GPS District Digest
Stories, news and updates from Greenwich Public Schools
Special Edition: Distinguished Teachers Awards & Teacher Appreciation Week
I am thrilled to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week! We have the best educators here at GPS, and they have all navigated the challenges of teaching during a pandemic. Whether teaching in-person or remotely, or a combination, our teachers continue to deliver great learning in service to our students.
Please enjoy this edition of the "District Digest," where we celebrate our six Distinguished Teachers and all our teachers across the District.
Thanks to our great teachers!
Dr. Toni Jones
2021 Distinguished Teachers Awards
The Greenwich Distinguished Teachers Awards Committee, Inc. is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2021 Distinguished Teachers Awards:
- Jennifer Bresler, Greenwich Public Schools, District Secondary Instructional Coach
- Jennifer Dunn, North Mianus School, 4th Grade Teacher
- Allison Fallon, Central Middle School, English Language Arts
- Bruce Johnson, Eastern Middle School, Science and Mathematics
- Jane Martellino, International School at Dundee, Library Media Specialist
- Susan Zerman, North Street School, 3rd Grade Teacher
DTAC Chair Ms. Cathy Brunetti shared, “Once again, our Committee has had the privilege of reviewing the nominations of an outstanding slate of submissions. This year’s Distinguished Teachers navigated the challenging landscape of teaching during a pandemic, and have left a lasting impact on their students. We are so proud of them and look forward to honoring them.”
In addition, thank you to all of the 2021 DTA Donors listed below who contributed donations for our Committee.
Members of DTAC Congratulate this year's recipients!
2021 Distinguished Teachers Award Donors
Students & Staff Congratulate Their Distinguished Teachers!
Jennifer Bresler: Greenwich Public Schools, District Secondary Instructional Coach
Ms. Jennifer Bresler is a District Secondary Instructional Science Coach, a former seventh and eighth grade science teacher at Central Middle School (CMS), and has been working in Greenwich Public Schools (GPS) for 21 years. She has also spent summers teaching in Uganda, Haiti and Tanzania. According to colleagues, students and administrators, Ms. Bresler is much more than any job title can encapsulate. She is boundless energy wrapped up in a coach, collaborator, teacher and eager learner. In her words, “teaching is all about relationships; and we build them by regarding failures as opportunities to learn, by having clear and high expectations for every student, and by providing students with the tools and skills to guide their own learning."
Ms. Bresler has proven to be an instrumental resource, encouraging teachers to really know their students’ passions, strengths and weaknesses to inspire their personal goals. She exudes enthusiasm toward building student-centered classrooms and is a trusted partner to teachers and students. A former student shared invaluable lessons she learned by “being expected to take responsibility, try my hardest, make it my own and to ask her for guidance anytime…and she was always within arm’s reach as my Capstone project mentor. She always went the extra mile for me and motivated me to be the best student I could be.”
Equal to empowering students with self-awareness, her colleague notes that Ms. Bresler is exploring opportunities for students to experience and engage in regular cycles of critique and revision. Her colleague emphasizes, “This process exposes them to a variety of thinking, opens them up to feedback and thereby produces an even higher quality product.”
Jennifer Dunn: North Mianus School, 4th Grade Teacher
Mrs. Jennifer Dunn has been teaching in Greenwich Public Schools for the past 11 years, all of which she has spent at North Mianus School (NMS) teaching both third and fourth grades.
Mrs. Dunn’s goal every school year is to inspire her students to become the best versions of themselves. She is able to achieve this goal through her greatest strength, to create strong bonds with each of her students. She makes time to catch up with her students during recess or by heading to one of their sporting events on the weekend with her family. She knows her students beyond data points, fosters positive relationships, finds new and innovative ways to personalize learning, inspires them to take risks to ultimately become independent learners and experience success.
Additionally, Mrs. Dunn continually collaborates and makes contributions to improve overall student achievement. She worked in partnership with her colleague to pilot and launch Genius Hour, a set time each week where students explore their own passion. Genius Hour allowed her students to excel in surprising ways; not only did students improve research, writing and presentation skills, students who were apprehensive about participating were now leading “think tanks”. Her colleague shared that, “it was Mrs. Dunn’s enthusiasm for each student and their project that drove kids to delve deeper, explore further and push themselves just a little harder than they were accustomed. It is about encouraging her students to go beyond their preconceived capabilities.” A special education teacher acknowledged, “One of Jenn’s best qualities is that she sees the child first, she understands the importance of academics, but is aware that a child needs to be mentally and emotionally present…and inspires a love of learning regardless of the student’s abilities.”
