Excellence ion Educatiom Award Recipients


Mary Avila, 2011

Mary Avila is an English Language Learner Paraprofessional who has served schools in the Union High School District in San Jose, CA for twenty-eight years.   She is a bridge between Spanish speaking parents and the schools; teaches Rosetta Stone evening classes for adults twice a week; and works with English Language Learner students in classrooms. She is the “go-to” person for suggestions and advice when working with the Latino community. 

Based primarily at Noddin School, Mary works in classrooms, providing high quality English Language development instruction; and she serves at other schools as a tutor for children with language needs. In addition, she has assisted with libraries, the Primary Motor Development Program, Safety Patrol, and Jump Rope for Heart.  Other leadership roles have included Noon Duty Supervisor, Food Drive Coordinator, and Field Trip Coordinator.

Mary recently started a Latino Lunch Club at Noddin that is proving to be an outstanding model.  Leigh High School students, who elect to fulfill Community Service requirements, walk from their school to team with students in grades 1-5.  They share goal setting and strategies for future success, and they motivate students by sharing their personal stories.

Mary continues to serve as parent liaison for the district for the Spanish speaking community.  She translates many of the parent communications from English to Spanish for all eight schools, which has made a real difference in the interaction between parents and their schools. Thirty families attend the Rosetta Stone classes, previously noted, which make a significant difference in the lives of English Language learning adults and their students. Robin Jones, Principal at Noddin School, comments, “Mary typically has several parents waiting for her outside her room on any given day of the week.  She is their interpreter, advocate, and consultant regarding all matters.  She assists with school and job applications, resumes, employment documents, and anything else for which they may need assistance.  She counsels them, but also instills a sense of ownership and empowerment in the process of learning.  She directs them to appropriate resources that will assist them in the attainment of goals both for themselves and their children.  She connects the home and school team concept and makes the school environment friendlier.  I see English Language Learning parents on campus more often and engaged in the student’s learning.”

Mary is considered by her colleagues as a good friend, dedicated co-educator, and an advocate for under-served populations. Michael O’Laughlin, Assistant Superintendent, summarizes, “Mary intrinsically understands what parents and students need to do to be successful.  She works to communicate, assist, guide, model, and encourage all who come to know her to better themselves and their lives.  She is respectful of differences and constantly honors and respects the individuals in our community that make it the special place that it is.”

Olya Barynski, 1996


Olya Baryski has served as a Classroom Teaching Assistant at the Deerfield School in Westwood, MA.  Her nominators state, “ Her interactions with children are special.  She shares intuitive support for all aspects of the curriculum development and provides direct classroom instruction to small groups of children.  She takes a lead in providing direct instruction as well as gentle guidance in all aspects of the arts.”


Of special note is Olya’s willingness to share a part of her heritage and family tradition, the Ukrainian Pysanky Egg Decorating Project that she teaches to the kindergarten class, parents, and teachers each sprung.  The patience and care, and time that she demonstrates is incredible as each child meticulously decorates an egg. Olya takes them through the steps involved and not only shares the traditions and their meaning, but also teaches the new vocabulary. Her students learn so many skills throughout this project, which takes a number of sessions: patience, problem solving, eye-hand coordination, fine motor control, creativity and the resulting experience of mastery of their completed delicate objects.


A woman of many talents, Olya plays music on her guitar to accompany the Egg Decorating Project.  She speaks French, Ukrainian, and English and is especially fond of teaching songs in each of the languages.  Often her songs turn into storytelling as she explains the traditions connected to the special tunes. Olya has developed the tradition of making a large and detailed birthday card for each child prior to his or her birthday.  Parents note that their children hold onto these special cards for years and years; Olya makes them feel important.


Christine Beck, 2014

Christine Beck is the school nurse at Robert E. Lee High School in Goose Creek, Baytown, TX.   She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Texas in Austin.  She worked in the Intensive Care Unit at various hospitals before becoming a school nurse, a job she loves.

The job of a school nurse is hectic and challenging.  Some of her many responsibilities as a school nurse include monitoring immunizations, managing communicable diseases, providing staff and student training on available health services, administering medications, evaluating students’ physical, mental, emotional, and social health needs, and referring students to various community health resources as needed.   She provides staff development sessions for the faculty, and keeps the staff current on rising trends within the campus.  She participates in student intervention meetings, as appropriate, to ensure that a student’s medical conditions are taken into consideration in their academic planning. 

Christine works campus and district-wide to provide the students with a safe and healthy school environment.  She has served on the School Health Advisory Council as well as the Positive Behavior Support Team and the Crisis Management Team.  She implemented a campus emergency plan and trained the staff on proper implementation procedures in the event of a crisis.  

Christine has piloted a new school nurse monitoring software and was able to work with the programmers to ensure efficient tracking of students’ medical needs.  She is often seen researching various medical conditions and utilizes many resources to stay updated on current medical trends.  She acts as a liaison between the students and multiple community agencies that can assist students with medical or special needs. 

Christine is an active member of the school community.   She serves as a mentor for students that are struggling academically.  She trained students on strategies to relieve stress and anxiety related to the state-mandated testing.  She often attends school functions, such as athletic events, to show her support for the students and assists with the community Parent Fair which shares wellness resources to parents within the community. 

Recently, Christine received grant monies to begin a hand washing campaign designed to show people the proper hand washing techniques as a method of increasing school attendance.  She is preparing to hold educational sessions on emerging drug trends and the proper use of medications for students, parents, and staff.  In the future, she would like to investigate the possibility of building a closet of clothing for students in need. 

Christine is admired by her peers because she is so willing to be involved within the district beyond the clinical environment of the campus.  One of her nominators says, “Nurse Beck creates a positive clinical environment with her warmth and enthusiasm for her job.  She welcomes students struggling with medical, emotional, or social issues and serves them as a nurse, counselor, and friend.  She talks to our students and families, sympathizes with them and seeks solutions beyond the school building.  She freely researches new resources for our students and their families and acts as a liaison between the school and community medical agencies.  She takes the time for anyone that comes into her clinic- students, parents or staff member.  She is a wealth of knowledge and shares it generously.”

Greg Lynd, Principal of Robert E. Lee High School says, “Christine has a heart for people.  She has generously volunteered her time as the sponsor of the FFl Robotics Team at Horace Mann Junior School which advanced to the state championship level.  In addition, she has expanded the program to our high school campus.   She also sponsored a Relay for Life team in honor of a coworker that was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  She serves in multiple ministries at her local church, and opens her home to multiple groups throughout the week.  Christine desires to heal the whole child and will work relentlessly to see that achieved.”


Patrick Conaway, 2013


Patrick Conaway is President of the Big Heart Little Feet Foundation, which serves Natick School District and the local community in Natick, MA.  He is a community activist who impacts both students and adults. His work fosters lifelong learning messages and actions: take care of the green spaces you have, work together to be good stewards of the earth, and volunteer.  His educational Big Heart Little Feet Foundation, which he started, is a grassroots organization that involves the Natick community in cleaning up and caring for the natural spaces in the town.  It has gotten the town to put out garbage cans and recycling bins in green spaces, has a presence at Town Day to encourage stewardship, and helps sponsor Earth Day.  It also has created Natick Trail Days to get volunteers for a big one day cleanup.  Trail Buddies, another effort, is a volunteer group that meets Monday and Wednesday mornings at a specific site for trail work and upkeep…..from removing fallen trees after storms or making a hiker’s notch so walkers can stay on trails. Pat personally maintains 40 Buddy Bins around Natick.

Beth Altchek, who co-teaches a multi-age first and second grade class at Lilja School with Kristen McEnaney, comments, “Natick has many green spaces for people to enjoy, but the one my class uses as an outdoor science lab is the Hunnewell Town Forest.  It is in the town forest that the kids learn about our local ecosystem. Part of my joy in working with 6, 7, and 8 year olds, and part of the way I combat negativity about the state of our world ….. global warming, shrinking glaciers pollution, proposed pipelines and oil spills,  and clean  water that is available for all …… is in the positive outlook about these world concerns that children have and share.  They have a can-do attitude and a willingness to find solutions.  They have potential solutions and the future in their hands.

A couple of years ago, a friend encouraged me to get in touch with a Natick resident who they thought might be interested in the learning we do in the Town Forest at the elementary level.  When I finally met up with Pat Conaway, I knew I was in the presence of someone magical: someone who is not jaded or overwhelmed, someone who has never lost the ability to be hopeful and believes that solutions to problems that seem overwhelming can be solved by local grassroots efforts. Pat knows, as a former teacher with 40 years of experience, that children of all ages are effective in solving problems large and small.

Pat has become an important part of our nature walks.  Under his tutelage, we’ve moved more deeply into the stewardship of our natural spaces.  Kids who learn at an early age to take care of our world will hopefully always do so.  Through visits with Pat, students have learned about invasive species and how they crowd out our native plants.  When they see multi-flora rose or Asian Bittersweet, they say, “Pat Conaway wouldn’t like that.”  They recognize poison ivy and seven minute itch and try to avoid it when they go into the understory to pull out invasive garlic mustard.  

Our students pick up trash when they see it, whether in the woods or on the playground. Since meeting Pat, though, they also divide it as he showed them into what can be recycled and what needs to be tossed.  They strive to keep our newly refurbished Lilja School trail clear of debris, and when it is a fallen tree, they know we need to contact Pat for a visit with his chainsaw to cut a hiker’s notch.  They have even learned how to help the water move off a trail and to recognize erosion.

