Armonk, New York — Deborah DeFrancesco and Sheila St. Onge, veteran social studies teachers at H.C. Crittenden Middle School, were named co-winners of the Westchester Lower Hudson Council for the Social Studies’ Outstanding Middle School Social Studies Classroom Teacher Award.
The teachers, who began working together 26 years ago, collaborate on curriculum, assessment and instruction for the sixth grade, and each teach half of the grade. Mrs. DeFrancesco and Mrs. St. Onge were lauded by Byram Hills officials as a “dream team” that cares deeply about their students and never stops trying to improve their work.
“I am so proud of Deb and Sheila,” H.C. Crittenden Principal Kim Lapple said. “They both put their students first, striving to ensure that each student is motivated and engaged to learn more about others and the world around them. They have been relentless in their pursuit to reflect and refine their craft. They are passionate about challenging their students to be upstanders, to think beyond themselves and consider how to help others.”
They were nominated by Byram Hills Social Studies Chairperson Jennifer Laden, who hailed them as a “dream team.”
“This well-deserved award is a recognition of their careers focused on always putting their students first while challenging each other professionally to continually improve their practice,” Ms. Laden said.
Mrs. DeFrancesco and Mrs. St. Onge have incredibly strong relationships with their students.
“Their work is laser-like focused on continually improving their practice to advance student learning,” Ms. Laden wrote in her nomination. “As new initiatives and educational research emerges, they both engage in a critical review of the work and carefully analyze how it will work for their students and apply it accordingly.”
Recently, the pair have transformed their classrooms into student-centered learning environments where students direct their own learning, she said.
The teachers are not just focused on sixth-grade learning but “on what their students will need to be able to do at each step on their journey toward graduation and beyond and they expertly craft instruction and assessments that give students the skills and knowledge to ensure that future success,” Ms. Laden said.
The teachers were hailed as role models.
“For Sheila and Deb, last year's work is never good enough,” Ms. Laden said. “They work together every day to review their curriculum, instruction, and assessments and reflect on what worked and how it can be better the next time, and they love this part of the work, because it is a continual challenge to always be better.”
The awards were presented on May 23 at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers.