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School staff honored for being ‘lifesavers’ for Sayreville students


SAYREVILLE — Twenty staff members of the Sayreville Public Schools were honored and received a certificate of achievement from the Board of Education.

At the Board of Education’s Feb. 16 meeting, the district’s teachers of the year, educational services professionals of the year and educational support professionals of the year were recognized and honored for their achievements.

“Behind every amazing student in this district is an amazing teacher or an amazing educational services professional or an educational support staff member,” Superintendent Richard R. Labbe said. “The most valuable resource in any school district is the amazing people who work in it. And we’re very fortunate here in Sayreville to have the absolute best.”

Honorees included staff from the Sayreville War Memorial High School, Sayreville Middle School, Samsel Upper Elementary School, Emma Arleth Elementary School, Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary School, Harry S. Truman Elementary School, Woodrow Wilson Elementary School and the pre-K Jesse Selover School.

The Educational Support Professional of the Year for the overall district is Joann Young, the support secretary in transportation.

“Joann Young starts her day with enthusiasm and fun, which is very much appreciated,” said Board Member Kevin Ciak. “Her work efforts for the growth and development of the transportation department are most admirable. With her intelligence and positive attitude, Joann has set an example for other employees to follow.”

The Educational Support Professional of the Year at Selover is Karen Morris, the administrative secretary and facility supervisor.

“Mrs. Karen Morris started working for Sayreville in 2001 in the payroll department and became the administrative secretary for the facilities and technology department,” said Board Member Thomas Biesiada. “Her multitasking skills were quickly put to the test and she has proven over and over again how highly skilled and professional she is. Through all the many tasks she is given, she always remains professional with a positive attitude, helping everyone that needs her attention without one complaint.”

The Educational Support Professional of the Year at Wilson is Kathy Danielson, a paraprofessional.

“Kathy is an excellent example of what a paraprofessional is to teachers and children every day,” said Board Member Daniel Balka. “She creates sunshine in her classroom regularly and is an expert in using kind words and other encouraging pats-on-the-backs. Throughout our building, Kathy is seen every day as providing our students with an ‘Atta girl!’ or an ‘Atta boy!’ whenever needed.”

The Teacher of the Year at Wilson is Jamie Allen, who teaches first grade.

“Jamie gives up herself not only to the children, but she also collaborates with her colleagues and the families of Sayreville,” Balka said. “Without hesitation, Jamie moved from kindergarten to first grade. Jamie accepts challenges and changes quickly, embraces new ideas and puts forth her best effort in developing her educational skills.”

The Educational Support Professional of the Year at Truman is Elizabeth Cadigan, a cafeteria worker.

“Elizabeth Cadigan started working out in the kitchen of Wilson and worked there for three years,” said Board Member John Walsh. “She was transferred to Truman’s school kitchen and has been working there for the last eight years. Mrs. Cadigan is a dedicated worker with a great work ethic. Her friendly demeanor shines through as she serves meals to the students and staff on a daily basis.”

The Teacher of the Year at Truman is Heather Posik, the Academic Support Instruction (ASI) reading specialist.

“Mrs. Heather Posik has worked in Sayreville since 2010 when she started as a substitute teacher and replacement ASI reading teacher,” Walsh said. “She is now one of the leaders of the school’s Reading Olympics. Mrs. Posik utilizes research-based strategies to instill in her students a lifelong love of reading and an array of skills necessary to be strategic readers. Heather Posik inspires us all to grow and apply our skills.”

The Educational Support Professional of the Year at Eisenhower is Amy Lembo, a paraprofessional.

“Mrs. Amy Lembo has served as a paraprofessional in Sayreville for 10 years,” said board Vice President Phyllis Batko. “She is one of the most kind and generous people and a true professional. Mrs. Lembo is always there for her students in any capacity, and she goes above and beyond daily to help the staff at Eisenhower.”

The Educational Services Professional of the Year at Eisenhower is Elissa Dembner, a speech and language teacher.

“Elissa Dembner has worked at Eisenhower for more than 12 years,” Batko said. “She is always enthusiastic and positive with students and colleagues. Elissa is not only dedicated to her students, but the entire staff. She has volunteered her time for more than eight years to serve as Eisenhower’s Sayreville Education representative. Mrs. Dembner’s contributions to the school district are endless.”

The Teacher of the Year at Eisenhower is Lauren Bellina, who teaches K-3, special education, resource and inclusion classes.

“Mrs. Lauren Bellina has been an educator at Eisenhower for eight years,” Batko said. “When people close their eyes and remember their favorite teacher from elementary school, they remember someone like Lauren Bellina. In addition to her gigantic heart, her ability to reach all types of children is one of her most admirable qualities. Lauren makes children want to be better people — she makes them feel like they can conquer the world, and she is relentless with her efforts at teaching academics.”

The Educational Support Professional of the Year at Arleth is Regina Braun, the school’s secretary.

“Regina Braun is a kind-hearted person who works tirelessly for the Arleth school and district,” said Board Member Beth DePinto. “She is the face that greets all the visitors that come into the main office and always has a smile which makes you feel very welcomed when you enter the building. The children who go into the office are also made to feel very welcomed and at ease. Mrs. Braun is always there to see what they need and takes the time to get to know each of the children.”