When Pat is able to, he accompanies us on our monthly walks. It is like a super hero has joined us.  The kids always call him by his first and last names run together. ‘Pat Conaway, environmental avenger.’  One day he brought his Trail Buddies gear in a full size backpack complete with shovel, saw, and loppers; and he allowed students to help him cut back encroaching branches with his tools. They matured before my eyes.  You will be happy to know we returned to school with all digits intact, so they were also carefully listening to Pat’s safety directions.”

Pat works with children of all ages and adults as well.  He has set up both trash cans and recycling bins in most of the open spaces in Natick.  He has organized a group of people to help him manage the trails and clean up after those who are not yet swayed by his message.  I have every faith that Pat will get them on board before long.  He works tirelessly and he is always in a good mood. He makes the people around him seek to do more and better.

Pat Conaway is a volunteer extraordinaire.

Gregory Culpepper, 2016

Gregory Culpepper serves as Fatherhood and Partnership Specialist at the Early Head Start Center in Galena Park ISD, Houston, Texas.  

Born in California to a military family, Gregory moved to Houston as a young child with his mother and five siblings. After graduation from Lamar High School, he joined the U.S. Army, serving both here and overseas, including during the Gulf War. After his military service, he worked as a drill instructor at a Harris County Boot Camp, but he wanted to reach young men before they entered the juvenile justice system, so he began working as a site coordinator for the Communities in Schools at the Accelerated Center for Education in Galena Park, where he was tasked with providing academic support, helping to secure food, housing, furniture, counseling and medical services, and employment opportunities for district families. After three years there, he took on his present role as Fatherhood and Partnerships Specialist for the district, where he engages in three basic practices: peer-to-peer interactions, partnering older dads/male professionals with teen dads, and introducing initiatives that involving thinking beyond today and into the future.

In practice, Gregory holds meetings with teen dads, teaching them practical parenting skills and relationship building. In addition, he secures funding and business partnerships that allow participants and their families to experience outings such as sailing and attendance at college football games and visits to various job sites beyond what the students have experienced. Students don’t just receive; through Gregory’s modelling and encouragement, they learn how to give to their families and communities. Going beyond his job description, Gregory has walked families through doctors’ appointments, helped secure drivers’ licenses, and connected them to other community resources. As he has worked in these roles, he continued his own education, earning his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Houston last year.  

Gregory’s success with students has come about not only through his tireless faith and dedicated work, but through his personal experiences. Having been a single parent, Gregory knows not only the trials and the worries of that situation but also the success that can be had no matter the obstacles. His motto is “Lead by Example,” a practice he has followed all of his life. He began giving to the school community when his children were young, serving first as PTA president at North Shore Elementary, later becoming an active member of the middle and high school band boosters, where he served as an officer and fund-raising coordinator. Even though his children have graduated, Gregory still works the fireworks stand twice a year!

Gregory’s nominators commended his efforts to remove barriers to education and finances and his availability, 24-7, for his students. One nominator shared a touching personal story: after her father suffered a stroke, Gregory began visiting him in the hospital and later at home, even though he had never met him. Gregory didn’t just pop in to say hello or offer a prayer; he began helping out with practical tasks, such as shaving and speech and physical exercises.  As this nominator said, “If the Goldin Foundation seeks to pay tribute to a God-fearing, people-loving, humble angel who goes the extra mile each and every day to serve his students and community, and who inspires others to do the same, Gregory Culpepper is the best applicant.”  

Dan DeWolf and  Larry White, 1994

Dan DeWolf and Larry White of the Needham Science Center are among the six educators recognized for outstanding contributions in the classroom, school, and community in 1994. Dan and Larry have been referred by their nominators as "legends" in the Needham school system. "They have unearthed a knack for presenting all kinds of scientific phenomena, whether it be physical science, earth science, or life science . They put magic into the presentation of their concepts, and it all seems understandable and easy to present in the classroom. Teachers at every level flock to the Science Center's workshops where they come away with a goody bag filled with ideas that they can put into practice the very next day. The workshops are so popular that it is usually standing room only. The "Idea Factory" contains hundreds of ideas and materials which have been thoughtfully compiled and boxed for travel. Dan and Larry are on call: to consult with teachers, develop materials and exhibits, produce large group programs, run contests, and conduct teacher training sessions. They constantly seek new and different ways to reach students and teachers . The aim of their program is "to create curiosity." Their job is not curriculum, but to excite kids and teachers about science."

Larry White and Dan DeWolf bring an exciting hands-on approach that is grounded in scientific inquiry with emphasis on exploration and discovery. Their influence begins in the kindergarten and extends through grades 5 and beyond. Children engage in research; learn how to care for pets; conduct experiments in chemistry and physics; and they learn about their environment, about sound and light, electricity and astronomy, biology and botany, nature -- the world of science at their fingertips.

As one nominator states: "This exemplary team is reaching the scientists of tomorrow drawing from a bag of tricks containing gadgets, gizmos, and gimmicks and presenting science in such a creative way that it will long be remembered". Dan and Larry are excellent role models, inspiring many students to choose careers in the field of Science. They have served as mentors for those interested in a particular aspect of Science; they hold after school enrichment workshops such as taxidermy and caring for animals; they involve high school students in preparing models and displays; and they have helped design regional science programs such as the TEC Challenge in bridge building.

Dan DeWolf, Assistant Director of the Needham Science Center, is a graduate of Boston University. For nine years he was the elementary specialist and animal care expert at the Newton Science Center, and he came to Needham in 1978. Dan has been a longtime nature counselor, instructor and consultant to the Mass Audubon Society, serves on the Project Wild Advisory Committee, and Holliston Town Forest Committee and Conservation Commission. He has received recognitions from Project WILD, the National Science Foundation, Channel 5, . National Science Teachers Association., and Needham Schools Superintendent's Award. His many interests and talents include farming, taxidermy, blacksmithing, woodcarving, canoeing, natural history and music.

Larry White, Director of the Science Center, is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire. After a stint in the Army, he worked at the Boston Museum of Science for ten years, serving as the Director of the Theater of Electricity, Supervisor of Programs and Courses, and Director of Long Range Planning. He came to the Needham Public Schools in 1965. A prolific author, he has written thirty books on a variety of scientific subjects. Larry is an active magician, new products reviewer and guest editor for the Magic Manuscript Magazine, and Magic Editor for M-U-M, the official magazine of the Society of American Magicians. One can just imagine the excitement and magic Larry creates in his design and delivery of science to kids and teachers. Awards and recognitions have come from the National Science Teacher's Association, Channel 5, " Action for Children's Television, " the Needham Public Schools Superintendent's Award, National Science Foundation and now the Goldin Foundation, with full recognition by his peers.


Blanca Diaz, 2005


Blanca Diaz, a parent/community volunteer at Del Mar High School in the Campbell Union High School District is adept at making makes positive things happen for students, parents, teachers, and administrators. She is a wife, mother of two, volunteer, motivator, interpreter, translator, and activist.


Blanca was born in Guatemala City, Central America.  She, along with her family, came to the United States in search of a better life and in search of the American Dream. Blanca was nominated for the Goldin Foundation’s Excellence in Education Award by Mr. Jim Russell, Principal atDel Mar High School, where Blanca’s daughter and son attend.  To demonstrate the respect in which Blanca is held in the Del Mar community, it is interesting to point out that letters of recommendation were written on her behalf, not only by Mr. Russell, but by a Del Mar counselor, a Del Mar teacher, and two Del Mar parents.


Due to the fact that Del Mar High School has a significant number of Spanish-speaking parents, Blanca approached Mr. Russell in the fall of 2003 at a Back-to-School Night at Del Mar to offer her assistance in helping to get the school’s Spanish-speaking parent community more involved in the school.  Assist she indeed has done!  She translates into Spanish all school newsletters, invitations to school events, and the student/parent handbook.  She also has been the impetus for the initiation of monthly parent meetings for Spanish-speaking parents.   Less than twenty parents attended the first parent meeting; now fifty students’ parents attend these monthly meetings.  Blanca plans these meetings in coordination with Mr. Russell.  However, she runs the meetings, translates for English-speaking staff members who also attend the meetings, and conducts surveys of parents to determine agenda topics for future meetings.


Blanca also was key in assisting the school to implement its telephone attendance communication system in Spanish that goes home automatically to Spanish-speaking parents when their children are absent.  Mr. Russell wrote: “I have been a high school principal for thirteen years at three different schools, and I have never had a relationship with a parent who had such a significant impact on the school environment and culture as Blanca has had on Del Mar High School.”


Blanca continues her participation in the Luther Burbank School District where her children used to attend school. She is currently serving as Board of Trustees President, a position which she says allows her to be a bridge to the parent community there. Also she still participates in the “Padres con Poder--Parents with Power.”

In addition to the above list of accomplishments, Blanca also works part-time for the San Jose Convention Center, is a member of the Beverly Burbank Lions’ Club, participates in First Five, a community group which focuses on children from birth to five years old, participates in Weed and Seed, a community group which focuses on the prevention of youth gangs, crime, and drug addiction. Bob Lowry, who introduced Blanca at the Educators Forum commented, “I’m reminded of the old adage that when you want to get something done, ask a busy, committed person!”


Regarding the Del Mar parent group which Blanca facilitates, she states: “We meet on a regular basis all together-- parents, administrators, counselors, and deans, sharing the same goal ‘participating in our children’s education, helping them to succeed’ because we know that together, we can make the difference.  A great accomplishment for me is to be an immigrant in this country, able to do anything I want. God Bless America!"


Susan Duncan, 2015

Susan Duncan serves as Civics Education Chair of the Needham League of Women Voters, Needham, MA. Former High School History Chair and teacher at Needham High School, current Chair of Civics Education for the Needham League of Women Voters, volunteer for church, organizer of programs for Family Promise, mother, and grandmother, Susan Duncan continues to impact students and members of the community.  She is a dynamic and committed change agent, who is a force when it comes to making others aware of the importance of knowing and participating in civic actions and making contributions to those less fortunate.

