Outstanding teachers and administrators are deservedly recognized each year for their significant contributions to student achievement. Strong school communities, however, benefit from the work of staff members, community members and parents to support instructional programming and offer opportunities for enrichment beyond the classroom. CASDA established the Friends of Education Award last spring to acknowledge individuals whose selfless dedication breathes life into the school community.
School life is a rich tapestry that is incalculably enhanced by unique contributions from educators, parents, staff and coaches. Last year’s recipients impacted their schools in diverse fashions but are united in their commitment to enriching the lives of students. CASDA is hopeful that districts will take advantage of the Friends of Education Award this year as an opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of individuals who work tirelessly in service of their school community. (Click here to nominate your Friend of Education).
The 2015 Friends of Education honorees embodied the diverse efforts that support and enhance the school mission. The work of custodians Kathleen and Edward Kilmartin of Broadalbin-Perth supplied the conditions for engaged learning. Over the course of their more than forty-eight years of combined service to the district, they provided far more than clean classrooms. Tireless dedication was always accompanied by “smiling faces and a happy heart.” Their warm spirit and selfless insistence on transcending their job description on behalf of colleagues and students reflects education’s noblest virtues.
Michelle Bienes has served New Lebanon as a teaching assistant for fifteen years. That represents only a small portion of her titanic contributions to the district. She spearheaded fundraising for two new playgrounds and subsequently guided their planning and construction. Additionally, Ms. Bienes serves as director of New Lebanon Summer Camp and “Bee-Happy”, the district’s non-profit before and after school program. Michelle’s work on behalf of students, parents and fellow educators reflects a profound commitment to both her school and community.
Christine Furstoss of Saratoga shows the tremendous impact engaged parents can have in supporting scholastic programming. Ms. Furstoss has utilized her position as Global Technology Director for Manufacturing and Materials at G.E.’s Research and Development Center to afford students unique opportunities to engage in cutting edge STEM applications. She has organized field trips to G.E. facilities and offered pupils the chance to meet and learn from brilliant researchers, scientists and engineers. Christine has championed the robotics program and supported an academic partnership with a school in China. Ms. Furstoss draws on her professional contacts and resources to support teachers and provide students with a view of the boundless possibilities of STEM education.
Bob Collen of Menands and Nicole Mayette of Long Lake demonstrate the degree to which a dedicated instructor can galvanize a school community. Ms. Mayette shouldered the responsibility of teaching a combined second and third grade class for an entire school year with no additional salary in the district’s time of need. She helps students engage in community service activities such as Relay for Life and an annual Thanksgiving Feast that connects the school community with local veterans and senior citizens. Mr. Collen worked tirelessly for thirty years as a health and physical education teacher while still finding time to serve as a mentor for younger colleagues. He also championed the implementation of instructional technology throughout his district, an initiative which broadened the learning opportunities available to all Menands students. Both Mr. Collen and Ms. Mayette embody the ideals of commitment and selflessness shared by all Friends of Education.