GPS District Digest

Stories, news and updates from Greenwich Public Schools

Special Edition: Distinguished Teachers Awards & Teacher Appreciation Week

Dear GPS,

Teacher Appreciation Week is a great time to celebrate the amazing educators that we have in our Greenwich Public Schools. While we aren't in our schools celebrating our teachers in person, we always have our teachers in our hearts, and we thank them for their passion and dedication to our students and their learning.

Please enjoy this edition of the "District Digest," where we celebrate our six Distinguished Teachers and all our teachers across the District.

Stay safe and healthy,

Dr. Toni Jones

Toni Jones Selfie Video - DTA/Teacher Appreciation Week

2020 Distinguished Teachers Awards

The Greenwich Distinguished Teachers Awards Committee, Inc. is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020 Distinguished Teachers Awards:

* DACE ASHCRAFT, North Mianus School, Advanced Learning Program *

* BARBARA BARTLETT, Eastern Middle School, Health *

* COLLEEN DRUMM, Western Middle School, English, Humanities *

* JESSICA KELLER, Greenwich High School, Social Studies *

* ERIN MONTAGUE, Western Middle School, Guidance Counselor *

* LORI MULLIGAN, Greenwich High School, Mathematics *

The Distinguished Teachers Awards Committee, Inc., established in 1984, has worked on the selection process for this year’s recipients for the last eight months. The Committee selects the Distinguished Teachers from nominations made by colleagues, parents, students, administrators and/or community members based on criteria outlined in the nomination packet available at Due to the current closure of school buildings, all in-person recognition planned for the Board of Education Meeting and at the Distinguished Teachers Awards Ceremony is postponed until further noticed. Please enjoy this special edition of the District Digest that honors these teachers.

Additionally, the Committee wishes to thank its generous donors who supported this year's program.

2020 DTA Winners meet virtually to congratulate one another

Dace Ashcraft: Advanced Learning Program at North Mianus School

Ms. Dace Ashcraft has been working for the Greenwich Public Schools since 2002, serving at North Street, ISD, New Lebanon and North Mianus Elementary Schools, teaching science, math and language arts in the Advanced Learning Program (ALP).

When a student nominates a teacher, especially one as young as Norah Mendelsohn, you know there's some magic going on. Students entering the ALP program at North Mianus quickly realize that it's OK to take risks. Oftentimes students in the ALP program find themselves under pressure to perform and to get things right. Sometimes this can hinder students from taking risks. Ms. Ashcraft knows this only too well. In fact, when students enter her classroom, the first thing they are asked to do is to put on an imaginary but powerful coat of armor. The function of this coat of armor is to make sure that they will not be wounded by constructive criticism, since “mistakes and failure mean that they are alive and well.” The armor is designed so that criticism can enter “through the slots” while deflecting any negative connotations: “All the other parts will bounce off the metal and not bother you at all.” As a result, students in Ms. Ashcraft's class feel that they are working in a safe environment where it is just fine to make mistakes. Ms. Ashcraft looks out for all students when they enter her classroom; she is determined to uncover all students’ innate potential.

Read more about Ms. Ashcraft.

Ms. Dace Ashcraft shares a hug and poses for a selfie with her North Mianus Students

Barbara Bartlett: Health at Eastern Middle School

Ms. Barbara Bartlett is a health teacher at Eastern Middle School (EMS), where she teaches sixth through eighth grade. She has been teaching in the Greenwich Public Schools for over 30 years. Year after year she is assessed as meeting the Exemplary standard in her annual Teacher Evaluation review. Her job includes teaching health, first aid and nutrition, but she also incorporates lessons based on student concerns, such as social media, cyberbullying, online safety, and substance abuse.

She is adept at fully engaging her students; she knows how to hook them! For example, when she begins a unit on nutrition she begins by listing the ingredients in a mystery food, which turns out to be dog food! Grabbing the interest of middle school students is no mean feat, especially when the subject matter is sensitive and difficult.

Read more about Ms. Bartlett.

Distinguished Teacher Ms. Barbara Bartlett poses for a selfie with her fellow Washington D.C. Trip Chaperones and celebrates with her EMS Girls Softball Team

Colleen Drumm: Humanities at Western Middle School

Ms. Colleen Drumm has been teaching in Greenwich Public Schools for the past 18 years as a sixth grade language arts teacher at Western Middle School (WMS). She has also contributed to WMS and within the district as a Sixth Grade Team Teacher Liaison in Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), an English Language Arts Learning Facilitator, a DATA Team member, a coordinator for the magazine drive fundraiser, a Curriculum Planning Team member, a summer school teacher, a Festival of Learning co-organizer, an organizer and host of CMT & Stress Management Assemblies, a Sixth Grade Ice Cream Social organizer, a chaperone for Nature’s Classroom, and a presenter for orientation and student success and curriculum nights.

