WESTERLY — When she got the chance, parent Joodie Symington raved about two teachers at State Street Elementary School: kindergarten teacher Marcy Bunte and fourth-grade teacher Melissa Paquin Evans.
She called Bunte, who had both of her sons in kindergarten, “an outstanding teacher for many years” whose “dedication and understanding of each student is remarkable.”
About Evans, Symington said: “Mrs. Evans is new to State Street School this year and what a breath of fresh air. Her energy and enthusiasm are contagious.”
Bunte and Evans were among the 16 teachers and three teams across the district honored with Teacher Appreciation Awards last month. The awards are a new program and fundraiser that The Westerly Education Endowment Fund created to provide parents, caregivers and students an opportunity to show their appreciation for a teacher or staff member.
“I love WEEF’s new program,” Symington said. “I get to nominate a teacher for their good work and the money gets put back into the schools through grants. These teachers work so hard and have so many challenges that I was happy to be able to give them a recognition for their hard work.”
The endowment fund, a nonprofit group whose mission is to enrich and enhance the educational opportunities for Westerly Public School students, charged a price per submission that was a donation back to the endowment.
“The teachers of WPS are what make WEEF’s mission possible,” said Kristal Falcone, program coordinator. “They are the ones who come to us year to year with innovative ideas on how to enhance students’ education. We wanted to give people an opportunity to recognize their favorite teacher in a meaningful way.
“The teacher appreciation program also helped raise funds that will go to our endowment fund at the Rhode Island Foundation,” Falcone said. “The more our endowment grows, the more money we have available to grant, the more ability we have to maximize our impact on Westerly students.”
Teachers and team members who were honored were hand-delivered a framed certificate of appreciation, a certificate listing the personal thoughts of the person who nominated them, half a dozen apples, an apple pin and an endowment cooler bag.
WHS student Amy Luther nominated high school social studies teacher Stephen Servidio.
“Mr. Servidio is the best teacher I have ever had,” Luther wrote. “When I am in his class I feel like we are just having fun but we are actually learning so much.”
Teachers who were honored include: Aleta Okolicsanyi, Servidio and Trecia Pimer from Westerly High School; Stephanie Troupe, Bunte, Evans, Steven Johnson and Kristen Federico from State Street Elementary; Deb Wright from Springbrook Elementary School; Chris Haskins and Kym Bontempo from Dunn’s Corners Elementary; Mary Brancato, Ashley Fusaro, Felicia Connelly and Kristin Almeida from Bradford Elementary; and Melissa Iacoi from Westerly Middle School.
Teams who were honored include: The Tower Street School Community Center Family Literacy Program, composed of Donna Nabb, Maru Camarena, Leanne Tria, Elizabeth Gitzendanner, Evie Martin, Laura Elson, Uli Hence and Maggie Ruzzo; the Tower Street center team of Anne DiOrio, Jean Engle, Brandi Lamphere, Joe Rao, Steve DePerry, Kim Messier, Jim Baillargeon, Jean Prellewitz, Michael Prendimano and Bob Vredenburg; and the center’s Out of School Time team, composed of Angela Nobile, Jennifer Murphy, Khrystalin Hall, Leslie Dunn, Neala Larkin, Jaclyn Ward and Nicole Campano.