Covid-19 may have changed the venue, but the virus could not dampen the spirits at the ceremony for the recipients of this year’s Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union (BRSU) teacher and staff awards, held Monday, Aug. 31.
Instead of a school auditorium, first-year BRSU Superintendent Randi Lowe revealed the honorees on a computer screen packed with 217 cheering and applauding participants.
“This ceremony is always uplifting,” Lowe said. “But this year, after all the hard work and challenges we faced together, we really needed to celebrate.”
BRSU tradition calls for teachers to be acknowledged every year in two categories. First, fellow instructors nominate and select one of their own for BRSU Teachers of the Year. To be eligible for this honor, an instructor must have at least three years of experience at the BRSU and had not previously received the distinction. For 2020, the Teachers of the Year recipients are Laura Aghajanian, a speech and language pathologist at the Mettawee Community School and Erin McCall, the Librarian at the Manchester Elementary Middle School.
Secondly, the BRSU also nominates two teachers each year for the University of Vermont (UVM) list of Outstanding Teachers from across the state. This award honors educators who best exemplify five standards of teaching: learning, professional knowledge, advocacy, colleagueship and accountability.
BRSU principals and senior staff recommend a short list of BRSU instructors for the UVM special designation. The final decision for the two BRSU recipients rests with the Superintendent. Selected this year for UVM Outstanding Teachers: Tracy Zaino, Middle School Math teacher from the Flood Brook School and Richard Zelenetz, early language learning (ELL) interventionist for the BRSU.
In addition to the faculty awards, this year the BRSU instituted a third category of honorees, the Annual Staff Award, to recognize the vital contributions made daily by paraeducators, custodians, chefs, bus drivers and administrators.
“Our staff is an integral part of our academic team and the fact that 37 staff members were nominated by the teachers for the new award demonstrates their importance,” Lowe said.
It fell to Superintendent Lowe to choose the four staff award winners: Denise Fisher, paraeducator at the Mettawee Community School; Kelly Leggett, administrative assistant at The Dorset School; Dave Champine, facilities manager at Currier Memorial School; and Bill Amatruto, custodian at the Sunderland Elementary School.