SPARTA. NJ – Sparta’s Governor’s Educators of the Year 2019-2020 were honored at the February Board of Education meeting.  The school administrators presented their honorees to the board members and the community.

Sparta High School’s Principal Ronnie Spring introduced Mathematics teacher Sue Vnenchak.  He said he had spoken with her colleagues and  they said she is “one of the most selfless and dedicates teachers we have ever had the honor of working with.”  

They said students can be found in her classroom working and getting help early in the morning, “often times before the sun comes up.” 

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Vnenchak or “V” as she is known to students, extends her support to her fellow teachers as well, “always gracious in offering expertise and insight making her a building-wide resource -which on a personal note has come in quite handy for a new principal,” Spring said.  “She is never adverse to trying the latest of innovative instructional approaches, inviting other teaches into her classroom, observing peers to grow her instructional toolbox and garnering smiles and laughs from both students and staff throughout each school day.”

Spring next introduced guidance counselor Jenna Valleau, Sparta High School’s Educational Services Professional of the Year.  According to Spring, Valleau’s collegues said, “What is truly amazing about Mrs. Valleau is the individual attention she provides each student.  She is always one of the first people to assist her peers and provide insight and support for all of us,” including parents. 

Valleau began her time at Sparta High School as an English teacher before transitioning to a counselor. 

“The relationships fostered and support provided by Mrs. Valleau with students staff and parents has been invaluable to the culture of Sparta High School,” Spring said.

Middle School Principal Michael Gregory said he had asked staff, students and parents about Caitlyn Botti.  “I struggled, couldn’t decide on which quotes or comments or email to choose because there were so many,” Gregory said.  He read one from a parent.

“I believe it’s most parent’s hope that when their child begins school, someday they will have ‘that’ teacher.  That teacher that wakes them up.  That teacher that motivates them.  That teacher that inspires them to look beyond today, into the future.  That teacher that lights the spark.  Thank you for being that teacher.”

Doug Layman, Helen Morgan’s Principal said, “perhaps no other position in education that has changed more than that of school librarians.” He introduced Stephanie Bernardo; “By developing personal relationships with all students Mrs. Bernardo is able to provide an individualized experience for all.  Interested in fantasy novels, with a female protagonist? Mrs. Bernardo has the book for you.  Want to learn more about coding? Mrs. Bernardo knows just the right iPad app.  Want to learn more about the immigrant experience? Mrs. Bernardo will a have a sizable collection of informational texts waiting for you next class…”

Layman said Bernardo has “been a change agent for others in her role as well as colleagues from other disciplines.  She has done this through being a teacher leader in our building’s fulfillment of its mission, modeling best practices in the use of instructional technology and working tirelessly to build a positive and supportive school climate.  I know I can rely on her leadership, creativity and wisdom as we strive to make HMS the school we believe it can and should be.”

Sue Gaughan was introduced next by Layman.  He said paraprofessionals “provide voice and advocacy for our students- often those who need our support love and compassion the most.”

“I hope that tonight’s recognition of Sue and this award serves not just as an acknowledgement of the professionalism and dedication of the 16  paraprofessionals at HMS and the dozens of others throughout the district, but also as a genuine and all too infrequent thank you for all that you do for the students of Sparta.  You remind us on a daily basis that through a loving and compassionate approach, that it is possible for all for all children to be successful.”

Laura Trent congratulated Marie Parisi, the Instructional Intervention Reading Teacher at Mohawk Avenue School.  Trent referenced a Pearson Education article on Top Five Qualities of Effective Teachers, According to Students.  The ability to develop relationships with students, patience, knowledge of learners, dedication to teaching and the ability to engage and motivate students to learn. Trent said Parisi embodied all of them.

 “She knows about her students, their interests, their families and students trust her… Marie is a compassionate person and has a sensitivity to student differences as learners… She has an understanding that instruction should be tailored to meet each learner’s need… Mrs. Parisi is always willing to help and give time whether it be to the students, fellow teachers or the school…In Marie’s classroom she is focused on making content interesting and motivating her students to learn.  Mrs. Parisi gives the students the key to help them unlock the reading world and this is the best gift a teacher can give her students.”

Presenting for Alpine Elementary School, Pete Miller introduced Michelle Abbate.  He said after 26 years of teaching, “She loves what she does and it shows every day – it’s because of the hugs, the pictures, the enthusiasm of the children.  ‘When the student reads something that they could not read before that is what makes teaching so great.’” 

“She loves seeing the glimmer of recognition and the rush of excitement as a child suddenly gets it…Mrs. Abbate credits her colleagues and the staff at Alpine for making it a wonderful school environment.  She learns from them every day and enjoys coming to school because of the people and children that make it such a magical place.”

Miller introduced Bari Bristow, the school psychologist for 31 years.  “Her passion is working in preschool and elementary grade levels.  She is the ultimate team player, there is nothing she wouldn’t do for any person in the building.  Her years in Sparta have taught he so much about positive family values…She is a hard worker who always has time for someone in need including students, teachers, parents and administrators.”

“Few cannot forget Alpine’s recent addition. Mrs. Bristow has brough Ollie the Alpine Elementary School therapy dog into school.  With almost 700 primary age children he is used quite a bit, to help calm, soothe and help all students and faculty. We thank Mrs. Bristow for adding a valuable service to our students.”

"We are so proud to have each one of  you here in our district," board of education president Kim Bragg said.

The next board of education meeting is on Thursday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Mohawk Avenue School.