Democracy is not a spectator sport! Susan feels strongly that all citizens need to be educated and engaged about their rights and responsibilities. As Chair of the Civics Education Committee of the League of Women Voters of Needham, she researched and adapted a highly successful Civics Bee for the Needham community for the past 2 years, which will continue as an annual event. (Just so you know, “The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. It is open to women and men of all ages and it is a nonprofit organization.

The Needham Civics Bee encourages civic knowledge and engagement and friendly competition. Teams of students and adults participate in the program that asks questions about local, state, and federal government, which are developed by committee members and the social studies department at the high school. Teams of 3 comprise high school students, family members, business reps, school committee members, and a combo of students and teachers. The lively format results in a winning team with cash prizes given by the Melick Foundation.  The audience consists of students, teachers, school leaders, state and local officials, and many people from the community.  There is no cost to participate or attend.  The program is very replicable, and already there have been requests for information from other states.

When Susan was Director of History at Needham High School, she coordinated efforts with the League of Women Voters to get students more involved with thinking and acting on their roles in society regarding topics of importance to them. One creative project involved Advanced Placement students taking part in civic action projects in May after having taken their tests.  Working in small groups, students researched topics that could impact local, regional, and national policy and activity. They presented their findings and recommendations to a Needham state representative, who commented on their proposals.  Students also had opportunities to present their projects to students in other classes.

Another project that Susan helped develop with the League of Women Voters while she was History Director was a Birthday Packet that is given to all students upon reaching 18 years of age. The concept of this particular project is that students are entering a rite of passage, and with that rite of passage comes rights and responsibilities. Along with a festive red, white and blue “Happy 18th Birthday” card, the packet includes: historic accounts of close elections in which every vote was pivotal to the outcome, explanations on how and where to register, the Mass. Voters’ Bill of Rights, a United States Constitution and a summary of websites about voting, elections, candidates and issues related to government elections.

Susan’s efforts, past and present, exhibit thoughtful leadership, informed educational programs for students and the broader community. As Chair of History at Needham High School for 9 years, she provided leadership to her department developing new curriculum that met new MA state standards for curriculum development and testing. She hired new faculty and mentored them. She represented her school district on the on the Social Studies Directors group in the TEC collaborative of 15 districts.

Although retired from teaching, Susan spearheads the League of Women Voters High School registration drive for students in collaboration with the Needham HS Social Studies department and administration. Announcements and posters are created to attract new and soon-to-be 18 year old students to come to the cafeteria to register during homeroom period.  The twice a year effort includes mobilizing a corps of League of Women Voters members to register students and answer questions.  

Susan volunteers for Family Promise, an interfaith cooperative partnership that provides families with children with safe transitional shelter and meals and supportive case management as they seek permanent housing. As a member of the Wellesley Congregational Church, she is on site every month to provide an evening meal and talk with families.  In addition, she is on the fundraising team for Family Promise, which raised $49,000 this year.

Susan Duncan is a thinker and a doer.  At the same time, she is compassionate and passionate about encouraging and empowering young people to reach their full potential.  The programs that she has established have proved to have “staying power” and are very replicable. 

Ellen DiGiacomo Gambardella,  1998

Ellen Gambardella is respected and admired for her numerous achievements for the dental profession and her dedicated and selfless contributions to her students. Ellen has taught dental assisting at Minuteman Technical Vocational School for the past seven years. Largely because of her efforts, the program was expanded to full time and she helped to secure donated equipment, oversaw the planning and construction of the clinic, which is now the best equipped facility at any high school in Massachusetts.

Ellen has been successful in recruiting, training and placing her Dental Assisting students. Insisting on high standards in students classroom and clinical performance , "she graduates devoted students that are of the highest caliber and who contribute to the dynamics of the profession under her direction and leadership, " states Rita Johnson, Professor of Dental Sciences at Middlesex Community College. " She incites enthusiasm, initiative, and creativity in dental networks. She is constantly deliberating the future role of the auxiliary in dentistry, as she moves forward with innovative ideals for prevention and expanded functions. Ellen seeks advancements that promote improved oral health, increased productivity and marketability, indispensability on the job, as well as more job autonomy for the dental assistant. She has lectured nationwide, has set up articulation agreements with several colleges, and continues to set up continuing education courses."

According to Monroe Benson, Director of Adult programs, "Ellen believes that students need to be challenged to strive for excellence in a relaxed, yet stimulating environment. She believes that self esteem and intellectual growth are fostered in a safe place where students are invited to learn about the subject matter and themselves. Students are excited about coming to Ellen's class. Substantial amounts of information are given and absorbed through accelerated learning techniques. Ellen targets a variety of modalities of learning within each lesson such as auditory, visual and kinesthetic. Learners have the opportunity to explore non-traditional techniques like taking notes through mind mapping, using color and utilizing movement through review sessions.

Ellen is upbeat and positive in the classroom. The classroom becomes a support system, where differences are recognized and respected and where the encouragement and willingness to work together becomes contagious and students learn to create a team approach to all situations that arise. One of her students writes, "She has been the one to encourage me to take each new challenge. I am not one to move easily, but when Ellen says," You can do it, amazingly I do it! Ellen makes a point of keeping in contact with us even after we graduate, and we are all grateful for her help and encouragement during those formative years."

All of Ellen's nominators echo reverence to this kind and gentle woman who has befriended and guided many individuals throughout her outstanding career and who has made a difference.



Patricia Flueckiger and Maureen Graham, 2005


Patricia (Trish) Flueckiger and Maureen Graham are School Nurses at Eliot and Hillside Schools in Needham, respectively. Nominators note, “The days of school nurses only taking temperatures and dispensing band aids ended long ago.  Like all schools, our children present with a myriad of medical, emotional, and social issues.  What sets Trish and Maureen apart is how they nurse and minister to others. Trish and Maureen are an integral part of the school culture - an important link to staff, students, and parents. They are counselors, teachers, confidents, record keepers, scribes, sources of knowledge, purveyors of knowledge, coaches, liaisons; and they are vocal advocates for safety and wellness issues in the Needham School District. They do their work with so much energy and enthusiasm, creativity and innovation. They constantly show their adaptability in their approaches to working with people as caretakers and confidents; they make nursing, heathcare, health education, and health promotion part of the interdisciplinary contexts in their schools. Students, staff, and faculty of the Hillside and Eliot Schools and the wider Needham community are the beneficiaries of Maureen’s and Trish’s personal and professional commitment to their roles as school nurses.  They reflect the importance of a coordinated and comprehensive approach.”


Neither Maureen nor Trish found their niche working within the school setting.   They emphasize the quality of nursing that makes nursing to them, "our profession is about education, and that's what we love about our job - teaching others, responding, rising to the occasion, taking nursing a few steps further, and even taking our schools and the broader school community a few steps further as well."


Some of their individual highlights are:

Trish chairs the Health and Safety Committee; and she is also in several other school based groups including the Crisis Committee, the Permanent Public Building Committee, and she is as an important advisor and committee member to the Eliot Parent Team, which supervised the construction of a new playground at the school. 


Maureen has extended her nursing education to classrooms, where she teaches students important concepts regarding safety, allergies, and respectful behaviors.  She has been an important part of the schools' "Easing the Teasing Program" that looks at the topic of bullying and works with students to open lines of communication. She has also established a health/wellness committee for the staff in partnership with the physical education teacher.


One important initiative in which they collaborated was creating a stress management program for faculty, staff, and parents.  Recognizing the issues of stress and concerns about how the mind and body are tied together, Trish and Maureen put together a special program.  They applied for and received a Needham Education Foundation grant, and then they collaborated with the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Harvard Medical School to present a "train the trainer" model program through the "Mind-Body Educational Initiative."  The program took place over several months, during which time Maureen and Trish presented teacher and parent workshops and worked closely with the participants to follow and evaluate the program's success.  Elements of the program are in practice today. Trish and Maureen spoke about how both schools and families have changed, and the many different demands affecting students, teachers, and parents these days.  "Stress has become a major theme in the lives of not only adults, but for kids and teachers.  MCAT's and other tests, pressures from schools, from work, from home life, to world events - these affect the the child, classroom and community."


Nominators note, "These women are 'on it'.......knowing that a 'stomach ache' may not always be a stomach ache.  They talk to the children and listen.  They explore the emotional ramifications as well as the physical ones.  They employ an individualized approach to each child, and seemingly to each staff person as well, taking into account the various health issues - whether they're allergies, life threatening surgeries, the loss of a parent, a pregnancy.  They are great synthesizers as well as gatekeepers, knowing which items to keep confidential, and expertly and empathically knowing what to share.  They are very much loved and valued in their schools.  Creating comfort and warmth, yet with strength and stamina, they exhibit incredible ingenuity and thoughtfulness."


Barbara Friedman, 1993

Barbara Friedman, has served as President of the Westwood Education Foundation. She is recognized for her efforts over the past ten years for bringing educational and emotional enrichment to the schools and community of Westwood. Initiating the Westwood Educational Foundation several years ago, she has served as Chairperson and orchestrated activities for fundraising and distribution of awards that have involved hundreds of people. Over $40,000 has been raised throughout Westwood for educational growth and monetary support of community projects.

Foundation grants have been used to fund staff and curriculum development activities for staff and children in the Westwood Schools, which would not have happened without the Foundation resources. To cite several school grants: a junior high grant included funds for computer programs, computers and accessories; the high school received funding for a Visiting Writer Series; and the elementary schools received grants for a multi-cultural program. Community grants are also awarded by the Westwood Education Foundation. The fire department was given a grant for developing a program about juvenile fire setting, which has served as a model for other communities, and other recipients include the Westwood Police Department, Library, and Youth Commission.

