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8 area teachers honored for excellence

DEERFIELD — Eight Franklin County educators are being recognized throughout the valley for their outstanding teaching and impact on children.

The teachers from the Frontier Regional and Union 38 schools, Greenfield Public Schools and the Orange Elementary Public Schools and Ralph C. Mahar Regional School have been selected to receive a Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award for 2013. They were chosen among 30 school communities across western Massachusetts.

The local educators will receive their awards on April 25 at the Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House in Holyoke along with teachers from Hampshire County schools.

From Greenfield Public Schools, Brenda Bennett, Tracy M. Creek, Karen D. Rogenski, and Michael O. Sustick received awards.

From the Orange schools, Courtney Imbriglio and Caitlin McKenna were selected as excellent teachers. And from Frontier, Megan Desmarais and Kimberly Scudder were picked as top teachers for this year.

This is the 10th year the program — sponsored by the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation — has celebrated excellence in education.

According to the foundation, teachers are evaluated based on their teaching practices, professional development, job attendance, community involvement and enthusiasm for teaching and working with children.

The honor was a surprise for many local teachers who were caught off guard when their principals and superintendents knocked on their classroom doors with flowers. And each teacher felt their colleagues deserved the honor equally.

“I was excited,” said Brenda Bennett, recalling how Federal Street School Principal Nancy Putnam and Greenfield Superintendent Susan Hollins showed up at her third-grade class with balloons. “I work with so many teachers dedicated and equally deserving,” she said.

Frontier special education teacher Kimberly Scudder also credited her students and fellow coworkers.

“This is the outcome of years of work with strong supportive aides, teachers and administrators, each of whom deserves equal share of the honor because as teachers we can’t function alone,” she said. “I’ve been very lucky to work in a community of dedicated and caring educators.”

Each of the teachers had different reasons for entering the profession.

Coming from a family of teachers, educating is in Greenfield’s Karen Rogenski’s blood.

“I absolutely love kids,” Rogenski said. “I come here to do the best job I can do.”

Rogenski has taught for six years at Greenfield Middle School. Before that she taught for 11 years at the Newton School.

Bennett, a 25-year veteran educator, has taught in Greenfield for 11 years — six of which were at the Federal Street School and five of which were at the Green River School. Before that the University of Massachusetts-Amherst graduate taught on an Air Force base in North Carolina, in Virginia and in Gill-Montague Elementary, and Swift River School.

Guidance counselor, Caitlin McKenna, has worked with students to determine their future goals for six years at the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School. Before that, she worked as a one-year college counselor for Four River Charter School in Greenfield.

Though McKenna never thought she’d return to a school building after high school, she loved working with kids and enjoyed college. “As a guidance counselor, I get to help kids through difficulties and transition to something else after high school,” McKenna said. “In Orange, there are many first generation kids going to college. It’s amazing.”

Twenty-four years ago, Kimberly Scudder began a therapeutic horseback riding program for Frontier Regional Middle School students with physical and emotional disabilities.

Scudder combined her love of animals and teaching children. She taught animal science for three years in Vermont. Later, wanting to educate students with special needs, Scudder obtained her master’s degree in special education from UMass.

When she became a seventh-grade special education teacher in the Frontier Regional/Union 38 schools, Scudder used her horse stable in Conway and the Zenophon Farm in Montague to teach Frontier special needs students how to ride.

Like Scudder, Tracy Creek, history teacher at Greenfield High School, also combined a personal love with education. She majored in Russian studies at Trinity College in Hartford before earning her master’s in secondary education with a concentration in history and political science.

For three years, she has taught 10th to 12th grade advanced placement history in Greenfield.

“No day is ever the same. Teaching is fun. At the end of the day, the reward is great,” Creek said.

At the Butterfield Elementary School in Orange, math teacher, Courtney Imbriglio is a star educator, helping other colleagues target what it is about a student they need to focus on.

“Every school district needs a Courtney,” said Principal James Trill. “She’s a great model for her colleagues. She really does a wonderful job at focusing on the needs of a student, targeting on what to do to help a student. She’ll be a terrific leader down the road.”

Although Deerfield Elementary Principal Jeanine Heil has only worked with 4th grade teacher, Megan Desmarais for the 1 1/2 years she has lead the school, Heil said when she first met Desmarais she noticed how professional and knowledgeable she was. Desmarais has taught at Deerfield Elementary since 1998.

“She goes above and beyond every day,” Heil said. “It’s one of the things that stands out about her. Very quickly I see how well she knows her students. She knows them as learners, people and she is constantly assessing where the kids are. She uses that information to plan appropriate lessons.”

Michael Sustick, a kindergarten teacher at Discovery School at Four Corners in Greenfield, is also known for his lessons that focus on each of his young students. Sustick has been teaching for two years at the local school.

“At the end of a lesson 90 percent of his children understand the concept,” said Principal Donna Gleason. “Michael involves all of his students. He uses many different techniques and makes a point of helping each child be successful. He has excellent management techniques and respects all of his children.”

The award provides a cash award of $500, an engraved plaque, a 3-month YMCA membership, an invitation to a celebration event at the Log Cabin, and $100 scholarships given by Western New England University, Springfield College, and Westfield State University to take a graduate course.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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