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Manchester Township 2022 Educational Services Professionals of the Year

Manchester Township School District's 2022 Educational Services Professionals of the Year were honored at the May Board of Education meeting, with their school principals introducing them. Below are the principals' remarks and comments submitted by the honorees.

Regional Day School - Debra Gallaro

Ms. Michallis and Nurse Debbie

Principal Remarks - Lisa Michallis 

It is my honor to introduce Mrs. Debra Gallaro, more commonly known as Nurse Debbie, as the Regional Day School Educational Services Professional of the Year. She has over thirty-five years experience in the nursing field and has worked with pediatric to geriatric patients. For the past thirteen years she has called the Regional Day School and Manchester Township home.

Every day she is providing the highest quality of care, under normal circumstances to emergency situations, and is continually sharing resources and providing staff training. We all know the Regional Day School is a special place with the most awesome students with some significant and precarious medical needs. On any given day Nurse Debbie is providing Gtube feedings, pulse ox monitoring, nebulizer treatments, dispensing medications, lifting and transferring students, providing education on diabetes prevention and epi-pen use, conducting hearing and vision screenings and more. Whenever called to an emergency or comforting a student, her ‘magic spray’ is always in her traveling care bag.

What I admire most about Nurse Debbie is her sense of humor, ability to keep calm under pressure and level of empathy. Each and every day Nurse Debbie continually provides a caring and safe environment for all.

Nurse Debbie is a highly valued member of the school faculty and district. Since the pandemic began in the spring of 2020 her expertise and collaboration shined brightly. She worked with district personnel, nursing colleagues and county health officials, conducted contract tracing, filled out form after form, checked and cross checked lists, protocols and quarantine guidelines. These were demanding and arduous tasks as she worked beyond school hours, during breaks, weekends and always answered the phone with a cheerful voice.

Over the years she has participated in Autism Walk-A-Thons, and volunteered countless hours to serve meals at our spaghetti dinners and even creating food baskets for families in need. She is an active member of our Attendance Committee and Child Study Team, and co-facilitates our Parent Support Group. 

Nurse Debbie you truly have a generous spirit and have made a positive difference in the lives of so many children, families and colleagues.  Congratulations and from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Comments from Ms. Gallaro

It is an honor to be chosen as the Regional Day School ESP of the Year. Being a school nurse for 14 years now, you never know what the day might bring. As the school nurse of Regional Day School, I want to send kudos  and much gratitude to the other district nurses - Deirdre, Kristin, Amy, LoriAnn, Kristin, and Lisa Dolan.  They are always ready to support, provide information, answer questions and just be there when needed. There is a big diversity of students at RDS, with various needs and issues that occur at any one time. Therefore a big shout out to everyone I work with for their collaboration, hard work, support and assistance when it is needed. 

Thank you to my principal, Ms Lisa Michallis. She is always very supportive and helpful especially when needed. To my husband who hears me when I vent and tell my RDS stories, and is always ready to provide that much needed comic relief, thank you. 

Thank you again for being chosen as the RDS ESP. 

MTES - Rebecca Amey

Mrs. Waldron with Mrs. Amey holding her daughter

Principal Remarks - Linda Waldron 

It is my privilege to announce Rebecca Amey as the MTES Educational Services Professional of the Year. Since 2016, Rebecca has made a difference to our school community by her thoughtful, caring nature and will-do attitude. She is our full time Speech and Language Pathologist and makes it her mission to help struggling students communicate as she listens to their needs. She manages her extremely large and diverse caseload without a complaint and shares her knowledge of speech and language development with her colleagues. 

Each year Rebecca maintains her American Speech-Language-Hearing Association credentials on her own time. She attends outside professional development opportunities to learn new skills and strategies so that her speech therapy room is not only current but fun and engaging to all her students. 

Mrs. Amey takes the time to get to know her students. She is genuinely interested in their hobbies, activities inside and outside of school, and truly cares about their families. She often recommends when a student’s family needs assistance and will work closely with our Kevin’s Kids program to see if they get what they need. 

When I think of Mrs. Amey, I first think of the smile that is always on her face. She is so positive and happy to be part of MTES and will be the first to volunteer to help when it is needed. She is  part of our School Safety Team, willingly takes on an arrival and dismissal duty, and volunteered to give up her lunch and co-Lead the Dragon Den Social Skills Lunch Group, recognizing the importance of social skills and social emotional learning skills since COVID. 

I can honestly say that she has the respect and admiration of students, parents, staff and administrators. Rebecca is responsive to requests for articulation screening and gives teachers helpful suggestions, whether the student qualifies for speech and language services or not. She often will consult with the I&RS team, and works closely with our CST to be sure that all our MTES students are getting what they need. All of us at MTES are grateful to have her as our Educational Services Professional of the Year.

Comments from Ms. Amey

I would like to start by thanking the Board of Education, Mr. Berenato, Mrs. Antonucci, Mrs. Waldron and Mrs. Moore. I am honored to be recognized by my peers for this award. 

