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Pioneer science teacher Penney Betsold earns Grinspoon award

  • Principal Jean Bacon gives teacher Penney Betsold the Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Teaching, Tuesday. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Thursday, January 25, 2018

NORTHFIELD — The fact that Pioneer Valley Regional School science teacher Penney Betsold is this year’s winner of the Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Teaching came as no surprise to her students Tuesday afternoon.

“I could have called it,” Pioneer senior Matt Grover said, when Pioneer Principal Jean Bacon and Superintendent Ruth Miller entered Betsold’s second-floor classroom with a certificate and balloons.

Betsold, who is in her 11th year at Pioneer, said the award was “a lovely surprise,” as were her students’ congratulations and excitement for her.

“I’m really happy to be here teaching science, and lucky to have such wonderful students,” she said.

Given that one teacher is selected for up to 1,000 students in a school district, the Pioneer Valley Regional School District faculty and staff are able to select one award-winner each year. The Pioneer school district participated in the award program for the first time in 2016, honoring then-Pioneer Band Director Nathan Holesovsky, followed by physical education teacher Sue Scott in 2017.

Some of the gifts award recipients receive include a $500 cash prize and two tickets to an awards dinner, Miller said.

Betsold teaches ecology, biology, a combined advanced placement (AP) and non-AP environmental science class, and sometimes physics. She also oversees Pioneer’s Envirothon Team, which recently received a $1,000 grant from Project Learning Tree, a program of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Betsold said the grant will pay for development of a raised boardwalk to the campus wetlands as well as a rain garden that will be done in the spring.

Keeping with her support of the environment, Betsold said she has been working with her ecology and environmental students to create a pollinator garden and improve existing gardens on campus, thanks to grants from the Foundation for Educational Excellence and the Greenfield Garden Club.

In her nomination papers, Betsold was praised as “a model teacher and community member.” Her colleagues commended her as a thoughtful planner with highly choreographed lessons and engaging activities, and for being warm and accessible to students.

Outside of teaching and her work with the Envirothon Team, Betsold is “an avid member” of Pioneer’s outing club, the nominations papers state, and served on the 10-member faculty Transition Team over the summer that was involved in writing a revised faculty handbook.