WESTFIELD, NJ — Surrounded by students, parents and colleagues, Franklin Elementary School third-grade teacher Penny O’Donnell was honored at Tuesday’ night’s Board of Education meeting for receiving the Westfield Rotary Club’s Philhower Fellowship in recognition of outstanding teaching at the elementary school level.
“We are so proud of you, Penny,” Franklin Principal Dr. Eileen Cambria said. “Mrs. O’Donnell came to Westfield 18 years ago and in that time she has grown to be the type of teacher that we all want our kids to have. The type of teacher that colleagues want to work beside. The type of teacher kids can rely on. And the type of teacher who is a principal’s dream.”
Several people spoke about O’Donnell’s willingness to go above and beyond for her students, shopping for supplies to create special themes for her classroom during the summer while others are visiting the beach, giving students yard signs that announce their accomplishments to their neighbors, taking new teachers under her wing and more.
O’Donnell told the crowd about her love for the job.
“It is not just the teacher who inspires the students,” O’Donnell said. “It is the students who inspire their teachers. Children offer us the wonderful opportunity to be the best we can be. To share stories and knowledge, to help them uncover their own talents and passions and to awaken their curiosity so they can successfully problem-solve and navigate through life.”
The Philhower Fellowship was established in 1993 by the Rotary Club to honor former Westfield Educator and Rotarian Charles Philhower and to recognize the importance of teaching in the elementary grades.