Another initiative is the acclaimed intergenerational program that Barbara designed involving Westwood elementary school fourth graders and local senior citizens that has fostered better understanding and appreciation for both groups. The eighteen week instructional program provides awareness of intergenerational issues for children and creates activities that link them with senior citizens including letter writing, a luncheon, and an evening concert for the public


Cathy Gearhart, 1996

Cathy Gearhart, an Early Childhood Educator in Natick is a woman and educator who has had and continues to have a significant and unique influence on the lives of children in her community. The old African saying, "It takes a village to raise a child," has special relevance as Cathy has been providing exceptional family day care for a considerable number of lucky young preschoolers for more than twenty years as the director, teacher, and nurturer, at what is affectionately known as "Cathy's Place," a home-based childcare facility in Natick. Not insignificant is the fact that many of these children are the offspring of the most scrutinizing of clients, educators themselves.

In granting the award, the Goldin Foundation Awards Committee considered the fact that education doesn't just begin at the kindergarten door and felt that childcare providers are uniquely and especially entitled to be recognized for their importance. Today, more than ever before in the history of mankind, it is absolutely necessary that children have the best in surrogate parenthood. Parents of children in Cathy's Place are assured of the knowledge that their children are happily and healthfully immersed in a secure, loving environment.

Cathy, a graduate of Lesley College in Early Childhood Education and mother of three children of her own, has put to use all of her considerable professional skills and parental insight about children to make her day care a family in the truest sense. Graduates of her school remain a part of this family long after they have traded in their teddy bears for schoolbooks and diplomas, as evidenced by her Annual Alumni Day and Teddy Bear Picnic, when all current and former students are invited to return. From infancy through kindergarten, the foundation years when social skills and emotional security are most critical, Cathy has been there to help mold and define each child's personality, creativity, imagination, and sense of self. Parent testimonials about Cathy were heartwarming and sincere. Some are noted:

  • "While  does not teach in a public school setting, she is a consummate educator. Her students leave her classroom, with a sense of confidence, the ability to think for themselves, the ability to work with others, and an enthusiasm for education that seems to stay with them.

  • "As each child becomes old enough for the materials, Cathy provides him or her with a Magic Box, so-called because, she says, 'You can work magic with what's in this box and your imagination.' Crayons, markers, paper punches, glue sticks, - all become the child's own as he or she develops the ability to use all the materials. More than that, Cathy saves every child's Magic Box. My twelve year old daughter still finds her box sitting on the shelf whenever she goes to visit Cathy, and she always takes it down to look through it and may even create something if we visit there awhile."

  • "Cathy believes wholeheartedly in her program, and she does not waiver in her commitment to her day care children. They always come first."

  • "If I were a millionaire, I could not have provided my son with a better surrogate home nor a better early childhood education that Cathy has provided for him."

Jeanne Gottfried, 2016


“A consummate educator whose dedication to educating young children with the most complex and challenging needs is unmatched.”  For more than 36 years, Jeanne Gottfried has served as lead classroom teacher for The Education Cooperative’s Intensive Early Childhood Program, where parents transition their 3 year olds from Early Intervention Services to the special education system of the public schools.  The TEC collaborative of 15 school districts in Walpole, MA provides these services for students with significant developmental delays, neurological disorders, autism, vision, physical and health impairments, and communication disorders.


Jeanne’s educational philosophy reflects her conviction that despite their complex personal challenges, each of her students is capable of learning.  She devotes herself to identifying and nurturing previously undetected strengths and abilities using astute observation and data collection.  Then she weaves her comprehensive knowledge of cognition, language, motor skills, vision therapy, socialization and self-care into her daily classroom practice. Using creative and innovative instructional strategies, she provides a rigorous program with high, yet realistic expectations for each student. In her preschool through kindergarten classroom, Jeanne has monthly thematic units. Students are exposed to literacy, letters, colors, shapes, and numbers.


Jeanne’s instruction incorporates multisensory strategies. She uses technology such as the interactive white board, highly specialized communication apps on the iPad, eye gaze technology on the computer, all while integrating the hands-on objects which students need. Her students work both in small groups that promote exploration and discovery, and they receive individualized instruction.


For over 30 years, Jeanne’s classroom was located with public school buildings throughout throughout the TEC districts, and her students were included in many learning activities in the schools.  Now that TEC’s Intensive Programs are housed in the new Campus School Building, Jeanne provided a solution to providing authentic inclusion. Liz McGonagle, TEC Executive Director, comments, “ Every day the doors of the administrative wing burst open and a parade of students, many in wheelchairs and walkers, along with their nurses and aides, joyfully roll through in a delightful parade that moves from office to office.  Using their communication devices, students greet each person.  In the beginning, people sometimes felt uncomfortable because they didn’t know what to say to a disabled person, but Jeanne deftly modeled how to engage with each student.  Now we look forward to these visits; we know each child’s name; and what’s more important, we see the children’s abilities rather than their disabilities.” 

For the children, the parade provides another opportunity to be applauded and loved by the adults surrounding them.  At the same time, it addresses many of the students’ IEP goals: fine and gross motor skills and communication and social skills.


In the new setting, Jeanne has served as an integral member of the Playground Committee., offering her expertise in its design of setting and structures. This new playground has the potential to serve as a model for other intensive special needs programs. 


Jeanne mentors, supports, and coordinates her colleagues, aides, nurses, and therapists.  Just think of all the technologies she has learned and shared. And, she continues her own professional development. When she recognized that many of her students had visions impairments, she returned to school to get licensed as a teacher of the visually impaired.


Jeanne is valued by her colleagues as someone who listens deeply, sees others’ strengths and provides support without hesitation.  She models how to authentically engage, interact with,and embrace the beauty of these special children.  Serving as counselor and mentor to the parents of her students as they navigate the challenging job of raising a child with severe special needs, Jeanne has enormous impact on each student and his family.  She continues to bring fresh energy and commitment to her work.


Billy Harris, 2006

Billy Harris is a  Building Aide and Coach at the Pierce School in Brookline, MA. Dr. Pipier Smith-Mumford, Principal of Pierce School in Brookline, readily acknowledges that she seeks out Billy  when something is going on at school that she doesn’t quite understand.  She wants to get his take on things.  Billy joined the staff at Pierce in 1987 and serves as building aide and coach.  His work, however, goes far beyond that of his official titles.  Dr. Smith-Mumford explains that he truly is an assistant to the administration.  One hallmark of his role at Pierce is the important relationships he forms with students: whether running a safe and fun recess for all students in grades 1 through 8; serving as academic advisor to 7th and 8th graders; monitoring the building after school; supervising activities in the after school sports program; or coaching three sports teams, Billy is a source of support to a wide range of students, and both students and teachers of Pierce School feel fortunate to have Billy as a mentor and a colleague. 

Two of Billy’s nominators describe him as a legend among his peers on the elementary athletic scene in Brookline.  They write that “he pushes kids to develop to their maximum athletic abilities while creating a true sense of ‘team.”  Further, they highlight his ability and tireless efforts to help struggling children succeed and state that he demonstrates a tremendous commitment to the Pierce Community.  With a degree in psychology, Billy has transformed his role of aide over the past eighteen years; described as a talented diagnostician, he is Pierce’s honorary and unpaid social worker.  He has an extraordinary ability to connect with students that no one else is able to reach.  Given the numbers of students whom he has supported over eighteen years, Billy has made a positive impact on countless children. 

Kenneth Haynes, a 6th grade math and science teacher at Pierce, articulately writes that “Billy’s greatest impact… is rarely seen by most in the community.  This work is not on display during parent breakfasts or conferences, and it is not measured by standardized tests.  Instead this work takes place on the playground and, often… over the course of many hours outside in both bitter cold and snow… when few adults in the  school would honestly admit to want to be during the day…”  Billy is a consistent presence on the playground.  He has taken this unstructured time, a frequent source of problems for many schools, and turned it into a true community that fosters friendships and self-esteem.  Billy’s positive yet firm approach stresses kindness, respect, and inclusion among all students.  Billy’s efforts have made recess a true source of pride for Pierce School.

 The letters of support in Billy Harris’ nomination packet were strikingly similar in how they described him and his work.  First, more than one said he is a legend at the Pierce School!  The eyes and ears of Pierce, he is an available and important resource to both students and teachers.  He truly loves his work and the students and it is apparent that he is respected and loved in return.  In reading his colleagues’ endorsements, it is hard not to wish that every school would have someone like Billy Harris among its faculty. Aide and coach, but also teacher, special educator, mentor, tutor, volunteer, advisor, master of tough love,  Billy is the pulse and caretaker of Pierce School.

Barbara Hedges, 2006

Barbara Hedges is the school nurse at the John D. Runkle School in Brookline, MA.

Barbara’s introduction at the forum described her many accomplishments.No matter how inspiring a teacher or creative a lesson – no educator can effectively help a student to learn if that student isn’t feeling well…or worse, isn’t even in school.  In our school communities one person who we teachers, administrators and parents all count on to ensure that our school environments are safe and healthy, the one who can provide urgently needed care or respite, and the person a child can always turn to for help and compassion during difficult times -- is the school nurse – whose role in a school has vastly expanded and evolved over the course of recent years.

Her nominators for this award tell the story of someone who is plays a key role in her school community by embracing all areas of her work with thoroughness, professionalism, enthusiasm and a “wry humor”. David Summergrad, Principal of the Runkle School describes Barbara as, “unflappable, calm and constant. She approaches who goes her daily duties with a dignity and integrity that set the standard for all.”  He goes on to say the Barbara is,” unfailingly patient and extremely generous with her time and her knowledge base.”