Six years ago, I began my career in Manchester as a Speech Language Pathologist that was split between MTES and Ridgeway. Halfway through my first year I was given the opportunity of becoming full time at MTES and here I am today. At MTES we are truly a family, and the love and support I have from all the therapists, CST team, administration, secretaries, teachers, paraprofessionals and parents is what keeps me going each and every day. Working with such loving and caring people who all come together to help children is so truly amazing!

While being a speech therapist in a school has many challenges it is also very rewarding. I am deeply connected to all of the students that I serve, and I love getting to know them all. I enjoy seeing them each day and I always hope I make their day better by giving them a little extra attention or having them pick the game for the day. My hope is that I can inspire them and show each and everyone of them how special they truly are to me and everyone around them. 

I would also like to thank my husband Michael for always being my go to person and supporting me in everything I do and my daughter Gemma who keeps me on my toes, but has really taught me so much in her short life.

I am proud to be part of such an amazing district!

Ridgeway Elementary School - Kathy Blaine

Mrs. Young, Mrs. Mazur and Mrs. Blaine

Principal Remarks - Nikki Mazar 

I am pleased to announce that Ridgeway’s ESP of the Year is Mrs. Kathy Blaine. 

I first met Mrs. Blaine not as a staff member but as a parent.  I had the great pleasure of actually teaching both Charlie and Christopher, and so I know first hand how dedicated, caring, and supportive Mrs. Blaine is in her home life as well as in her work life.  

Each and every day Mrs. Blaine shows all of us what can be accomplished when you approach life with compassion, professional judgment, and a very witty sense of humor. Not only is she quickly able to diffuse pretty much any situation, she uses her sense of humor to distract, amuse, and make long lasting connections with students and staff. 

Mrs. Blaine always has a smile, a joke, or a strategy to help us all make the best out of the most difficult events.  She is a master when it comes to working with children with specific behavioral needs and challenges.  She has a great understanding of how to help students learn self regulation and knows how to offer support while maintaining a calm and composed demeanor.

Mrs. Blaine is a great help to the other paras and teacher in the room.  She is always willing to share time, effort, and her expertise with others.  Both staff and families seek her out to discuss ideas about how to handle many situations.  Having experienced life at Regional Day before becoming a Ridgeway lunch aide and then paraprofessional, Mrs. Blaine has a great understanding of how all of our roles work together for the common good of our school community.

Mrs. Blaine is an active member of our school community and is involved with the high school football team, the PTA and fundraising events. She truly has a heart of gold. 

After years of knowing and observing Mrs. Blaine, I am sure that as a positive influencer, she has made a significant contribution to the lives of children. I am so proud of her accomplishments.  

Comments from Mrs. Blaine

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Manchester Board of Education, our superintendent, and staff for this honor. I am so grateful to get to work in a district I love not only as a parent but as an employee. I have been given the opportunity to work in self contained for  nine years, where I am able to assist students with special needs. I find true joy in watching these students grow and I am so grateful to be part of this process. Thank you especially to my teacher, Jessica Parsons, for her knowledge, patience and friendship. We are truly the dream team. I am truly humbled.

Whiting Elementary School - Renee Penn

Mrs. Swift and Ms. Penn

Principal Remarks - Evelyn Swift 

I remember it like it was yesterday - a stack of resumes with Renee Penn at the top. Something about that name clicked and literally leapt off the page. It was like divine intervention. I read further and understood why. Miss Penn started her professional career at the Whiting School and she made her mark in the 5 years she served as our guidance counselor. As principal, I had many opportunities to work closely with Renee. This allowed me to get to know her both personally and professionally. Her consistent positive attitude and passion for her work made her a pleasure to be around. Her love for her job was always evident because she was a person who always saw the glass as half full. She sees the world through rose colored glasses and the children are the benefactors.  Her wisdom and professionalism go beyond her years. Her work ethic is unmatched. In addition, Renee is someone who is always willing to lend a hand whenever and wherever needed. 

Miss Penn became a natural leader organizing school-wide activities that benefited all of our students. Every year she sought more creative ways to promote social and emotional learning.  She collaborated with classroom teachers on lessons designed to promote character education. Her responsibilities also included anti-bullying specialist, 504 coordinator, and serving as an advisor for the Junior Impact Club. In the midst of a pandemic, she sought ways to promote volunteerism for our students. She was also instrumental in bringing “Lead U” to our school, which our students embraced tremendously and eventually was implemented by all three elementary schools. 

In her efforts to broaden her professional horizons, Miss Penn transferred to the middle school this year. Our loss was indeed the middle school’s gain. She is compassionate, hard working and collaborative. I am confident she is already making her mark there with her students and the staff.  These things make her an exceptional counselor and person. These are some of the reasons that Miss Penn is the ESP of the Year. 