Allison Fallon: Central Middle School, English Language Arts
Allison Fallon is an eighth grade English Language Arts teacher at Central Middle School (CMS), and has held this role for eight years.
One of Ms. Fallon’s favorite aspects of being a teacher is the wide range of students she interacts with daily, building connections in order to guide them to achieve their full potential. “As a teacher, I expect a high level of achievement, responsibility and accountability from all my students, regardless of their past and present; because who am I to judge? I hold every single one of my students to their fullest potential because if I show any sign that they cannot rise to this level, I’m just showing them that I don’t believe in them.” To build their capabilities, she gives her students time-sensitive feedback and continuous encouragement, letting them explore new texts or outside-of-the box ideas. “Yes, we need to let students be their amazing, individual selves. And foster that with texts and writing opportunities that show their curiosity, their quirkiness, and their superhero powers.”
Ms. Fallon also establishes clear communication with parents. She sends emails to parents at the beginning of each instructional unit, outlining the skills and content covered, a description of the learning process, and tips for parents to talk to their children about their English class. She welcomes parents into her classroom as guest speakers, or as an audience with whom her students share their learning. This gives parents insight and firsthand knowledge of what school is like for their child.
Bruce Johnson: Eastern Middle School, Science and Mathematics
Mr. Bruce Johnson teaches Math and Science at Eastern Middle School (EMS), and has been a teacher for 30 years, 20 of which he has spent in the Greenwich Public Schools.
Patient, kind, engaging, and passionate are words spoken and repeated by students, parents, colleagues and administrators to describe Mr. Johnson inside and outside of the classroom. He fosters a supportive environment, creating a safe place for students to eagerly explore the possibilities ahead. As noted by his administrator, “his treatment of students with respect and empathy empowers them to grow both as a student and a person.” He understands the value of establishing and maintaining connections with all of his students, which is why his colleagues are not surprised to see former students return to visit him 20 years after their graduation.
A colleague shared, “Mr. Johnson is a master of enabling students to take ownership of their learning. He has a certain knack for framing real-world challenges for students to hypothesize, experiment and analyze and he encourages each student to work through at a highly individualized pace and manner. His classroom discussions are so exciting and enthusiastic that student conversations are often heard carrying over into the hallways, the cafeteria and bus dismissal lines.”
Jane Martellino: International School at Dundee, Library Media Specialist
Mrs. Jane Martellino has been working as a Library Media Specialist for 23 years, the past five of which have been at the International School at Dundee (ISD). Following a career in accounting, Mrs. Martellino pursued a Master’s degree in Librarian Science after becoming a mother. Her honors and awards are too many to list in full but include “Shining Star” awards, a “Teacher of the Year” award, a summer Fellowship with the Lincoln Center through the Dalia Foundation and the “Hall of Fame” award from the New England Library Association. In addition, this past fall, a group of staff and parents at ISD worked together to submit a nomination for the “I Love My Librarian” Award, given to only ten librarians each year in the United States. Mrs. Martellino was one of the ten chosen among almost 1,800 entries.
Mrs. Martellino is a firm believer that the role of the Library Media Specialist is to grow independent lifelong readers. Through reading, children discover the world and their place in it. Her lessons, which support content areas, are always grounded in story. She believes that stories pull us in and then connect us to ideas and concepts. Stories empower students to grow into their best selves inspiring them to take responsibility for their learning. She incorporates books into instruction in order to showcase how all individuals face challenges as part of their life journey on their road to discovering and accentuating one’s strengths while minimizing one’s weaknesses.
Her nominator describes Mrs. Martellino as a, “gift to our community.” She shared that, “Mrs. Martellino leads by example as she herself is an inspiration and her passion for learning and books is contagious. She has devised numerous creative challenges and programs throughout the year which pull students in, encouraging them to read more and to read books that might not be in their zone of interest; in doing so expanding the filter which they see the world through. She challenges them to be thinkers, risk takers, inquirers.”
Susan Zerman: North Street School, 3rd Grade Teacher
Mrs. Zerman is a third grade teacher at North Street School. She has been teaching in Greenwich for the past 20 years, after a long and successful career in the business world.
Mrs. Zerman does not just focus on academics in her classroom. She helps her students set goals to improve character, to be better people, live principled lives and treat each other like family. “Leading by example, I show my students how success in life is inextricably linked to the character trait of persistence and resilience, then present challenges that require grit and perseverance. In 3Z, we measure success by the ways we embrace failures, not test scores. I’ve learned that students derive a deeper understanding of their ability from reflecting on obstacles.” To acheive these goals, she connects learning to real world situations. Lessons are interactive and work is choice based. Mrs. Zerman’s activities in her classroom “cultivate enthusiasm and engagement, while providing students with the opportunity to use their problem solving, inquiry reading, writing and speaking skills to support their results and point of view, write persuasively and speak convincingly.”