It’s clear from their many words of praise that Barbara Hedges is someone who goes above and beyond her already demanding role.  Runkle parent, Donna Mathias says she is the heart of the school.  And she is a “role model of excellence in schools, caring deeply about students and colleagues, speaking fearlessly for justice and working extremely hard, according to her colleague, Phillip Katz.

Over her past 19 years working as a school nurse, Barbara Hedges has played a key role in leading school awareness of health and safety issues, and she has been, “at the forefront of emergency preparedness,” explains Emily Gaberman, Vice Principal.  Barbara has served on the school Crisis team since its establishment; the Runkle School Emergency Medical Response Team;  and the Brookline Emergency Preparedness committee.  All of this preparation came into play last fall when Runkle School experienced an outbreak of what is known as the cruise ship virus.  Barbara was the first responder to this crisis, according to her nominators, she managed the situation proactively,” never loosing her cool, and never loosing sight of the goal to protect the health and safety of the children and adults in the school community.”  She embraces her role as an educator, during this crisis and other instances, making sure everyone is fully informed.

 Barbara has written grants and gained funding to teach and develop programs including yoga and meditation for students.  She has been an active member of the Brookline Education Association as a building representative, as well as serving on the negotiations team and grievance team.  Her nominators say that she, “works collaboratively – seeking partnerships from all corners of the building community – while maintaining her own personal views and values when necessary.

This collaborative and dedicated spirit comes forth as her nominators tell the story of how Barbara embraces her role as a METCO mentor to one of the Runkle School 5th graders.  She has served as a board member of the Brookline/Quetzalquaqu sister city project and has traveled twice to Nicaragua to carry medical supplies, and hosted Nicaraguan delegates who came to visit Brookline.

Barbara's nominees also tell of someone who is deeply compassionate.  Brenda Stern explains that Barbara’s office, “is a refuge” and Geri Belle adds, that students, “feel at ease with Barbara” and that she has a great deal of insight into human nature.  Perhaps the most moving words in support for Barbara’s nomination came from the eleven year old son of nominator Donna Mathias, who when asked what were Ms. Hedges most important qualities, said “She’s caring, kind, and most of all she heals people”

Paula Henney, 2012

Paula Henney serves as Coordinator of Volunteer/Parent/Community Involvement at North Shore Senior High School, Galena Park ISD in

Houston, Texas.

Ann Jackson, a Goldin Foundation Advisory Board member introduced Paula at the Educators Forum. "As a teacher, think “PTA, Parent Teacher Association,” and you think of delicious lunches during Teacher Appreciation Week, yummy baked goods appearing magically on your desk at random times of the year, and sweet notes of appreciation arriving when most needed.  Well, at least that’s what elementary teachers think.  Ask a high school teacher about PTA, and you’ll likely hear, “Is that another new test we have to give? Or is that group that rips furs off people -- PETA?” As music or athletic boosters, parents are extremely involved in high school life; however this is less so in the academic arena. It’s not that parents of high schoolers aren’t interested in their children, their teachers, or their schools; they often don’t know how to help now that class parties aren’t allowed, or their children have so many teachers, or of embarrassment if their parents showed up in their classes, their children would die."

But at North Shore Senior High School, that typical scenario has changed.  Because of the energetic efforts of our next Goldin Foundation honoree, the Mustang Village on Castlegory has parents greeting students at the door in the morning, monitoring halls and the cafeteria, assisting in the library, participating as guest speakers in classes, tutoring after school, chaperoning student events, assisting in the office, and even assisting with the Faculty Birthday Club.  In three years, over 285 volunteers logged over 4,500 hours of service, all of them doing together what none of us can do alone: creating personal relationships with students.

How did this phenomenon come about?  Certainly wasn’t a state mandate! It was through the tireless, enthusiastic efforts of Mrs. Paula Henney, Coordinator of Volunteer/Parent/ Community Involvement at North Shore.  Mrs. Henney’s nominators repeatedly commented on her can-do attitude, her impeccable organizational skills, and her motivational skills. One example of her ability to motivate came from this year’s president of Project Graduation, another of Mrs. Henney’s duties. Parent Darolyn Lewis said that when the call came for nominations for officers, she found her hand in the air without her awareness. Before she had time to reconsider her involuntary volunteering, Mrs. Henney had her all but elected. But Ms. Lewis, along with the school staff who wrote glowing recommendations of Mrs. Henney, stated that Mrs. Henney’s genuine concern for students and volunteers was contagious.  Mrs. Henney makes you want to give up your morning coffee or your day off to encourage and mentor kids. Never wanting to take all the credit for her volunteer program or her fund-raising drives or even her open-door policy for students and adults to just chat, Mrs. Henney replies to all praise, “It takes a village!”

Paula isn’t satisfied with her current achievements, either.  She has hopes of seeing parent centers in Galena Park ISD, where parents can learn how to help their children become socially and academically successful in the community.  Her current training of school volunteers bodes well for her future endeavors.  Galena Park ISD and North Shore High School are blessed to have Mrs. Paula Henney as their volunteer trainer and liaison.

Philip Hernandez, 2006

Philip Hernandez is the Director of Middle School Programming for the Los Gatos/Saratoga Department of Community Education and Recreation which has a collaborative partnership with the Los Gatos Union School District in CA.  Over 150 students are currently registered in “Teens Reaching Leadership in The Zone” or as the program is known on the Raymond J. Fisher Middle School campus...“The Zone”

What exactly is “The Zone”?  The Zone is a place where students are given an opportunity to expand their horizons.  Nominator Mary Granger writes, “Phil has worked endless hours to create a program where students can learn life skills, build strong character, responsible behavior, and explore their creative talents through programs that encourage positive choices and self esteem.”  

It is a safe and accepted place for students to belong.  Members of The Zone are offered an array of activities both on and off campus in which they may participate.  A homework center with tutors operates daily, and enrichment classes such as Jazz Band, Japanese, Speech, Art Appreciation, and Model Race Cars are offered either before or after school. Students participate in sports, plan special activities, take weekly local trips, engage in community service, receive leadership training, and attend an annual Leadership Conference in San Francisco.  Phil is the driving force behind the creation of this exceptional program which stresses leadership, teamwork, and building positive self-esteem.  Julia, a graduate of The Zone who regularly comes back to visit and help with activities remarks, “Phil puts his heart and soul into The Zone”.

Philip Hernandez was raised in Santa Clara.  In 2001, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University at San Jose with a major in Communications and a double minor in Child Development and Child Development Administration.  A born leader, Phil was president of his class for all four years of college, and he once told his mother, “I’m going to work in education”.  

Phil has been employed in many different capacities before joining The Zone five years ago.  His résumé includes:  Program Leader for Project Harmony, a prevention program for children at risk in the Los Angeles School District, Executive/Public Relations Assistant at Arzoo.com, Director of Summer and After School Programming at Van Meter Elementary School in Los Gatos, and kindergarten teacher at Van Meter Elementary School.

Phil is committed to the growth of young people and has a strong belief in them.  He clearly remembers his own middle school years, and is keenly aware of the importance of having a positive, mature role model at this critical adolescent age.  Fisher Student Activities Director, Leadership teacher. and Student Council Advisor Keri Kensinger-McCormick comments, “I can honestly say with experience and knowledge that Philip is truly one of the finest educators in our community.  He leads by example, and he makes a very real and positive impact on kids’ lives.”

Vicki Gordon, a parent, adds, “It is my belief that there are a few significant/key people in each person’s life that leave lasting impressions on who they will become.  It is clear to me that as Dana grows up and looks back on these years, she will see Philip as someone who made a big difference in her life.”

Lynn Jameson, 2002

Lynn Jameson, the director of the Pine Hill School Extended Day Program In Sherborn, was honored by the Goldin Foundation for her work and foresight in developing an innovative extended day program which provides a family setting within the school. The Parents’ Handbook describes the curriculum as "developmentally appropriate with a continuum of activities that reflect children’s needs to learn through play, social interaction, exploration, and achievement in a noncompetitive and supportive environment." According to her nominators, it is Lynn’s commitment to the students and her leadership qualities that make the Pine Hill Extended Day Program such an exemplary model. 

Lynn was also cited for her ability to recruit and retain a talented staff who share her commitment to excellence. Paula Fraser, Barbara Koman, Bonnie Thiboudeau, and Sheila Urnstom have been with Lynn for a considerable number of years.   Together they provide services to over 150 children from 41 Sherborn families each week.  The extended day program is open before school hours, from 7:00 to 8:20 a.m. and from noon until 6:00 accommodating kindergartners, released day students, and children who remain at school after school hours.  

Lynn achieves her goals of fostering community, respect, responsibility and kindness through a creative series of daily, monthly, and yearly activities. Established traditions are also core to the curriculum.  Each year the students plan and prepare family get acquainted and end of the year dinner socials. Service with a Heart activities take many forms: school clean up days, preparation of soups or deserts for the Salvation Army, and the making of special surprises for Teacher Appreciation Day. Fifth year students celebrate their last year in elementary school with a candle light, holiday dinner at Lynn’s home; and the end of the year tradition for them is a gift of a hand made “Fuzzy” from Mrs. Jameson and a reading of “ The Legend of the Warm Fuzzy’.  “The Legend of the Warm Fuzzy”, tells the children that they will always have a friend, and the stuffed toy is a special keepsake that the children can treasure to remind them of Mrs. Jameson and all their friends at Extended Day.