Comments from Ms. Penn

I am honored to be named Whiting Elementary School's ESP of the year. Fresh out of grad school, the amazing Ms. Swift took a chance on me and hired me as Whiting's very first full time counselor.  During my five year tenure, I dedicated my time to empowering my students socially and emotionally.  I got to plan school wide events for students, such as SEL day, where kids learned the four competencies of social and emotional learning through hands-on activities.  I got to present monthly character education lessons in all the classes.  And most excitingly, I got to dress up as Buddy the Elf and rock all my ugly Christmas sweaters year after year.  They say if you love your job, then you never have to work a day in your life. That saying could not have rang more true during my time at Whiting.  I am so thankful Ms Swift took a chance on 25 year old me and I am equally thankful that she allowed me to grow now that I am the 8th grade counselor at MTMS.  I am honored to now be a Mustang, but I will never forget Wilma (the Whiting school mascot) and my family at the little school with the big heart.

Manchester Township High School - Brenda Jernack 

Mrs. Jernack

Principal Remarks - Dennis Adams 

It is my pleasure to introduce Brenda Jernack as the MTHS ESP of the Year. Brenda is a paraprofessional that goes above and beyond at MTHS. Mrs. Jernack takes a student-first approach to the school and community. In the classroom, Mrs. Jernack can be observed assisting teacher-led, student learning. Mrs. Jernack supports an environment that is conducive to student learning; her collaboration with educators is always positive, and her rapport with students focuses on both academic and social-emotional learning. Each year teachers fight to have her in their classroom because they know she helps foster a collaborative learning environment.

Mrs. Jernack excels in any classroom and with any student she has been assigned to. Mrs. Jernack uses kindness and humor to reach students to help guide their success. She is always available and ready to lend a helping hand; whether it is helping any student in need, covering for a colleague, or having to switch assigned placements at a moment’s notice. 

Outside of the classroom, Mrs. Jernack has been highly involved in Helping Hands for Hunger since its fruition, Kevin's Kids, AP (Advanced Placement Program), Freshmen Orientation, and has been a member of the MTHS blood drive for numerous years. Mrs. Jernack can often be spotted supporting the MTHS community by attending sporting events and arts initiatives. There is an extra benefit for having her at the high school. She has tremendous baking skills and from time to time we get a chance to taste her goodies. 

Seriously, Mrs. Jernack’s dedication to MTHS and the Manchester Township School District is always appreciated and to be commended. It is for these reasons that I am honored to present Ms. Jernack as our ESP of the year.

Comments from Mrs. Jernack

I am honored to be chosen as MTHS ESP of the Year. Throughout my 15 years at the high school, I have tried to foster a positive learning environment that includes all of our students. My greatest pleasure is knowing I’ve had a direct impact on the futures of our students. I would also like to thank my colleagues, who make MTHS feel like family. 

Manchester Township Middle School - Leslie Old

Mrs. Driber and Mrs. Old

Principal Remarks - Nancy Driber

It is with great pleasure and pride that I introduce the Manchester Township Middle School Educational Service Professional of the Year, Leslie Old.

As an occupational therapist, Leslie's job takes her to multiple schools in a week so only a small part of what she accomplishes on a regular basis we see here at the middle school, and it is outstanding. She consistently demonstrates patience and flexibility in supporting students and she is always willing to go that extra mile to meet their needs. It is not always easy, like when she arrives to find her desk has been removed from her office and replaced with a wall of boxes. Still she perseveres and makes sure all of her students receive the therapy they need.

If anyone wants to understand the positive impact an occupational therapist can have on a child's education, then just observe Leslie's work. Leslie teaches a cooking lesson with the autism and multiple disabled students where she teaches all phases of a recipe from reading it, prepping for it, and cooking it. Although she has a plan for the lesson, she is always making little adjustments that ensure students feel engaged and successful in their tasks, regardless of their ability level. 

What really makes Leslie stand out is how she builds positive and productive relationships with her colleagues. Leslie is extremely knowledgeable and colleagues seek her advice about strategies for helping struggling students. Leslie has worked with every type of student over the years at every level in our district and one thing that is consistent is her caring attitude and her ability to really listen to children and make them feel heard. As a result, she is often able to reach the most challenging students and understand them and her input is invaluable to teachers, counselors, and administrators who are trying to find ways to support children. 

On behalf of the Manchester Middle School family, I want to thank her for her positivity, dedication, and professionalism.

Comments from Ms. Old

I am so honored to be receiving the MTMS Educational Service Professional of the Year. Thank you to the Board members, Superintendent Mr. John Berenato, and the Director of Special ,Mrs. Bridgette Antonucci.  I would also like to thankthe  Principal, Mrs Nancy Driber, and Vice Principal, Mr. Steve Ninivaggi, who have been supportive and helpful in finding a space for me to provide therapy to the middle school students. They have also been receptive to my suggestions in assisting the students there. Working in three schools, I would also be remiss if I did not thank the staff at MTES and RDS.  I am humbled to be working with such supportive and amazing staff in each school. The staff are so caring and  flexible when it comes to Occupational Therapy and are receptive to all of my recommendations and thoughts when it comes to assisting and helping the students. 

Of course, I would also like to thank my husband and two daughters, as well as my parents, who have supported me and continue to do so for me in every way.  I enjoy my job here at Manchester School District and am honored to be recognized as the Educational Service Professional of the Year.