Teachers Honored at Annual Ceremony

Distinguished Teachers, seated, from left to right: Meagan White, Eleanor Ritch, Frank Kovac, Michele Giorlando DeRosa, Lisa Giometti, Karen Ball. (Richard Kaufman photo)

By Richard Kaufman

On Tuesday, May 1, at the Performing Arts Center at Greenwich High School, parents, students, faculty and town officials gathered for the 34th annual Distinguished Teachers Awards ceremony

There was an outpouring of love and admiration for this year’s recipients—six Greenwich Public School teachers who have helped shape the lives of their students:

Meagan White, a special education teacher for Greenwich Public Schools who specializes in instructing hearing impaired children in grades Pre-K through 12; Eleanor Ritch, an English teacher at GHS; Frank Kovac, AVID and Social Studies teacher at GHS ; Michele Giorlando DeRosa, AVID and English teacher at Western Middle School; Lisa Giometti, grade 3 teacher at North Mianus School; and Karen Ball, media specialist at Eastern Middle School.

The Distinguished Teachers Awards Committee, which is a non-profit organization established to recognize and celebrate excellence among the dedicated teaching staff of Greenwich Public Schools, has worked on the selection process over the last several months.

The committee chose this year’s recipients based on certain criteria, as well as nominations made by colleagues, parents, students, administrators and community members.

Cynthia Sherwin, Chair of the Awards Committee, called the group of teachers the Sensational Six.

“They have enthusiasm which is infectious. They work tirelessly, way beyond contract hours. They push their students to seek personal success. Passion for educating in fun and inspiring ways drives these individuals,” Sherwin said. “Each of them is a teacher their students in the past, present and future will remember as one of the best teachers ever, the one who changed their lives in some way.”

Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Jill Gildea, said the teachers bring joy and a student-centered approach to the classroom. “I think that as they’re working each day, their influence is without measure. Each and every interaction is making a positive impact on each of those learners,” she added.

First Selectman, Peter Tesei, congratulated the teachers on behalf of Greenwich’s citizens, and said their achievements have contributed to the enrichment of the town’s most precious resource, the students.

“I know we take a tremendous amount of pride, not only as a school community, but as a community at large at what you have accomplished and what you provide to the children of Greenwich each and every day you devote to your careers,” he said.

Each teacher was introduced by a nominator—a parent, former student, or colleague — who shared a few words about what makes that particular teacher special. Afterwards, each teacher gave a brief speech and was congratulated by Sherwin, Gildea, Tesei and Board of Education Chair, Peter Bernstein.

Linda Bailey nominated Meagan White, and said she helped her hearing impaired son thrive after sudden hearing loss left normal speech unintelligible. 

“What is truly extraordinary about [Meagan], is that she is consistently taking the initiative to ensure that her students’ progress is not simply maintained, but they reach their highest potential as autonomous learners no matter how challenging their circumstances,” Bailey said.

White, who began her teaching career as a Special Educator for Kindergarten and first grade at Glenville School in 2010, thanked her students, and said she’s blessed every day to wake up and go to work. “My job is truly rewarding,” she said. “This is an amazing milestone in my career and I look forward to my continued work and contributions here at Greenwich Public Schools.”

Eleanor Ritch, an English teacher at GHS since 2006, was nominated by her colleague, Deborah Smith. Smith said it’s because of Ritch’s radical kindness that her students flourish. “Ellie embodies kindness and compassion, which create a connected classroom, connections between Ellie and her students, and among students themselves,” Smith said.

Julie Faryniarz nominated her colleague, Frank Kovac, and said he sets high expectations for himself and his students, and collaborates and creates a true community with his colleagues, always with a smile.

Kovac began his tenure at GHS in 1994,  said he was inspired when he was a student at GHS by his teachers, but rather than referring to them as teachers, he called them “adult allies”. 

“I work hard to be an adult ally to my students, to help them navigate a rapidly changing world. I’m absolutely honored to be recognized for doing something I love,” he said.

Gene Wieuwoudt nominated her teacher, Michele Giorlando DeRosa, who began teaching at WMS in 2012. “In no time, it became clear to me that ‘G’ was an unforgettable teacher,” Wieuwoudt said. “My words can do no justice to how amazing a teacher Mrs. G really is. But what I can say with the utmost confidence is that the world is a better place with her in the classroom.”

Giorlando DeRosa said she was honored to receive the award, and that it’s a privilege to teach such energetic, perceptive and eager students. “I hope that all of my students, past and present, and all of my colleagues, know how much their ingenuity and vision inspire me.”

Lisa Giometti, who has been a teacher at North Mianus school since 1999, was nominated by a parent of one of her former students. 

“She’s consistently thinking about how she can reach each student,” said Aimee Muth, who noted that Giometti was instrumental in teaching her son at North Mianus School. 

“My love for children gets me out of bed every morning and drives me to work,” Giometti said. “My students are the kindling that keeps my fire burning. I look forward to seeing my students each and every day because there is absolutely nothing more rewarding than witnessing that amazing transformation education provides.”

Maggie Bound moved from London to Greenwich with her husband and three children six years ago, and first heard about media specialist, Karen Ball, when her children attended Eastern Middle School. Bound later got to know Ball better when she joined the PTA. 

“Karen sets the tone. If you come to Karen with a problem, she makes it her problem, and she will sit with you and give you her energy, her ideas, no matter what she has going on.”

Ball said her he responsibilities of her job has exploded exponentially over the years as technology has improved, but she always goes back to old fashioned books. She said her favorite part of her job is getting children to read. “I love kids getting excited about stories,” she said, noting that middle school is a crucial time for students to grow.

BOE chair, Peter Bernstein, closed out the ceremony and congratulated the distinguished teachers. Bernstein urged them not to rest on their laurels, and to share their best teaching practices with their colleagues in order to inspire others.

“It’s not the board members, or the superintendent, or the principals, it’s the teachers that have the most impact on the students, and they can change a student’s life,” he said.

It’s clear that the six teachers honored on Tuesday have changed their students’ lives, and will continue to make positive impacts within Greenwich Public Schools.

About Author: Richard Kaufman

Richard Kaufman, general assignment reporter at the Sentinel, graduated from Springfield College in Springfield, Mass., in 2011 with a degree in journalism/communications. Having grown up in nearby Westchester County, Richard is familiar with the area and everything it has to offer. To get in contact with Richard, you can email him at richard@greenwichsentinel.com

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