as the school’s Teacher of the Year.

“Mrs. Ruff’s enthusiasm, warm smile and can-do attitude makes her a valued and well-loved member of the school community,” said Ms. Gladkowski. “Mrs. Ruff goes above and beyond by recognizing students with her special student teacher lunches as well as through the school’s Leader and Me program.”

Walter C. Black Elementary School Principal Samantha Felicetta said Mrs. Karen Haug is an outstanding teacher who has been teaching in the East Windsor Regional School District since 2008.

“Karen is all heart,” she said. “She loves her children, she love teaching and loves the Walter C. Black community.”

Ms. Felicetta said that Ms. Huag has a gift and an innate ability to engage her students.

“She is embedded in all aspects of Walter C. Black,” she said, adding she is on the campaign connect team, mentors a student teacher, and more.

Melvin H. Kreps Middle School Principal Lori Emmerson said Social studies teacher Elizabeth Somer is “highly respected by her colleagues, her students, their families, and administration,” They all praised Ms. Somer for her dedication to supporting students and ensuring they learned in her class while also serving as a role model and a confidant students can look up to and respect, she added.

Next, Ms. Emmerson recognized Kristen Cifuentes, who is a school counselor.“Ms. Cifuentes wears many hats at Melvin H. Kreps Middle School,” said Ms. Emmerson. “She’s our intervention counselor and also one of the founding members of our leadership club.”

Ms. Emmerson said that Ns. Cifuentes has dedicated herself to providing all of their students with opportunities to discover and express their highest opinions of themselves.

“She’s a role model, cheerleader and confidant,” said Ms. Emmerson. “She has all the characteristics that makes someone an amazing counselor and we are grateful to have her at MHK to support our entire school community.”

Hightstown High School Principal Dennis Vinson said that Candice Bland has been one of the school’s World Language Spanish teachers for the past 13 years.

“Ms. Bland is constant professional dedicated to her craft, her community, her culture and her students,” said Mr. Vinson. “Her use of ethnic language activities daily in her class shares her love for the language and culture.”

He said that Ms. Bland uses her success to challenge herself to continue to grow and develop as an educator and has begun teaching a dual credit class at the high school in conjunction with Mercer County Community College.

Amy Gazaleh was the next teacher cited by Mr. Vinson.

“In a short time since joining the high school, Ms. Gazaleh has changed the face and function of our library. The transformation of the library into a place where students and staff can work in comfortable areas either together or independently has been received with tremendous excitement,” he said.

He said that Ms. Gazaleh’s passion for books has inspired students who appreciate the wealth and knowledge gained from reading and from doing research.He said that Ms. Gazaleh heads a faculty book club and is always on target with her suggested selections.

“Amy is greatly respected member of our faculty, trusted colleague and teacher who is inspired by her love of books and students,” he said.

Board member Christine Harrington echoed the congratulations given to the teachers.

“Every day I think teachers do an amazing job,” she said. “My son had the opportunity to go into an elementary school class through the junior achievement program and came home much more appreciative of what teachers do and how hard that job is on a daily basis.”

Board President Alice Weisman said that she also wanted to give her personal thanks to all the educators.

“We are always very proud of the people who work here and hopefully they get the sense how much the board and the district appreciates everything that they do for us,” she said.

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