In celebration of American Education Week, ESS recently awarded our 6th Annual Impact Awards! The Impact Award was created in 2014 to recognize employees based on frequency of work, feedback from our partner school district(s), and a commitment to exceed the expectations of their role.
This year, we honored six individuals who make an impact on the schools they serve every day. With a positive attitude, they perpetually perform above and beyond their assigned duties. The 2019 honorees were each recognized at their school districts, where they received a $500 cash prize, an additional $500 to donate to their school of choice, and a crystal apple trophy.
Without further adieu, here are this years winners (in no particular order):
Medford Township School District, NJ
Megan Bilello has served as a Support Services Assistant at Chairville Elementary School, part of the Medford Township School District in NJ, since 2011. We received the following warm words from Chairville Principal John Karakashian:
“Over the last year at Chairville, I have had the pleasure and good fortune to interact with many dynamic educators. Aside from great teaching, I have witnessed some absolutely jaw-dropping interactions with kids that have delighted me to the core. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Megan Bilello, this morning was no exception.
Mrs. Bilello’s morning duty is always at the front door where she welcomes children off the bus with a gigantic, friendly smile. There is always a herd of children that swarm her as they all receive a friendly greeting from Mrs. Bilello. Throughout the school day, former and hopeful future students excitedly wave and call out her name.
This morning, a child approached her and as always, Mrs. Bilello bent down to eye level with the boy and began chatting with him. As his frown turned into a smile, Mrs. Bilello reminded him that she was just across the hallway if he ever needed her. While this isn’t unusual for Mrs. Bilello, what makes it special is this third grade student was not in her class last year! The impact that she had on this child’s day is immeasurable.
Mrs. Bilello offered her time to help this child when he needed a break or earned a reward. She saw a child in need, and made time for him. When I am hiring a teacher or an assistant, I am driven by the maxim that I can teach teachers how to teach, but I can’t teach them to love children. Mrs. Bilello loves children. Perhaps the highest praise I can offer her is that I would move heaven and earth to have her placed with my child if the opportunity presented itself.”
Manchester School District, CT
Laurie Ochnio has worked more than 100 assignments since joining ESS in August 2018. She has become a staple at the Highland Park Elementary School, part of the Manchester School District in CT. Three teachers from the school reached out to share words of praise for Laurie:
Third Grade Teacher Jeanette Ruff said, “Laurie Ochnio is one in a million. Laurie is an extremely dedicated substitute who has gained the respect of the school staff and all the students. She works hard to build positive and strong relationships among staff members and the students in all classrooms. She is warm and welcoming and eager to get to know everyone. Laurie goes above and beyond the call of duty when she is subbing at my school. She collaborates with teachers to make her time well used. She leaves detailed notes regarding how the day went and always offers to return. She is reliable and always eager to be here. Our school is a much better place with Laurie Ochnio is subbing here. We are a very blessed staff to have some a wonderful person!”
Fourth Grade Teacher Jamie Tyler said, “Laurie is a retired teacher who devotes her time to being a substitute in our school. She is the substitute everyone fights over and wants to have when they are planning on being out. She has amazing behavior management and treats each child like they are her own. In addition to being in the classroom, Mrs. Ochnio provides help in the area of special education whenever it is needed. She was a special education teacher for her entire career and has helped with schedules and case loads as needed. Lastly, Mrs. Ochnio substitutes in our main office where she greets and helps parents whenever she can. Families feel welcomed and she helps us to better create community in our area. She will put in help wherever she is needed. From the classroom, to schedules, to copying to laminating, to a kind smile to brighten both mine and every child’s day. She is a joy of a human and more than deserving of this award.”
Kindergarten Teacher Jill Kilgus said, “Laurie is an amazing substitute for our school. She always has a smile on her face and is up for any task that is put before her….whether it’s subbing for a classroom teacher or other position. Laurie has a special heart for students with special needs. She guides and encourages them with warmth and friendliness. Laurie can jump right in to whatever plans are left for her and leaves everything neat and orderly for your return back to class. Also, Laurie goes above and beyond by coming around and working with kids if she has a free moment in her schedule. She is always asking if there is anything for her to prep or do for us when there is a free period during her day. She loves to be busy helping our students or teachers. She is a valued asset to our school!”
Paragould School District, AR
David Hay has been substituting with us since 2009. In the one-year eligibility period, he worked 176 assignments at various schools within the Paragould School District. David chose to award the $500 donation to Oak Grove Middle School.
Oak Grove Principal Jamie Dial said, “He shows up, does his work and is willing to work around schedules that may be a little out of the normal routine. He has a great ability to adjust and be flexible when needed.”
Oak Grove Teacher Angela Newby said, “David is very personable and friendly with the kids. He seems to entertain them, but still gets them to do the work. He’s a great storyteller and the kids love that about him. David is great at engaging with the students.”
Paragould Junior High Teacher Krystal Hooten said, “David Hay is a valued substitute teacher who works with all age and grade levels at the Paragould School District. He knows the majority of our students by name and has a great rapport with them. Students generally behave well for him and want to please him. Because he has subbed for the district for years, students know what to expect from him and enjoy having him as a substitute. He has a ready supply of trivia and facts about many subjects the students study in class, and he is good at keeping students’ attention and sparking their interest. He is also able to work with the students to help them during class when needed, and he leaves good feedback and notes for the teachers for whom he substitutes.”
