NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

June 24, 2013

Six Pentucket teachers win Trailblazer awards

BY JENNIFER SOLIS
CORRESPONDENT

---- — WEST NEWBURY — Six teachers were recognized for excellence at a meeting of the Pentucket Regional School Committee Tuesday.

Friends and families of the winners of this year’s Pentucket Education Foundation Trailblazer awards packed the meeting room at the high school, as PEF President Anna Marie Beech announced the winners. The recipients each received $500 for use in their classrooms.

Given each year through a nomination and selection process, the Trailblazer award “recognizes that teachers who demonstrate passion for their subjects, communicate dynamically and powerfully with students and are selfless in their commitment deserve to be recognized,” Beech stated in a press release issued prior to the meeting.

Teachers can be nominated by anyone — parents, students, other staff and faculty or community members at large. As has been the case in the past, Beech said there were many more outstanding applications than awards available this year. She encouraged those who submitted a teacher’s name who was not selected to apply again next year.

As she handed out commemorative plaques to the award recipients, Beech spoke briefly about why each was selected.

High School librarian Rachel Costello was recognized for her passion for libraries and her relentless commitment to bringing best practices and resources in technology to Pentucket’s students and teachers.

Janine Goldstein, a middle school English teacher, was lauded for creating a magical and nurturing atmosphere to inspire young writers to follow their dreams. Goldstein said she purchased a Google Nexus Tablet with the funds and is “most excited to be able to use the digital video and camera applications to document student work for display on a classroom website, as well as discover new ways for students to publish their work using various Google applications.”

Bagnall Elementary School’s Hilary Seager spearheaded an outdoor classroom experience for her students that utilizes Groveland’s conservation trails and teaches them how to observe the natural wonders of the world. “She cares deeply about her students and believes each one is a star,” said Beech.

Dawn Ackerman of the Donaghue Elementary School in Merrimac was noted for her “uncanny ability” to motivate students and inspire other educators to “think outside the box.” She will apply the funds to iPad technology in order to increase her students’ access to the curriculum, enhance their ability to share ideas with their peers and to foster their independence.

Diane Milewski of the Sweetsir Elementary School in Merrimac is also targeting her award toward iPad usage — a technology that she says has “changed the lives” of children she works with who are on the autism spectrum. Beech described her as someone who “knows how to spark each student’s interest” and who is the first person to jump in with ideas when a student is having trouble.

At West Newbury’s Page Elementary School, 20-year teaching veteran John Benvenuti was described as an educator who “clearly leads by example and loves what he does.” He plans on purchasing an Elmo document camera reader with his award money.

The audience emptied the room completely once the awards were given and the school board, Superintendent Jeff Mulqueen and business manager Michael Bergeron continued the agenda.

During a portion of the meeting set aside for public comment, an unidentified parent tearfully pleaded with the school board to reconsider its decision to limit school choice slots to upper grades only for the time being. The current policy means her daughter and son will attend school in two different towns. Chairman Jack Willett said the superintendent would respond to her request in writing.

Mulqueen updated the committee on news from the state school building authority. An application for funds for roofing and boiler work at the middle school has progressed to the next level in the approval process. School and state officials conducted a walk-through at the high school earlier this month and identified areas to target for a potential building project in a year or so.

Bergeron is exploring solutions for providing cost-efficient food services, including possibly hiring an outside firm to oversee cafeteria management. The school board is looking into integrating more technology into its meetings.

The committee will meet twice over the summer on July 23 and Aug. 20.

An executive session was held at the end of the open meeting to discuss strategy with respect to litigation or collective bargaining. Groveland’s Doug Gelina and Jayne Broz of Merrimac were not present on Tuesday.

For more information on the nonprofit education foundation PEF, visit www.pentucketedfund.org.