NEW FAIRFIELD – On Wednesday, May 29, the Board of Education hosted a Soaring to New Heights-themed “Celebration of Excellence” to thank and congratulate the district’s teachers and staff. The event included Service and Shining Star Awards, speeches for retirees, and the announcement of the district nominees and winners for Staff Member and Teacher of the Year.
Faculty and staff members waited until the close of the event to discover that Consolidated School’s Math Teacher/Instructional Coach, Robin Welton, was named Teacher of the Year. Ms. Welton was described by colleagues as “a triple threat,” able to effectively teach, provide intervention, and coach. Ms. Welton was also described as a “game changer.” When Dr. Alicia Roy called Ms. Welton up to receive her award she affectionately called out for “our very own math momma.” Ms. Welton was humbled, saying that there were “so many amazing people in this room.” She also comically expressed fear, “I thank you, I’m very honored, and now I know I need to make a lot of speeches…terrifying!” Ms. Amy Johnson teared up while presenting Ms. Welton with the annual, traditional white rose bush.
Board Chair Peggy Katkocin announced the district Staff Member of the Year, New Fairfield Middle School paraprofessional, Matthew Opdahl. Mr. Opdahl was described as “making a very difficult job look easy” by NFMS Principal Christine Baldelli. She also praised his quickness to smile and said he “obviously loves his job.”
First Selectman, Pat Del Monaco, read a proclamation and citation to introduce this year’s 7 retirees. They include MHHS Health Teacher, Karen Conti; Consolidated School’s Art Teacher, Marie Flanagan; District Physical Therapist, Diane Twedt; NFHS Registrar, Susan Pasternack; NFHS Guidance Counselor, Donald Pryztula; NFHS staff, Stephen Sage; and district staff, Terrance McVeigh. Their colleagues all had lovely thoughts about time spent working with each of them, about their contribution to the schools and their impact on multiple generations of student’s lives, and wished them well in the future.
Building Teachers of the Year nominees were showered with applause and kind thoughts by their colleagues: Jeffrey Giuliano, Meeting House Hill School; Nelson Guizzo, NFMS; and Richard Garafola, NFHS. Also, Shining Stars were given to staff members, as well as service pins that spanned from 5 years to 45 years of employment in the district.
Matthew Schlosser, 2017 Teacher of the Year, set the stage at the beginning of the event, reminding his colleagues to appreciate all they had accomplished this year. He encouraged them to stay humble and connected, “Don’t be afraid to accept help, we’re stronger together.” Dr. Roy’s speech followed Mr. Schlosser’s and pointed out that with the theme of “Soaring to New Heights” she wanted all of the faculty and staff to remember, “There’s no mountain we cannot climb or summit we cannot reach.”
As this was Dr. Roy’s last Celebration of Excellence in the district, Dr. Jason McKinnon led a round of applause for the exiting superintendent. He noted that “no one has dedicated more time to this community than you, Dr. Roy.” He wished her well in her new school and gave her a tree from the district to plant at her new home. Dr. Roy graciously thanked everyone for the standing ovation and applause and wished them all a great end-of-year and happy summer.
By Sarah Opdahl