Ms. Drumm’s number one priority is to build relationships with her students that will support their journey as they become confident, life-long learners. She describes herself as a tour guide for her student’s learning journey and believes it is her job to plan experiences, excite interest and encourage participation. Along the way, based on student feedback and performance, she plans additional excursions noting some “passengers” may not be quite ready to “fly” while others may need more difficult challenges as they continue their journey. Promoting a growth mindset for students as they take this journey and celebrating student success are imperative. She likes to think of her classroom as a launch pad for each student's unique learning journey. She believes it's her mission to create a space where they feel safe and comfortable enough to explore the amazing places they will go. Even though students may take different paths, it's her hope that at the end of the journey they can demonstrate their learning in a way that is memorable and meaningful to each of them.

Read more about Ms. Drumm.

Ms. Colleen Drumm shares photos of her getting pied in the face by a WMS student.

Jessica Keller: Social Studies at Greenwich High School

Ms. Jessica Keller has worked at Greenwich Highs School for the past seven years, where she has taught American History, Advanced Placement United States History, Advanced Placement United States Government and Politics and Advanced Placement Comparative Government and Politics. In addition to her teaching, she is a Social Studies Department Learning Facilitator for Bella House, collaborating with staff and administration regarding curriculum, instruction and program goals. She has been a TEAM mentor, a member of the GHS Administration Reorganization Committee, GPS Hiring Committees, Faculty Club Advisor for the Help the Homeless Club as well as co-author for a new elective course in Ancient Civilizations.

Ms. Keller challenges herself to motivate and inspire her students to not only enjoy learning but to see connections between what they are learning and the skills that they are developing. Over the past three years, Ms. Keller has used the Harvard Business School (HBS) Case Study Method in both her AP American History classes as well as her college prep American History classes and shared these practices with her colleagues. Teaching through the case study method allows for greater development in student critical thinking and reasoning skills from using evidence rooted in the case studies. Her nominator and former student, Isabel shared that Ms. Keller “left me energized and inspired. Her passion is unlike that of any teacher I’ve ever had. When we delved into a daunting HBS case study, Ms. Keller helped us break it down and uncover hidden meanings and then turned silent to give students the floor for discussion. I was exhilarated and felt a welcome autonomy, like a college student.”

Read more about Ms. Keller.

Distinguished Teacher Ms. Jessica Keller teaches a Harvard Business School Case Study

Erin Montague: Guidance Counselor at Western Middle School

Ms. Erin Montague has been working in Greenwich Public Schools for six years, serving at Western Middle School (WMS) as a School Counselor and Site Coordinator for Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID). According to students, colleagues, parents and administrators, Ms. Montague is much more than any job title can encapsulate. She is boundless energy wrapped up in a cheerleader, collaborator, listener and dedicated champion for the entire WMS community. In her words, her role allows her to “inspire enthusiasm in students to live the life they imagine for themselves. When we reach the goals they set, we celebrate and then push for more. Our students need champions who believe in their continuous growth capabilities” and will always know that “I have their back.”

Ms. Montague is a trusted confidant that provides healthy structure and a safe place for students to flesh out academic, social or emotional goals while simultaneously addressing needs as they arise for her caseload of 200+ students. A parent says “her constant presence in the hallways, in the cafeteria…ensuring students fit comfortably in new surroundings and being a source of comfort and advice garners her the respect of students, a hard-earned accomplishment especially with tweens!” Her office is always abuzz. Students seek her out for her counsel throughout the day to discuss issues in real ways “leading them to gain self-awareness and advocacy skills they need to navigate in school and life,” as shared by an administrator. “She is constantly telling the students she believes in them, but holds them accountable at the same time. She is a true sounding board, a role model, and a child advocate the likes of which I have never had the pleasure to work with in my 32 years on the job.”

Read more about Ms. Montague.

Erin Montague, Distinguished Teacher, shares photos of her role as Cheerleading Coach; the Color Challenge she hosted for WMS; and the mentorship program she created at WMS in partnership with Greenwich Police

Lori Mulligan: Mathematics at Greenwich High School

Ms. Lori Mulligan has been working in Greenwich Public Schools for 20 years, serving at both Central Middle School and Greenwich High School. According to her students, parents and colleagues, she has built a reputation of respect and excellence based on strong communication skills. While she is equipped with an incredible knowledge and enthusiasm for math, she also teaches students to be better students, citizens, team players and advocates. She leads by example in the classroom, in the math department, in professional organizations and as a community leader.