The Educational Services Professional of the Year at Arleth is Geoffrey Mihalenko, the math and reading interventionist.

“Mr. Geoffrey Mihalenko rises to every challenge,” DePinto said. “He is patient and has a warm sense of humor. His expertise has always been recognized at Arleth. Recently, he has also been invited to present workshops at the state level. Mr. Mihalenko is always working on ways to help students achieve more.”

The Teacher of the Year at Arleth is Sandra Phillips, who teaches first grade.

“Mrs. Sandra Phillips has done an amazing job exploring, implementing and sharing new ideas of new curriculum materials and instruction throughout the past few years,” DePinto said. “Sandra is always willing to share and help in all areas of expertise. Mrs. Phillips’ knowledge of Project Read and other special education-friendly techniques allows all of her students to grow academically as well as socially.”

The Educational Support Professional of the Year at Samsel is Migdalia Rivera.

“Migdalia is a self-directed, enthusiastic educator with a passionate commitment to student development and the learning experience,” Ciak said. “I have observed her to become skilled in the design of challenging, enriching and innovative activities, which address the diverse needs and interests of our students. Those with whom she has interacted professionally often testify she possesses outstanding communication skills. She always makes concerted efforts to establish quality relationships with her students, without appearing to be obtrusive or bossy.”

The Educational Services Professional of the Year at Samsel is Barbara Coyle, an ASI teacher.

“When asked to describe Mrs. Barbara Coyle in one word, ‘passion’ is what would come to mind,” Ciak said. “She is passionate about teaching and learning not only for her students, but for herself. She provides her students with the experiences that they may not have had the opportunity to encounter. Barbara’s upbeat and positive attitude makes the learning environment a safe place where students feel comfortable enough to take risks. As she develops a relationship with them, they begin to develop in themselves and their knowledge.”

The Teacher of the Year at Samsel is Dara Nalven, who teaches fifth-grade language arts.

“Coming from a family of educators, Dara’s passion is evident every day,” Ciak said. “Ms. Nalven is a team player, whether she is working with a colleague, involving a parent or inspiring a student, she always puts forth 110 percent. On any given day, you can find Dara’s students involved in a rich learning experience where her students are hard at work with smiles. Dara has helped novice teachers feel comfortable and has provided them with invaluable suggestions to help them develop as educators.”

The Educational Support Professional of the Year at the middle school is Colleen Mezzina, a paraprofessional.

“Colleen Mezzina has been dedicated to the children of Sayreville for the past 17 years,” said Board Member Anthony Esposito. “Mrs. Mezzina is committed to her students and is always willing to lend a helping hand. Colleen is a true team player, and her expertise in her role as special education paraprofessional enables the teachers to provide the highest level of quality instruction.”

The Teacher of the Year at the middle school is Stephanie Izzo, who teaches special and regular education math.

“Mrs. Stephanie Izzo is a dynamic educator who is committed to assisting students to reach their social, emotional and academic potential,” Esposito said. “She has strong content knowledge and keeps abreast of current trends in education for effective teaching. In Stephanie’s classroom, technology is not only used by the teacher as an instructional tool, but by the students creating a learner activity classroom. Most importantly, Mrs. Izzo possesses the unique ability to balance caring and compassion with high behavioral expectations.”

The Educational Support Professional of the Year at the high school is Dawn Myatt, an instructional aide.

“Her job description speaks to her being a one-to-one instructional aide with a student,” said Board Member Lucy Bloom. “But Mrs. Myatt is much more. She is an active member of the high school’s instructional staff. She can always be counted upon to help make the high school a warm and welcoming place for all of its students and staff. Dawn is always willing to pitch in on a Friday night in the snack stand [during] a football game or support the staff by organizing a winter social.”

The Educational Services Professional of the Year at the high school is Thomas Law, the athletic trainer.

“Since coming into the high school three years ago, he has transformed the position of athletic trainer from a game-day practitioner to a proactive caretaker of our athletes and a vital component of our athletic department,” Bloom said. “Tom works tirelessly with our athletes to make sure they maintain top physical condition for their respective sports and has a tremendous rapport with all of our athletes, coaches and administrators.”

The Teacher of the Year at the high school is Katelyn Meyer, who teaches math.

“Ms. Katelyn Meyer is a consummate professional and has become an integral part of the success of the high school,” Bloom said. “She works tirelessly in her daily preparation and delivery of high-quality instruction to her students. Katelyn has been a leader in the mathematics department in the integration of technology into the curriculum. Ms. Meyer has been an active member of the school community — she has spent many years as a class advisor, and most recently, she has expanded her repertoire to the area of professional development.”

Making note of the upcoming Superhero Day at Samsel, Labbe added that Meyer helped save an unidentified substitute teacher who went into cardiac arrest.

“If it wasn’t for Mrs. Katie Meyer, we might have lost him,” Labbe said. “She truly is a superhero in Sayreville.”

Addressing Meyer, he said, “We believe that anyone who works for a school district is a lifesaver because we devote our lives to the young people that we serve. But on that one day, Katie, you truly did save a life.”

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