However, it is not just her students who are learning. Mrs. Zerman is constantly taking advantage of professional development opportunities beyond what is required. “My dedication to my students and my love of learning has led me to high mastery in all subjects. I have carefully chosen my courses and professional development to develop best practices for instruction to ensure students are active and engaged. With the constant advancement of technology and changes to curriculum and teaching methods, there is always something new and exciting to learn.” She brings this training back to her school and shares her knowledge with her colleagues. “Of the hundred workshops and training courses that I have completed as a tenured teacher in the Greenwich Public Schools, I was one of only a few selected to participate in these workshops and then lead Professional Development to colleagues.”
Teacher Appreciation Week: Just a few examples of what make our GPS teachers so great!
GRLS Students Celebrate Teacher Appreciations Week!
Greenwich Public School's Remote Learning School (GRLS) students celebrated their teachers this week with a fun line-up of themes each day. On Monday, students wore their teacher's favorite color; on Tuesday, students wrote notes to their teachers; on Wednesday, students sent teachers their favorite recipes and Dunkin' giftcards with shared with teachers; on Thursday, e-gift cards were sent to all teachers; and on Friday, teachers will be honored with plantings in the Gratitude Grove of the Greenwich Tree Conservancy.
A special thanks to Remote School Class parent volunteer, Christine Rothstein who created this heartwarming video for Ms. Perez, featuring messages from her studebts!
EMS Teachers Play "Hoops for Hearts"
Teachers at Eastern Middle School participated in a multi-week basketball tournament to raise money for the American Heart Association through their "Hoops for Hearts" fundraiser.
A special congratulations to Ms. Wax and Mr. Cavanaugh for making it to the finals!
GPS Art Teachers Become Published Authors!
North Street School Art Teacher Cheryl Iozzo and Greenwich High School Art Teach Sheyda Ardalan-Clarke have a soon-to-be published book coming out, Art and Technology: Innovative K-12 Digital Lessons, published by Teachers College Press.
Their book is a testament to the great art educators that GPS is fortunate to have teaching our students. Their book summary includes, "Learn how to use digital technologies to provide a rich new entry-point for art students to make meaning, express their thoughts, and visualize their ideas. Through the lens of artistic development, this book offers a rich scope and sequence of over 50 technology-based art lessons. Each lesson plan includes the art activity, learning level, lesson objective, developmental rationale, list of materials, and suggested questions to motivate and engage students. The text also includes images of student work, students at work, and the environment of the classroom (many in full color). The authors’ pedagogical approach begins with inquiry-based exploratory activities followed by more in-depth digital art lessons that relate to students’ interests and experiences. With knowledge of how technology can be used in educationally sound ways, educators are better equipped to advocate for the technological resources they need. By incorporating technology into the art classroom―as a stand-alone art medium or in conjunction with traditional studio materials―teachers and students remain on top of 21st-century learning with increased opportunities for innovation."
GHS' Aaron Hull Awarded Prestigious UConn Early College Experience Program Educator Award
The UConn Early College Experience (UConn ECE) Program has awarded the 2021 UConn ECE Jan Pikul Award for Continued Excellence in Instruction to Greenwich High School's Aaron Hull in recognition of his dedication and commitment to excellence in teaching.
Mr. Hull shared, "I am so honored to receive this award. It's really a tribute to all of the hard work my students put in to create additional opportunities for themselves, as they earn transferable credit for UConn or other prestigious institutions. I am truly fortunate to get to work with such driven, talented, and focused students year after year. My own family also deserves credit, as they are always so supportive of my efforts and of those of my students."
GPS Named in 2021 Best Communities for Music Education Districts by NAMM Foundation
Greenwich Public Schools was recently named a 2021 Best Communities for Music Education District by the NAMM Foundation. The award program recognizes outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of a well-rounded education. Now in its 22nd year, the Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.
GPS Coordinator for Music and Arts Ms. Laura Newell shared, "I'm very proud of our District and its music community for being recognized for this prestigious distinction. This recognition is a testament to the dedication of our educators to bring music instruction and experiences to our students during an exceptionally challenging year. Our teachers used their creativity to bring both safe and fun musical lessons to students across all of our schools. In addition, I would like to thank the Board of Education and the Greenwich community for their support of the Arts programming in light of the pandemic. They continue to preserve the belief of supporting the advancement of the whole child and reinforce the special qualities that music and art bring to our children."