In addition to her responsibilities in the classroom, Lori currently serves on the GPS PK-12 Curriculum Council, is a CT Teacher Education and Mentoring (T.E.A.M.) mentor, is a GPS Professional Learning Workshop Presenter, and is a GHS Math Program Associate. She has also served as a GHS Math Department Instructional Coach and Math Learning Facilitator at GHS and CMS and served on the Elementary/Middle School Math Program Steering Committee for the district.

Read more about Ms. Mulligan.

Distinguished Teacher Lori Mulligan shares a screenshot of her celebratory Zoom call with her nominators.

Teacher Appreciation Week: Just a few examples of what make our GPS teachers so great!

Physical Education Teachers Share Videos with Students & Families

Old Greenwich School:

Two Physical Education Teachers, one Second Grade Teacher, one Paraprofessional and the School Psychologist at Old Greenwich School, shared a video meeting they had about the importance of understanding feelings and emotions during this time, and ways to cope with challenges. It's a great message they shared with students and families to inspire positive ways to approach problems and issues!

Hamilton Avenue School:

The Physical Education Teachers at Hamilton Avenue have joined together to create a dance challenge called the Add-On/Social Distance Dance Challenge. Students, families and staff have been sharing their videos and pictures on the school's Flipgrid. It's been a great way to stay active and have fun! Thank you the great PE Teachers at Hamilton Avenue!

GPS Band Instructors Coordinate Masterclasses from "President's Own" Marine Band

Members from the prestigious “President’s Own” United States Marine Band worked with Greenwich Public School band students virtually for a series of eleven instrument-specific masterclasses. Greenwich High School Associate Band Director, Electronic Music Instructor and Coordinator for these masterclass opportunities shared, “There is nothing more powerful for a young musician than seeing and hearing the sounds and techniques of experts on their chosen instrument.”

Students from elementary, middle and high schools took part in these masterclasses. The clinicians submitted recordings of themselves playing music that our Greenwich High School students are currently working on. Students will use these recordings as a model and as a way to reflect on the week’s masterclass experience throughout the summer and next school year.

A special thank you to the band teachers who helped organize this great experience for students!

OGS Teachers Share Lawn Signs with School Families

This past weekend, Old Greenwich School staff loaded surprise lawn signs into their cars and personally delivered and placed these special gifts on the front yards of every student's house.

OGS Principal Ms. Jennifer Bencivengo shared, "The signs we placed at the homes of every OGS child came from the hearts of all of our OGS Crew from teachers to professional assistants to our cafeteria team and office staff. Teacher Appreciation Week is a time to recognize the dedication our OGS Crew has for our school community. Seeing our Crew scurry around town at 8am on a Sunday morning surprising students with signs of love for each child and organizing a parade of cars on a Saturday to reconnect the community are but small examples of what they do each day to support our students. Their dedication can be seen in the moments of phone calls with families, zoom/google chats with classes and small groups, dropping off care packages on doorsteps, hundreds of emails a week to kids and parents, and the countless hours spent planning creative lessons, making videos, all while taking care of their own children and families."

Glenville Families Share Message of Thanks to Staff

Glenville School parents and families set-up a thank you display outside of Glenville School in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week. Though our buildings may be closed, this community still wanted to share their appreciation messages with their teachers!

Cos Cob School PTA Celebrates Their Teachers

The Cos Cos School PTA decorated the school's front circle with Teacher Appreciation Week signage. One sign even read, "Whether we're in the classroom or six feet apart. You're appreciated in all our hearts! We miss you!" They also shared a message that stretched the length of the circle reading, "We love our teachers!"

Hamilton Avenue School Students Meet Their Reading Challenges

Hamilton Avenue School Scholars met their personal Readers' Challenge to read over 900 books. Hamilton Avenue School Principal Ms. Shanta Smith shared, "We are so proud of our students! At the outset of this reading challenge, I promised students that if they met their goals that I would dye my hair green. I can proudly say that my hair is now green as we celebrate these great accomplishments!"

National School Nurses Day!

Amid our Teacher Appreciation Week celebrations, we can't forget to celebrate our National School Nurses Day on May 6! Thank you to all the GPS School Nurses who take care of our students and staff! And a special thank you to Danielle Aaron for creating this video to honor our nurses.

District Events

Upcoming District Events, including future Board of Education meetings, will be posted here when available.