NEWTON, NJ—The Newton Board of Education recognized six educator services professionals and teachers and awarded them with gift cards and certificates during their last meeting.

Superintendent of Newton, Dr. Ken Greene greeted the public.

“We thank you all for being here," Greene said. "This is the one of the better board meetings we get to have… because we get to honor our educators of the year. We don’t do it often enough, or at the very least the once a year that we get to say a big thank you to those people who are going above and beyond.”

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Merriam Avenue Elementary school Principal Kevin Stanton recognized first grade teacher Lauren Nethery and  Margaret "Meg" Penny as Educational Services Professional.

Stanton said, "At the beginning of the board meeting, the board started off by reading the mission statement of our schools and they talked about the values of care and how important it is for us to focus on our students and put our students first. The two people who were nominated, put our students first.

First, I am going to talk about Mrs. Nethery, who is a first-grade teacher with us and one of the things we put at the center and forefront of what we do at Merriam Avenue school is acceptance of all of the children that we serve. We’re all about growth and development and it is not about where a child is right now, it’s about where that child is going and how we can do what we do to make that child achieve his or her best self. There is no one that exemplifies that more than Lauren. She accepts every single student in her classroom, doesn’t matter what their difference is, every child in that room feels like they’re part of a community and they feel loved and cared about and that is because of Lauren. I want to thank you for the work that you do. We don’t appreciate the work that our teachers do often enough, we don’t talk about it, but I think it is worth taking the time to say Thank you.

As I said, one of the things that we value the most at Merriam is that all of our students feel included within a community within our school. Meg works with some of our neediest children and she does it with the utmost care and concern. She is as dedicated as anyone that I have ever seen. I see the work that you do every single day and that work makes a real difference for the child that you’re working with this year and the children that you have worked with over the years at Merriam. It really does matter, so again from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of all of those children you serve and you work with, and you care for every single day, thank you so much for what you do.”

Halsted Middle School educators were next, recognized by Principal Kristi Greene. Teacher of the year went to Joseph Bolen and Coleen Lospinuso was awarded Educator Services Professional.

“This is a summary of comments from Ms. Dunbar and myself as well as the peers that nominated you," Greene said. "Mr. Bolen is a Halsted Middle School teacher who is committed to ensuring academic excellence amongst all students and educating the whole child, which we saw in our mission statement that was read in the beginning of the meeting. He does this in every facet of his professional career as an English teacher, he has shown commitment to student achievement by becoming a leader amongst his peers in the area of curriculum, he has become integral to Ms. Dunbar and making sure things are as they need to be in the curriculum.

"He has improved the seventh grade English curriculum assessments and our disciplinary projects. He wrote the financial literacy curriculum and in his role he provides assistance to the sciences, visual and preforming arts and the 21st century teachers, with creating and revising their curriculum units. He also assists Ms. Dunbar with auditing the curriculum. He conducted a vocabulary study as part of his thesis while pursuing his master’s degree in educational practice, which propelled his students to engage with new words and improve their academic language and then shared that out with all of the other English teachers so that they could consider doing it in their classes as well.

He has a unique ability for finding new resources, to meet the needs of all learners and a variety of ability levels and constructs innovative ways to engage students in learning. Most students call him a ‘teacher freak’, because he loves teaching and he loves them to learn so much. Educating the whole child requires an educator to assist students with the emotional and social wellbeing while providing educational enrichment opportunities. Mr. Bolen not only knows this to be true, but he provides his time to provide these enrichment opportunities.

Through his involvement as a team member of our INRS committee, his widespread impact as a collaborative problem solver for students who are experiencing academic, emotional, social or behavioral difficulties. He has run the Halsted newspaper for seven years, where students learned how to express themselves, capture the student voice, learn about publishing, and improve their writing and editing skills. He voluntarily plays basketball with anyone, but especially with students and former students whom he builds those relationships with. He’s a role model of team building and sportsmanship.”

“Coleen Lospinuso, these comments are from Ms. Dunbar, myself and your peers who nominated you. She is a transformational leader and has a unique ability to connect with all students she comes in contact with at Halsted. She is well respected and admired by her peers and students in the building. She motivates students of all backgrounds and abilities with her words and actions. She demonstrates a strong work ethic and provides real world examples to help students understand the material, while making connections in their mind to real world application.

"Her unique ability to build strong relationships motivates the students to work harder, they don’t want to let her down. Mrs. Lospinuso goes well above and beyond her everyday duties as a paraprofessional, she demonstrates a wide variety of skills and knowledge that helps to enhance the educational experience for students. She oversees both lunch periods in the building and is a contact for students who need check-in/check-out as an intervention.