Paragould High School Principal Josh Shepherd said, “Mr. Hay is always friendly, helpful, and willing to do whatever is asked by schools when needed. He has a great rapport among the students he is subbing for and does an excellent job building relationships with kids and adults in the building. He goes the extra mile in all that he does and is a joy to have on my campus.”
Denton Independent School District, TX
Suzanne has covered 259 absences since joining our team in April 2019. She primarily serves the detention centers at the Denton Independent School District, and chose to honor the Joe Dale Sparks Campus with the $500 donation check.
Joe Dale Sparks Campus Secretary Jenneal Vincent said, “Ms. Dansby is the best substitute you could ask for. Our campus is inside the Denton County Juvenile Detention Facility, and she loves to work with our sometimes unloved or forgotten students. She goes above and beyond what she is asked to do. Not only does she complete all of her duties in the classroom, but she always without fail, comes to the office to help where she can. When in the classroom, she follows the teacher’s instructions well and because she knows the expectations/rules of our particular campus, the teachers and officers prefer her above most substitutes. She also understands and is flexible with the facility when unexpected changes occur.
When one of the office staff is absent, she is the only substitute that we trust enough to handle those specific duties, such as: attending court to obtain enrollment packets from the parents, calling schools to obtain records, and helping to locate our leavers (possible drop-outs).
Ms. Dansby is always willing to come on short notice, if she isn’t already assigned to another campus. She has truly become a part of our Campus Family. Not only will you find her substituting, but you will find her volunteering in the Community. I have personally seen her volunteering at the local animal shelter, providing pet therapy for our residents and organizing the Reading with Rover Program at one of the city libraries. No matter how busy she gets, she always finds the time to help out those who need it.”
Davis School Secretary Mizi Burleson said, “Sue has been substituting at Davis School for many years. She is willing to do what ever we ask her to do. We are a discipline school, so we have some difficult students at times, but Sue is always willing to help the students, from 1st grade to 12th grade. She has such a kind and loving heart. Sue also brings her therapy dog up to visit our elementary students from time to time. Sue thrives with at-risk students, where many people refuse to work with at-risk students.”
In response to receiving a 2019 Impact Award, Suzanne said, “I have always had a heart for displaced kids. I like to be there for the children who have special needs or are displaced due to behavior. I have been working with displaced kids since the ’70s and they have special place in my heart.”
Floyd County School District, GA
Harriet Gable has worked 194 absences since joining ESS in July 2018. She works at many schools throughout Floyd County Schools in GA and decided to give the $500 award donation to Model Middle School. ESS Regional Manager Dawn Spangler gathered feedback from various staff members throughout the district, who all had very positive things to say:
“Mrs. Gable is the most dependable, thorough substitute that I’ve ever worked with. She comes to school early to make sure she understands the lesson plans and loves each student that comes through the door just as the regular classroom teacher does. She goes above and beyond not only to achieve the task that the teacher has left, but to make sure the students truly understand the material and get the task done as well. ALWAYS has a positive influence on the students as well as making sure students are responsible for their work!”
“Harriett is always willing to step into my Self-Contained Special Education classroom without hesitation. She works well with my students, and they respond well to her. I can always count on her to follow my plans and hold my students accountable for their work. If she is in the building subbing for another teacher, she sometimes pops her head in the room to check on my students. She is absolutely the best!”
“Mrs. Gable is always willing to go above and beyond to meet the needs of the students. She even comes to our school each Friday to volunteer for FCA (even on days she is not working). She will make notes for kids, pull them during her free period to review, make study guides, offer them incentives etc.”
“Mrs. Gable always goes above and beyond for the students, while maintaining a safe and controlled classroom. She loves the students, and they know it. The room is cleaner when she leaves than when she arrives. She helps the students with their work and interacts with them the whole time she is here.”
Washington County School District, UT
Gerlinde Braunberger has worked 195 assignments at the Washington County School District in UT since joining ESS in July 2018. Most frequently, she works at the Snow Canyon High School, which is where she donated the $500 award check.
Attendance Secretary Darla Snow said, “Gerlinda’s pleasant disposition is just one of the reasons why she is so loved at Snow Canyon High School. She is always willing to jump in, even on short notice to help in whatever capacity is needed. Gerlinda’s experience in teaching is invaluable as she takes on challenging teaching situations and adapts easily when things don’t go as planned. She is well respected by her peers, appreciated by the administration, and adored by the students at Snow Canyon High School.”
In response to receiving a 2019 Impact Award, Gerlinde said,” A few years ago I decided to retire from a delightful career in education. After a few short months of retirement, I found myself missing my colleagues and especially my interaction with the students. I decided to return to one of my great passions, teaching. As a result, I joined the mighty force of substitute teachers.
I am especially grateful for the ESS Program, Snow Canyon High School, Pine View High School, and other schools that have given me the opportunity to sub for them. I have found stepping into the various teachers’ classrooms with their well-prepared lesson plans, expectations, and rules for their classes a unique learning experience for me. And most of all, I have once again enjoyed the opportunity to instill in students an enthusiasm for learning no matter in what subject, because that kind of enthusiasm remains with them for many years past high school.
My passion for teaching even as an ESS Substitute has once again given me the opportunity to hopefully make a difference in the life of a student or two. After all, “We never know which lives we influence, or when or why.” (Stephen King). Thank you for this honor.”