WESTFIELD – On March 8 and 9, Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski, accompanied by Susan Dargie, director of Curriculum and Instruction and Denise Ruszala, director of Assessment and Accountability surprised six teachers across the district with the 2021 Excellence in Teaching Award.
Honored were Victoria Arkoette, second grade teacher at Southampton Road Elementary School; Patricia LeClair, newly retired English language arts teacher at Westfield High School; Jon Tyler, Science teacher, Westfield High School, Karen West, Art teacher at Westfield High School, Rena Piper, District Math Coach, who was surprised remotely, and new teacher Amanda Cuevas, adjustment counselor at Westfield Intermediate School.
“All the teachers were surprised, grateful and appreciative that they were being recognized,” Czaporowski said.
The Excellence in Teaching Awards program is made possible by the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation in partnership with the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation.
Teachers are nominated by principals, administrators and other teachers in each school, and then a volunteer team of administrators scores the submitted applications based on criteria provided by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award. The number of awards allotted per district is based upon student enrollment numbers.
Czaporowski said this year the criteria included method of instruction and engagement of students, which was made more difficult due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Today more than ever, when educators throughout Western Massachusetts have risen to the challenges of the pandemic and carry an awesome responsibility, we feel grateful to all of them and privileged to honor teachers who continuously make outstanding contributions to their schools and their students,” said Harold Grinspoon about this year’s reward.
Teachers will be honored at a Virtual Celebration for Excellence in Teaching Award Winners in Hampden West on May 11, 2021. The program features the presentation of individual awards. Winners will receive an engraved plaque and a check for $250.
In addition, seven area colleges and universities offer graduate course tuition incentives and scholarships to the winners. Elms College, Bay Path University, Mount Holyoke College, Springfield College, Western New England University, Westfield State University, and the University of Massachusetts all participate. Winners also receive membership at WGBY Springfield, as well as three-month memberships at the Springfield Jewish Community Center, the Springfield YMCA, five regional YMCAs, and other generous gifts.
All 2021 winners also have an opportunity to apply for the selective Classroom Innovator Prize of $250 by submitting a project-based learning idea. To provide valuable information about project-based learning especially in a distance learning environment, NEPM (New England Public Media) Springfield and GBH Boston will offer a free webinar on April 1 st at 7:00 pm and make available thousands of PBS Learning Media Resources for teachers. Up to 30 projects will be selected for the Classroom Innovator Prize.
“Even though the pandemic has upended so much of our lives, we are pleased that the Excellence in Teaching Awards Program will continue in 2021 — just as it has every year since 2003,” Czaporowski said, adding that the achievement of the teachers who received the awards was impressive, and the recognition was well-deserved.