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MTHS 2021 Teacher & ESP of the Year

Manchester Township High School's 2021 Teacher of the Year, Rachel Kelly, and ESP of the Year, Joni Passalacqua, were honored at the May 12, 2021 Board of Education meeting.

MTHS Teacher of Year Rachel Kelly

Introduction by Principal Dennis Adams

Rachel Kelly has served in our assessment, building PD, tech team and climate committees. She has also served as a class advisor and is currently the advisor of the student government association. In her free time Mrs. Kelly is a coordinator of our AIM program for incoming freshmen who need academic support and she is the SAT site coordinator. She has been a pioneer in starting our AP Computer Science program and has served as a presenter at many teacher-led technology workshops. Mrs. Kelly is our cross-country coach and also assisted with scheduling in the summer. It is not very often you find a teacher with so much positive energy, commitment, and enthusiasm about helping students and impacting our school community. As you can tell, Rachel's one of a kind and a special teacher in our high school. Rachel you have made a difference at MTHS. Your character is a strong presence in our building. You touch lives, you present new ideas, and always do it with a smile. You have a contagious attitude that has made an incredible imprint at the Hawk's nest. We appreciate you, value that you are here for students and for staff. We couldn't be happier that you were voted by your peers as Teacher of the Year. On behalf of the Board of Education, students, parents, staff and administration, and the entire community, we congratulate you and your family on this prestigious honor. Thank you for all you do Rachel Kelly, Teacher of the Year. 

Remarks by Rachel Kelly

Mrs. Kelly speaking at BOE meeting

I just want to say thank you to the Board of Education. (Mr. Adams) those words were so kind, you're so nice, thank you. Thank you everyone for being here - my mom, my best friend Jamie, my husband Kyle. 

I just want to say that I love being here. I was welcomed with open arms coming here from a different district. I was there for eight years at my my former district and this is my sixth year at Manchester. It's actually going to be my first full year because my first year I had to do my contract and then I was pregnant with my first son, then my second son and then COVID hit, so this is the first full year at Manchester. So I really am honored and humbled. I was more honored just to be nominated so I really do appreciate the peers, my administration, our Board of Education, my husband's support because that list of things I do - ‘you got something else to do?’ - you know, but he's there for me. My two sons Logan and Lucas you know they're amazing, they're the light of my life. My mom, you know I wouldn't be here without her, so thank you. My best friend Jamie, she's been there through thick and thin. It's been my 13th year teaching and I really am so honored to receive this award. Thanks again.t 

MTHS ESP of the Year Joni Passalacqua

Introduction by Principal Dennis Adams

It is an honor to endorse Joni Passalacqua as the Educational Services Professional of the Year for Manchester Township High School. Joni's involvement and dedication to support our sports teams and clubs and activities sets her apart. She's involved in many community events that support the student body. She's a consummate team player that goes beyond her direct responsibilities to enhance the classroom environment, hallways, and school sponsored events. It is her kindness, her patience with students, that allows them to reach their full potential. Joni's willingness to get involved and go above and beyond to make Manchester special is a worthy characteristic. She's always being proactive to help the school in any way that she can. For example, I've witnessed her coming to the main office to ask, ‘do you need a hand with anything?’ That type of attitude is reflective of what type of person she is, it is never about her, it is always about helping wherever she can. Every day she has a positive impact on our school community. Joni, I watched you on many occasions offer a kind word or travel far to attend away games in the spirit of the Hawk. Your positive attitude, commitment, with a help-first mentality, helps create a vibrant culture within the building. In addition we appreciate all of the countless hours you sacrifice to serve our student body. You are highly trustworthy and a valuable asset to MTHS. Thank you for being so selfless. On behalf of the Board of Education, students, staff and administration, congratulations again to you and your family. We salute you for your commitment and service to our high school.

Remarks by Joni Passalacqua

Mrs. Passalcqua speaking at BOE meeting

Several years ago I was a stay-at-home mom with two children in the Manchester Township school district. My daughter, Olivia, was an extrovert and an honor student. My son, Dominic, was non-verbal and learning disabled. It was very difficult for me to watch him struggle with the daily tasks that you and I take for granted - brushing his teeth, walking up and down stairs, and telling people what his name was. At a back to school night one year I met Ollie Lokerson, who was here to represent the Special Ed Parents Advisory Committee and encouraged me to join. One night at one of our meetings, Mr Lokerson showed us a video by Rick Lavoy called When the Chips are Down. There were a few takeaways that I not only put to use in my home, but when I became employed in the district I applied them to my work philosophy as well: help a child's self-esteem by standing up for some someone who can't do it for himself and also to find that one thing that a child is good at and make a really big deal about it. Over the years I've been asked how I work so well with the students and my response is this: I don't just work in special ed, I live it at home. I advocate for our students and try to treat each one the way that I would like to have my son treated. 

I have been blessed to work with some amazing people over the years but there are a few that I need to make mention of. Ms. Sarah Thiffault, a vice principal who I admire and respect very much. She is strong, focused, professional, and yet compassionate, and a privilege to work with. First Sergeant Tim Hinger and Lieutenant Commander John Holzer, who I've had the privilege to work with the past four years. I absolutely love our ROTC program and they have always made me feel like I was an honorary member of the team. Kate Colon from the child study team, who has helped guide me since I came to the high school. Your advice and encouragement has been very much appreciated. And lastly, Theresa Zacchia, our school psychologist, who I worked very closely with the past two years. You have mentored me and I've learned so much from you. When our world stopped turning last March and we were all stuck in our homes and faced with fear and uncertainty, she was there for me - via zoom of course. I appreciate your friendship and all of the support you have given me. Thank you all for recognizing me as Manchester Township High School's ESP of the Year. I absolutely love what I do. This is my eighth year working for the district and my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner. Thank you.

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