Lynn spoke at the recent Educators Forum. She emphasized the increasing importance of the role played by extenuated day programs in our communities.  Several parents who wrote letters in Lynn’s behalf wrote of the peace of mind parents have when their children participate in the program at Pine Hill.  Because of the respect, care, and love their children have received, these parents, along with educators, enthusiastically endorsed Lynn’s nomination for a Goldin Foundation Excellence in Education award.  


Susan LeBlanc, 2011

Susan LeBlanc serves as Food Service Director at Barbers Hill ISD in Mont Belvieu, Texas.

We have heard it said many times that “Educators sow seeds.”  In the case of Susan LeBlanc, she literally sowed seeds.  Susan combined her passion for nutrition with her new-found interest in “going green” to plant seeds that went deep into the earth and into the hearts, stomachs, and minds of the students at Barbers Hill Primary.

While she has been the district Food Service Director for almost twenty years who could sit in her office and direct the programs for the school cafeterias, she has always been a visible face on the campuses – she has always gone the extra mile.  She is a hands-on director who supports the efforts of each school in the district through special touches and a willingness to get personally involved with not only those in food service, but with the principals, teachers, and students.

With young children, they often don’t make connections to things unless they experience them first-hand.  Many children don’t like vegetables – they have seen them, but they often won’t taste them.  This educator wanted the students to connect with their vegetables from seed to the table so she created an outdoor classroom where students built the garden, sowed the seeds, harvested, and ate!  The students were so excited to see plants grow.  A barren area was transformed into a verdant garden that was watched for small changes.  One of the seventeen second grade teachers involved had this to say of the project, “The students LOVED every minute of this awesome experience!!  Susan has taught the students gardening skills, introduced new vegetables, and discussed healthy eating.  She taught them about vitamins and minerals and what is gained from eating these vegetables.  She even gave them an opportunity to sample new vegetables that many of them had never even heard of before.”  The students have been with Susan every step of the way and they have acquired knowledge and skills for a lifetime.  Barbers Hill Primary was very excited to be the choice for this project that continues to expand on that campus.

MacArthur Graduation Project Team, Hinojosa Early Childhood Pre-Kindergarten Center, 2013

MacArthur Graduation Project Team, Hinojosa Early Childhood Pre-Kindergarten Center in Aldine, TX is represented by two lead teachers: Maria Gonzales, motor lab and science teacher, and Maricela Moreno, Pre-K bilingual teacher.

Advisory Board member Ann Jackson notes, “At  Hinojosa Early Childhood/Pre-K Center, a group of teachers, administrators, and support staff stepped back from the demands of teaching teeny folks about reading and adding, not to mention how to use the restroom independently, to look at the end goal. And they didn’t sit around the teachers’ lounge wondering, 'What in the world will happen when the kindergarten teachers get this crew!' or 'I just hope those kindergarten teachers see all the work we did we these kids!' Instead, they did what more of us should do. They planned a practical, fun, encouraging way to make that goal of producing mature adults visible to the youngest children we work with. Their plan includes activities that connect senior MacArthur High School students with Hinojosa Early Childhood/Pre-K students, making scholarships available to those seniors, engaging parents to foster a vision of the goal of education, and so much more.

I had the opportunity to visit Hinojosa, where I was given a guided tour of their work areas, including their current projects, and treated to a power point of all the activities of their committee. I left invigorated by their passion, their organizational skills, and their enthusiasm for their jobs and this project.”

Maria Gonzales and Maricela Moreno represent the hard work of the entire committee. Each of them is a MacArthur High School graduate who has returned to the district with a vision of seeing children achieve all that they have achieved and more. Maria, a wife and mother of three children, has been at Hinojosa her entire career; over those years.  She has taught ESL, inclusion, self-contained special education, in addition to her present duties. In less than a week she will receive a graduate degree in curriculum and instruction. Maricela has also been at Hinojosa all her years of teaching and is a graduate of Sam Houston University.

Lowell Mazie, 2012


Lowell Mazie is founder and  Executive Director of the John Andrew Mazie Memorial Foundation Mentoring Program at Framingham High School in Framingham, MA. The Mazie Foundation, which began in 1998,  has served over 460 students.


Lowell is a visionary who directly impacts both students and adults and the broader community.

At large high schools, it is easy for some of the students who are at risk due to poor home situations or other social factors to slip through the cracks.  The Mazie Mentoring Program takes these students, who are identified by schools staff as being at-risk of not realizing their full potential in school and beyond, and it helps each student create a lasting relationship with an adult from his or her community.  These mentors help their mentees learn to set and achieve goals, build their self-confidence, make positive changes in their lives at school and outside of school, improve their academic grades, engage in community service, and pursue college or another post-secondary opportunity. The investment in quality time and care for these students over a three year period makes a huge impact and results in growth in maturity, responsibility, and academic achievement. 

Each year the foundation gives forty students from Framingham High concrete realistic goals grounded in supportive relationships with mentors from the community. The foundation supports a full time program director as well a part-time licensed social worker.  In 2010, a second mentoring program was replicated at Waltham High School.

Many of the students’ parents are first generation immigrants, who are unable to help their children succeed in the American educational system or navigate the college application process.  This is where the mentors’ knowledge and commitment becomes invaluable.  One mentee stated, “I have learned from my mentor and this program that life is made of opportunities and you need to go after them.”  And who are these mentors, who commit to meet at least eight hours each month with their mentees? ….and that doesn’t count the phone, e-mails, and texting they do in order to ensure continuous communication. They are recruited from area businesses, community organizations, and through the media.  They attend orientation and training sessions and are given information regarding local low-cost activities, job and career exploration opportunities for their students, and community forums, activities, and service for immigrants and their families.   And, they, too, along with school staffers, receive recognition from the foundation and community.

Lowell continues to dream and inspire. He has a personal daily mission to keep the program alive and growing. In fact, many of the relationships between mentors and mentees thrive long after the students graduate from high school.

Just a few of the student nominators’ comments say it all.

The Mazie Program truly changed my life. Thank you for the opportunities the program offered. The community service projects were super, the award ceremonies were amazing, and the memories are irreplaceable. I absolutely loved everything about the program – thanks to you.  You’re an amazing person, Mr. Mazie – don’t change.

I know that it meant a lot to all of us having someone who so obviously cared for us and our futures.  Without your support and motivation, many of us would not be where we see ourselves today - college bound!

Today I got into American International College, and I will be the first in my family to go to college.  My family is very proud of my accomplishment, and I could not have done it without Pam, my mentor, and the positive influence of the Mazie Foundation.

The entire mentoring process and commitment from the school/community/foundation partnership is amazing.  There is a huge ripple effect brought about by helping children at-risk becoming children of promise, who then lead future generations become productive members of their communities.

Audrey Michaelson-Newman, 2000


As Director of Children First, which is an arm of the Natick Public Schools, Audrey Michaelson-Newman has made an impact on students, parents, and members of the community.  Stuart Peskin, Principal of Bennet-Hemenway School, states,” Audrey raises the whole level of daycare services in Natick. I really can’t speak highly enough of her for what she’s done.”


Children First Natick was created by Audrey through a Community Partnership Grant  from the MA Department of Education provide preschool experiences for children while parent seek gainful employment. Audrey has done so much more the program inception in 1966. She not only uses to grant funds to supplement daycare costs for eligible Natick families; she carefully allots the funds to provide an array of benefits, some of which include: introduction of family outreach and support programs for families of children birth to age 3; family Literacy program with the Morse institute Library; parenting workshops; numerous community events focused on families and children; bookmobile visits to preschools and daycare facilities; and publication of a Resource Directory for Parents.


Audrey is a hands-on director. No matter what the situation may be, Audrey is immediately available to offer support, insight, or strategies. Her office hours include nights and weekend to accommodate anyone’s schedule. A typical day may find Audrey visiting a parent at a private home to assist with parenting skills, bringing curriculum materials to a home-based provider so that children have opportunities for enrichment, and reading a book to children at a center based program. These activities complement the tasks of supervision, training, and administration.


A community activist, Audrey is a key member of the Joining hands for Peace council where respect, caring, and peace are taught to children and families through many projects.  She realizes the needs and the Food Pantry and Natick Service Council and has suggested a fund be set up to help send eligible children to camp in the summer.  At the Annual Spring Fair Audrey enlists the help of the police department to provide child safety seat checks.


Audrey’s nominators characterize her as a “guardian angel” to parents and children.  Her energy, creativity, inspiration, and diligence have contributed to her mission for “Children First.”

Susie Morales, 2011

Susie has served as a preschool teacher at the Moreland Child Development Center, Moreland School District in San Jose, CA  since the program opened in 2005. Her main responsibility is curriculum development for three-year old preschoolers, which includes creative planning, facilitating, and implementing a cohesive preschool curriculum that encourages cognitive, social, physical, and emotional growth in the children.

For the students in Susie’s classes, each day begins with a hello, smile, and hug.  And each day, her students are encouraged to think and act creatively via the many higher level thinking and problem solving skills that Susie designs. There is abundant fun, imagination, exploration, creativity, and learning in her classroom as children listen and discuss stories, do puzzles, plant gardens, engage in numerous different art projects, and learn about classroom pets from fish to crabs to lizards. As children play, they learn to cooperate and make sense of their world.

Susie also serves as the Center’s enrichment coordinator, and she is responsible for facilitating all of the organized recess activities that help the children in their social and emotional growth, as well as in their fine and gross motor skills development.  In addition, she is responsible for developing four six-week themed sessions of enrichment classes for the Jr. Kindergarten students.  Content taught has included music, movement, cooking, and science.

Susie is responsible for the holiday and year-end musical performances; in this regard, she writes and teaches all the songs to the preschool and Jr. Kindergarten students. As the Center’s mentor teacher, she assists the site director in program planning, development, and marketing.

