The Byram Hills School District celebrated the four recipients of this year’s Teacher Recognition Award in June, honoring them for their commitment to education that goes above and beyond the duties of a classroom teacher.
The 2017-2018 award winners are Nicole Cavalieri, a secondgrade teacher at Coman Hill Elementary School; Lindsey McHale, a special education teacher at Wampus Elementary School; Jared Christian, a health and physical education teacher at H.C. Crittenden Middle School; and Amy Menasche, a fine arts teacher at Byram Hills High School.
The winners receive $1,000 to be used during the next school year for items such as classroom materials or professional development, and they traditionally address the faculty in the fall. “To be there on that day and find out what was it in their lives that inspired them to be this person for children is sustaining and enriching for all of us,” Superintendent Jen Lamia said.
Nicole Cavalieri regularly goes beyond her obligations as a classroom teacher.
“To put it simply, Nicole teaches each and every one of us — children and adults — what it means to demonstrate kindness and compassion while always focusing on building skills that will foster success,” Principal MaryBeth Crupi said.
Mrs. Cavalieri really gets to know her students and infuses that knowledge into her lessons to make them more exciting, Ms. Crupi said. She also empowers her students to understand the impact of their social decisions.
“There is not a day that goes by where Nicole is not modeling and teaching kindness,” Ms. Crupi said. “From posting random acts of kindness on her bulletin board to acting in the Coman Cares assembly, Nicole truly teaches us that we can brighten someone else's day just by being kind and promoting good cheer.”
She sets high expectations and encourages students to challenge themselves.
“It is not uncommon to walk into Nicole's classroom and to hear a child exclaim, ‘I did it!’ or ‘I'm learning how to get better at this!’” Ms. Crupi said. “Perseverance and pride are in abundance in Nicole's classroom.”
Wampus Elementary School
The level of care and support that Lindsey McHale has for her students is extraordinary.
Mrs. McHale has made her classroom “a visible and integral part of the Wampus community,” said Debra Cagliostro, who just retired as principal at Wampus.
“Her students are greeted by everyone and the peer mentor program has exploded with students interested in buddying with her class,” Mrs. Cagliostro said. “Her expectations are high but her level of support and encouragement has allowed the children to flourish.”
In anticipation of a performance at school of “Addy & Uno,” a musical about a child with autism, Mrs. McHale provided an opportunity for Wampus students to ask questions and learn about students who experience the world in a different way, Mrs. Cagliostro said.
“Her energy, creativity, and passion are exemplars of a teacher who is not coming to her ‘job’ but coming to her calling,” Mrs. Cagliostro said. “We can teach teachers skills and pedagogy but we can't teach them to have love and commitment. Thankfully for all of us, Lindsey has it all.”
H.C. Crittenden Middle School
Jared Christian has taught in Byram Hills for 20 years, and every year, his priorities are his students and their growth as he helps them learn about the benefits of physical activity and a healthy mindset.
“Through his work and dedication in the classroom, in the gymnasium, outside on the ropes course or on the field, Mr. Christian provides students with the tools to make good decisions regarding their diet, their exercise and their lifestyle,” Principal Kim Lapple said.
She lauded Mr. Christian as a quiet leader, saying that “his actions are a constant reminder of why we teach.”
“Through his positive inner voice, he motivates others around him to reach their goals,” Ms. Lapple said. “He pursues self-improvement, utilizes self-reflection and embraces his role as a consummate team player. Most importantly, he seeks to engage students as partners in their learning.”
She applauded his respect for students as individuals and said that he “makes everyone around him better.”
Byram Hills High School
Fine arts teacher Amy Menasche continually demonstrates the ideals of lifelong learning.
She has found many avenues for her students to be evaluated by professional artists and helps them prepare their submissions to outside art competitions, said Principal Christopher Walsh, who called her a “tremendous promoter of art as a career to her students and the community.”
“Amy consistently challenges her students to become better artists by encouraging them to submit their work to various competitions throughout the country,” he said. “In one instance this year, Amy drove round trip to Pittsburgh with one of her student's sculptures that was being submitted into the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts competition so that it wouldn't get damaged in transit. The student wound up winning a scholarship and a prize for his work.”
Next year, Mrs. Menasche will teach a new class, yearbook production, which Mr. Walsh said promotes the District’s vision of authentic learning through multiple content areas.
“She is always looking for new ideas to make her classroom more authentic and cutting edge,” he said.