"She took an active leadership role for the past few years in making suggestions regarding safety and changes in the grade level order of recess and the structure of monitoring recess. She gathered information, she presented it to administration and her quiet leadership does not go unnoticed by the staff in the building. She also frequently volunteers her time in more ways than one, she supervises dances, attends sporting events.

"She’s a member of the Halsted family, she has also extended her own family, her husband Mr. Mark Lospinuso, has been a guest speaker for the past five years for the eighth grade social studies class, he serves as a correctional officer in the county jail and his presentation provides information about the second amendment and helps them connect what they’ve learned to the real world. Mrs. Lospinuso’s presence outside the classroom aids with improving the schools’ culture, climate and the student’s educational experience. Eighth graders cry that she is not traveling up to the high school with them as ninth graders because they do depend on her and I think she cries a little bit too.”

Andy Iliff was recognized as Educator of the Year from Newton High School with Karen Noggle as Educational Services Professional.

Assistant Principal Dr. Samantha Castro said a few words about Noggle, while Principal Jeff Waldron said words about Iliff.

“Karen Noggle is our Educational Services Professional of the year, our ESP," Castro said. "I am going to piggyback on the statement of care, because that is why we’re all here, that is why Karen is up here today. There are two words in her vocabulary that she does not know, it is no and can’t. If you ask Karen anything she has never said no, never said can’t because that is who she is and at the center of all that it is because its for the kids.

"She shows up every day, working harder than anyone, she can’t sit down, she doesn’t know how to sit down, I looked out my window today and she was running, because she was out there with the kids. Whatever the job entails, if it means yes for the kids then she is there. She is the heart and soul of those hallways and they would not function the way they do, they are beautiful because of you.

"All of our family at Newton High School, you are at the core of that and I appreciate you and I know everyone here tonight is here to say thank you for the level of care and love and the fact that you can’t say no and can’t is contagious and our kids don’t know how to say no and they will never say no and they will never say can’t because they have a mentor and a leader like you, so thank you for tonight and for every day that you come to work.”

Iliff, who was not in attendance due to the birth of his first grandchild that night, was presented his award at the high school later that week by Waldron and Castro.

“This board, this building is no stranger to celebrating Andy Iliff’s accomplishments," Castro said. "We have been doing it for the 35 years that I have been aware of and we might have celebrated it before. Going back to 86’-87’ we celebrated him as a two-time state champion in wrestling, we celebrated his appointment in 1987 to the United States military academy at West Point. We certainly were appreciative of his service from 1991 to 1997 in the United States Army.

"We celebrated him as a Sussex County Hall of Fame inductee in 2000, which is also when he got on board with us as a teacher. Most recently in 2017, we celebrated him as the NJ state assistant wrestling coach of the year. So, a huge resume of personal accomplishments but does that get you the nomination to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people we just heard about? Doesn’t do it, that is not enough. So that is how we start with Andy, that is how we know him as a foundation.

"From there we talk about Andy as the teacher. Andy is a 20-year veteran, he is a veteran coach, a veteran teacher, he is one of the kids’ favorite teachers out there, you talk to the kids and they say ‘I love Mr. Iliff, he makes me work so hard. He is so funny and he tells great stories and he is fun to be around’. He works with the kids and is a closet gaming person, loves to game and shares that interest with the kids because he wants to do it, a group of kids who have somewhere to be after school who might not have had that otherwise. They bring in their equipment and set it up and the teachers volunteer their time to do that.

"With that we are starting to get closer to standing shoulder to shoulder with those people who were recognized tonight. So, all those things are great things and we have a ton if great teachers, but what gets you here. This is what gets you in the room, he bridges the gap between teacher and coach. A teacher teaches content, a coach teaches content that can be applied to life and that is what the kids will tell you that Andy Iliff does.

"He is not just a math teacher; he is a life teacher. As a strong example of that, he is taking a group of ELL (English Language Learners) math this year, one of the particular challenges of the class that he has this year, which is no small chance that he has it, is that there are large learning gaps. So the kids are of high school age but they come to us and reach the country with, no surprise to the teacher, with a third or fourth grade education and now they are thrust into the high school because they are 16 years old.

"So, Andy approaches that situation like a coach, they show up in his class and are they going to learn high school mathematics, no. He is going to take them from where they started and this is what teacher of the year quality teachers do, you identify where the kids are at the beginning and they move them forward and they bring them as far as they can do it. You can only do that content knowledge and curriculum, but all that doesn’t get you there, it is having a heart the size of a basketball that makes that happen, which is every one of the people we have talked about tonight, most of which I have had the good fortune to work with over the years in a lot of capacities. So, congratulations to everybody and congratulations to Andy who can’t be with us tonight.”

The meeting resumed back to the regular agenda as those in attendance for the presentation made their way out of the building.