Bob Lowry, a Goldin Foundation Advisory Board member, comments about his visit to Susie’s preschool class. “I would like to describe what her students did in just the first thirty minutes I observed: discussion of what was on Mr. Q, a discussion of dinosaurs being extinct, listening to a story read by Susie about a dinosaur, with a preliminary review of what the front of the book is called (cover), as well as the side of the book (spine). Then students dug for ancient fossil eggs in the sandbox (during which time each student was able to find an egg, with, no less, a dinosaur inside); and then they poured baking soda and red-dyed vinegar into each student-made volcano and watched the volcano erupt, spewing red lava -  in certain cases some students’ dinosaurs that had just been found in the fossilized egg got caught in the lava flow, therefore dying and becoming extinct.  Oh, and by the way, if you were not able to discern, it just happened to be ‘Dinosaur Week’ in Susie’s class!  And because of her well-planned curriculum, I was struck by the extent of the students’ quality time-on-task.”

Susie’s colleagues state that she is amazing and a natural when it comes to teaching young children. “She understands them and their needs and will do anything to make sure that their first introduction to school is positive and memorable.” “Her students are beyond lucky to have been influenced by her happy, energetic spirit and her cheerful love of teaching. “ “She is always available for consultation, and we, her colleagues, value her input and suggestions.

Andrea Paine, 2001


Andi Paine is a full time teaching assistant at the Loker Elementary School in Wayland, MA. She is nominated for her continuous role in “helping to create an environment which is conducive to learning, while, at the same time, respectful of the diverse range of abilities and talents that is found among the students, staff, and visitors to this school.”


Andi ‘s versatility make her a valuable resource.  Superintendent Gary Burton notes, “She has the rare ability to change a situation from unfriendly to pleasant, troublesome to trusting. Her credibility with parents and other staff is often a determining actor in finding a resolution to a pending problem. Andi is called upon to mentor new staff members and explain the unique culture of the Loker School. She often assumes the responsibilities of an after school club advisor.  She has volunteered to serve on selection committees for a building principal, Director of Student Services, and School Superintendent. She easily steps in and performs the duties of a certified teacher or administrator on a moment’s notice.”


Andi’s work at many grade levels has made her an asset to classroom teachers.  She makes use of the teaching materials so that she can make a positive contribution;  she quickly sees which student need additional support and she responds appropriately; her suggestions are on target; and she has become adept at using questioning strategies to frame children’s thinking  and to lead them into doing the best work they can.


 Principal Mary Sterling states, “What makes Andi such a special educator is her curiosity and respect for children.  She has a knack for tuning into them and their learning and relationships with each other. If a child seems sad or unengaged, Andi will sense what is needed and make a quiet effort to reach that child.  If a child gets involved in a piece of work that is important to him or her, she will find a way to support that work by creating extra time or space or finding materials to enhance the work. If a child is being unkind to other children, she will set a clear limit for the sake of the others and yet search for understanding with the misbehaving child about the source of the behavior.  Those children at Loker who are fortunate to work with Andi know they are respected, challenged, and supported.”

Peggy Richey, 2006

Peggy Richey serves as a Parent Volunteer at San Jacinto Elementary School in Liberty ISD, Liberty, Texas.

 Mrs. Richey has a long history of service to the Liberty community as well as the Liberty Schools.   She has been the driving force in creating an outreach program at San Jacinto Elementary School (SJE) that provides for important tangible and intangibles needs for SJE children and families.  This program has acquired the name “Friends in Deed”.

 In addition, in 2005 Mrs. Richey began another program at SJE, which is called MARCH, “Mentors as Reading and Citizenship Helpers”. In this program, Liberty Middle School (LMS) band and choir students work with kindergarten and first grade students on developing reading skills as well as serving as  a mentor to them. Likewise Mrs. Richey has recruited community volunteers to work beside the LMS students to serve as mentor to them as well as the kindergarten and first grade students.

 Here are some of the remarks Mrs. Richey’s nominators said about her. “Her heart is for those who struggle academically and socially, and her passion is for every child to know that someone cares for them and believes in them. “She is one of the most sincere, uplifting, and selfless person I have ever known.” “She has been such a blessing to our school and community. Her ability to motivate and encourage children with her kind voice and artistic talents is truly a gift that has blessed us all.”


Isabel Salaiz, 2005

Isabel Salaiz is School Secretary at the Crosby Kindergarten School in the Crosby Independent School District, Crosby, Texas. She was born in Deming, New Mexico. Her parents emigrated from northern Mexico and spoke only Spanish. At age six, she began to learn English. It is because of her first grade teacher, Mrs. Thompson, that Isabel mastered the English language.

In early 1989, Isabel became a volunteer at Crosby Elementary School and later that year she took a permanent Special Education position. The job was specific to the needs of a six-year old girl with Downs Syndrome who spoke no English. In 1991, when the student moved back to Mexico, Isabel returned to the workroom as an Instructional Aide for the Second Grade team at Barrett Elementary.

Until 1998, Isabel worked with second graders and tutored many students in the basics of the English language. She knew what it was like not to speak the language and made it her responsibility to assist the students in becoming proficient. Isabel’s bilingual skills helped her help others by translating documents for the faculty and for parents as part of her multiple responsibilities at Barrett.

In 1999, Isabel accepted a position as Attendance Clerk for Crosby Kindergarten. Her experience and professionalism lead to her promotion in 2002 to the position of Secretary to the Principal of Crosby Kindergarten. As the Principal’s secretary, she has helped make the school run smoothly with her skills as a translator, interpreter, and educator. She creates an environment that emanates security, strength, happiness, and motivation. These traits are highly appreciated by all students and staff.

Roy Sallen, 2007


Roy Sallen, ESL Teacher in the Wayland Public Schools, Wayland, MA,  is a teacher extraordinaire of English Language Learners.  At a time when many people enter teaching as mid-career changers, Roy has done something a little bit different.  Roy came to teaching not from the middle of another career, but rather after retiring from one!

Roy was an electrical engineer for many years.  During that time he met and worked with people from many countries.  Often he helped them with English and with understanding our culture.  His warm and welcoming nature led him to befriend and work with his international colleagues; his newfound interest in linguistics and language acquisition led to his career choice after he retired from his first career! 

After Roy retired, he passed up a life of leisure to get his Master’s Degree from The University of Massachusetts in the Teaching of English as a Second Language.  Roy became a volunteer tutor for various community organizations and found that he loved teaching and interacting with people from many countries, cultures and walks of life. 

Roy came to the Wayland Public Schools in 1996 as the tutor of the district’s first ESL student.  As middle and high school students came to Wayland from Thailand, Russia, Japan, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Israel, Peru, Saudi Arabia and Mexico, Roy built relationships with them.  He was their introduction to their school world, and the wider culture.  Roy moved comfortably and skillfully among their varied traditions, levels of academic preparations and expectations for their new environment.  He individualized their instruction and worked with their teachers and guidance counselors to help them be successful.

Last year after Wayland participated in the Massachusetts Department of Education Coordinated Program Review, Roy was told he needed formal certification from the state as an ELL teacher.  He took (and passed!) the communications and literacy test, the ELL subject test, and the mathematics test!  He undertook that challenge to be sure that he was doing the best possible job for his students.

This year Roy is tutoring students in elementary school in addition to those in middle and high school.  This extraordinary teacher regularly designs and implements creative and age appropriate lessons for students from kindergarten to senior year in high school.  From numbers and colors one day to exam preparation at high school the next, Roy stays connected with his students and meets their individual needs. 

Over the years Roy has changed the lives of his students and their families with his wisdom, expertise, caring and commitment.  Roy is an inspiration for all!

Robyn Shalinsky, 2013


Robyn Shalinsky is a parent volunteer who serves children in the Mountain View Whisman school community in Mountain View, CA. She is a visionary, take-charge community activist who created a truly innovative program that makes a difference in the lives of children, teens, and adults.  She is a parent in the Castro Elementary School community, which has a Spanish/English Dual Immersion Program. The school also has a “Neighborhood English Program, where every student is learning English and few parents speak English. Four years ago, Robyn saw a huge gap between the English speakers and learners at the school, came up an idea, ran it by her school administration, got an OK, and implemented it by herself.

In a nutshell……Kids Read is a volunteer program that meets every Sunday at Mountain View Public Library. High school and middle school students are read books with kindergarten, first and second graders.  It is a win-win program for all that involves no grants and no cost to participate. Robyn got the cooperation of community partners to provide space, materials, and volunteers. 

Young children have a chance to practice their reading, be complimented on their progress, and they are encouraged to read more and improve their skills.  Children receive a book each time they come.  Robyn pursues book donations from friends, churches, and garage sales. Karin Bricker, Supervising Librarian of Youth Services and Outreach comments, “Children start arriving even before the program starts.  Many of them dress up for this very special time.  We overhear middle school students talking to the younger ones asking them about themselves and what they would like to read.  Animals, superheroes, and TV characters are all very popular, but the diversity of books grows as children become more familiar with the library collection.  It is a wonderful sight to see the pairs of students find books in the Children’s Room and then sit down to read on chairs, on the floor, everywhere.  You can see them focused intently on each other and on the book they are reading together.”

Student volunteers benefit too.  Robyn recruits them from local schools using community service requirements as an incentive.  They feel valued as mentors while they make a contribution to their community. They learn about commitment and following through with a project.

Parents have the responsibility to get to their children to the library.  They stay in the library while their children are reading and become familiar with the many resources. Typically parents and children walk out with stacks of books and media.

The library offers space and other support.  Bookmarks that advertise the program, which Robyn created, are in a very visible location on the Children’s Reference Desk.

This impactful program continues throughout the summer so children are less likely to lose their reading skills.  Robyn encourages both levels of students to continue.  Older students help the younger ones record books online, rate the books they read, and write reviews to share with others.

Kids Read has grown and now every child from every public school in the district can participate.  The model can easily be replicated in other communities by a few dedicated volunteers.

Robyn has long been a volunteer.  A pharmacist, she started the first community program in San Jose to take back unused pharmaceuticals for proper disposal to protect the water system.  She has led volunteer groups for mural projects at several community centers and homeless shelters; she has been a reading tutor for the Jewish Coalition for Literacy; and she has organized a community service day for 100 volunteers at Peninsula Sinai Congregation.


TEC CAREER & Instructional Team, 2001
Linda Curtis, Fran Peters, Judie Strauss, Kathy McDonough, Joanne Billo, Jane Davidson, Elaine Sisler, and Ellen Sherman and former coordinators Margie Glou, Lauren Kracoff, Nina Greenwald, Peggy Cahill, and Deborah Boisvert

The Career & Instructional Coordinators Team at The Education Cooperative (TEC) are caring, committed and dedicated professionals who:

  • empower youth

  •  implement creative and enduring programs

  • take initiative

  • never say "no"

  • respond to needs and interests of a broad constituency

These phrases have been mentioned by the many students and teachers, administrators, industry and college groups who have had interactions with this mature, yet "young" and energetic team of Career and Instructional Coordinators at The Education Cooperative (TEC).

The team at TEC consists of a group of dynamic women who work part time: Linda Curtis, Fran Peters, Judie Strauss, Kathy McDonough, Joanne Billo, Jane Davidson, Elaine Sisler, and Ellen Sherman and former coordinators Margie Glou, Lauren Kracoff, Nina Greenwald, Peggy Cahill, and Deborah Boisvert. Since the 1970's, they have been directly involved in regional programming that complements curriculum and instruction, enrichment, and career exploration of the fourteen member school systems. The coordinators take their cues from the many job-alike groups that TEC facilitates and also from individual school systems and teachers. It is a difficult task to provide regional services to a group of high performing school systems that at times can be very autonomous, and the team handles the many requests and services with sensitivity, responsibility, and flexibility.

Each member of the team juggles a variety of roles. For example, Fran Peters handles the Extended internship Program, the Spotlight Program with Bentley, and World Class; and she assists in the coordination of the TEC Career Education Liaisons job-alike group. Judie Strauss coordinates the Bridges to Employment program for special needs students, ages 16-22, internships, and Career Connections for teachers. Each coordinator has her own style and flair for doing things. Each is a self-starter who attends to details as well as to the regional vision and oversight of the program. As a team, they model what they talk about to students. Together they problem solve, work in groups, and assist the Director in creating and implementing programs that could not be carried out by individual schools.

The team is being cited for innovative programs that since their inception have been received enthusiastically by students, teachers, parents and the community. The true measure of their success has been replication of many of the programs in individual TEC schools as well as schools in other cities and states. Each initiative is thoroughly researched, piloted, and then implemented regionally. On a yearly basis, each program is evaluated and fine tuned with an unusual extended growth rate of participation and continued development .

Impact on students is considerable. The experiences in career exploration, hands-on activities, and high level enrichment give students K-12 advanced content, choices for exploring interests and talents, skills in applied learning, and informed decision making about potential college majors and careers.

Some highlights:
The TEC Internship Program, which started in 1979 with a pilot group of fifteen high school students is now serving two hundred fifty juniors and seniors who are engaged in sixty hour internships that have been individually matched and placed. Originally the thought of an hands-on internship experience for high school students seemed remote as this was an opportunity reserved for college students. The program longevity speaks to the careful TEC program design and implementation. The program, in fact, has had several permutations : a summer internship for students who don't have time during the school year, an Extended Internship , 8-10 hours a week apprenticeship, for students who need an alternative experience and are trained by industry, and a new Post Secondary Internship Program for students who graduate and need more time to consider options for college or working.

The TEC Talents Unlimited Program started with professional development in the area of Gifted and Talented and TEC "Challenges" of problem solving events for elementary students in 1979. Since then, the coordinators have shown creative leadership in providing numerous opportunities for talented youngsters in all areas when programs were cut from individual schools. They led in the development of after school enrichment programs with the Explore model, which was adopted by many local school systems. They are now orchestrating school vacation programs, master classes in the visual and performing arts for high school and middle school students; and artists-in residencies that are designed for specific schools that focus on integration of the arts and curriculum.

Most importantly, the Career and Instructional Coordinators are committed to the goal of realizing the individual potential of all students. They have been and continue to be compassionate counselors and mentors to thousands of young people. Fran, Judie, Linda, Kathy, Joanne, Elaine, Ellen, Jane and their former colleagues Margie, Deborah, Nina, Peggy, and Lauren - each individual is stellar. Together, they form a bright and shining constellation.


Debbie Watters, Margaret Rodero, and Steve Tedeschi, 1997


Needham’s award winning Elementary Interactive Spanish Program in owes its success to many individuals and largely to the dedication and talents of Debbie Watters, Margaret Rodero, its teachers, and Steve Tedeschi, its technical director. More than 750 students are learning Spanish in an innovative and cost-effective program that combines distance learning and classroom teaching.


The program is telecast live every week into various grade level classrooms and is then rebroadcast twice a week and during the summer on Needham’s cable TV for community viewing.  According to Linda Conneely, Director of Media Services, “The program is successful because of the individual talents and collaborative teamwork of Debbie, Margaret,  and Steve. They produce eight 15-minute programs weekly.  Through Steve’s tutelage, Margaret and Debbie manage most technical tasks while on the air.  I liken their new skill set to learning how to drive a standard shift car while driving on the wrong side of the road in a non-English speaking country.  While presenting their lessons in Spanish, they are also running the controls that switch the TV shots between two cameras, a copy stand, and a computer.  They are lining up their own graphics on the copy stand and simultaneously listening to the responses from multiple classrooms. Steve continues to support the program both in the studio and is out in the field, troubleshooting audio/visual transmission with Continental Cablevision.”


The team has involved classroom teachers, students, and senior citizens. Debbie and Margaret have conducted many staff development workshops for the grade level teachers to introduce them to the program a, to teach them some Spanish, and solicit their support.  Marcel Lavergne, Director of World Languages, comments,” As a result, many teachers have become enthusiastic supporters of the program and are incorporating Spanish into their curriculum as they gain more confidence.  In fact, no other program has had such a strong impact on the elementary school curriculum.”  Curriculum integration has become very natural. Programs have been done in conjunction with the Science Center, with music teachers, on health and safety issues, and has impacted the Social Studies curriculum.

Students from the high school and middle school have become involved by visiting the elementary classes, by designing posters for the closing credits, and by mass producing visuals for the individual classrooms.  Senior citizens from the community serve as technical volunteers in the TV studios by working the cameras.


The team has shared the success of the program with over forty MA school districts by providing on-site visits that demonstrate all instructional aspects.  Debbie and Margaret have also presented the program at local and national World language conferences.


Debbie, Margaret, and Steve have created a team that works hard within the district and readily shares its results with the greater educational community. “Their work is a model for educators of the new century,” notes Linda Conneely.



Westwood High School Governance System, 1995

At the recent Annual Goldin Foundation Educators Forum, the Westwood High School Governance Group was recognized for "Excellence in Education." One of six award recipients, the group, represented by student Karen Lepri, co-chair of the Judicial Council, and Thomas J. Brown, teacher and one of the organizers, shared the project, experiences, and insights with other teachers, administrators, parents, students, and members of local communities.

This year, for the first time, the Goldin Foundation honored a group of people who have worked in the spirit of cooperation to create a system which positively impacts all members of a school. The award is actually going to the entire Westwood High School community, to all the participant, past and present, who made and continue to make Governance at Westwood High a reality and model of excellence in education. History of the Governance model goes back a few years, to a time when democracy was breaking out in Eastern Europe, in the former Soviet Union... and in Westwood High School. While Westwood did not make the headlines or receive the press of other new democracies, a significant change occurred for the members of the Westwood High School community.

Governance came to be through an impressive collaboration between hardworking and dedicated students and teachers who saw the promise of a school running under a government structure much like the U.S. government, where the participants learn about democracy by practicing democracy. They were guided by a consultant on Democratic Schools, and they had an administration which was willing to share power in order to benefit the common good. Over eighteen months, the "founding fathers and mothers" created a Bill of Rights and a Constitution, which were rigorously and, as one would expect with any proposal that calls for dramatic change, hotly debated. Both the Bill of Rights and Constitution were voted upon and passed, resulting in a Governance structure which consists of a Judicial Council, Legislative Council and Executive Branch.

The Judicial Council consists of eleven members, six, students, and five faculty members. Every community member has the right to due process and the Judicial Council provides a forum through which to be heard.

Governance is now in its third year of operation. If one were to witness a Legislative Council today, one would see thirty-two members - 4 students from each grade, 12 faculty members, 23 parents, and 2 support staff members - discussing issues brought forth by any member of the community. The Legislative Council has entertained proposals on academic integrity, the formation of a student lounge, the wearing of hats in classrooms, and on matters of respecting diversity. The latter issue became the focus of two community meetings during the 1993-94 school year and resulted in the creation of a day and a half orientation program at the opening of the school year. The issues discussed through these meetings have become the central mission for the Legislative Council, which is how to promote the idea of community.

What is at Westwood High School is a fledgling and fragile democracy. As with all new democracies around the world, this democracy has had its growing pains, its proponents and opponents.. However, it continues to be an exciting experiment in democracy, giving all members of the community a voice. For the students in particular, Governance creates a greater sense of ownership toward their school and carries a long term impact for active citizenry.