Department of Youth Services Guiding Principles awards for November

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Article Author: Martha Maloney
Publication Name: Collaborative for Educational Services
Article Date: January 21, 2022
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The Collaborative for Educational Services is pleased to announce the November winners of our regional Excellence in Education:  Living our Guiding Principles Award!  We continue to honor those educators across the DYS workforce who embody one or more of the Guiding Principles including: College, Career, and Civic Readiness; Culture and Purpose; and Social Justice and Equity, central to the organization’s mission to improve the academic and life outcomes for the youth they serve.

Central Region:  Lead Education and Career Counselor, Jennifer Graves

Jennifer Graves, an Education and Career Counselor in the Department of Youth Service, is the recipient of the Central Region’s Excellence in Education: Living our Guiding Principles Award for the month of November 2021.  Jenn’s nominations highlighted her contributions to College, Career, and Civic Readiness.  “Jenn is a crucial component to the success of DYS youth in the Central Region.  She is continually focusing on their self-identified education and vocational goals and excels in creating plans for them to achieve these goals.  She has helped numerous young people successfully graduate from High School, enroll in college courses and achieve vocational certificates.  In doing so, she has enabled the young people of the Central Region to be able to achieve their goals and provide them the opportunity for career advancement.  Without Jenn, the young people of the Central Region surely would not be achieving the success that they have to date.”

Western Region:  Teaching Coordinator, RISE Program, Jessica Brueshaber

The November winner of the Western Region Excellence in Education-Living our Guiding Principles award for the month of November, Jessica Brueshaber, TC at Gandara RISE Treatment in Springfield. Jessica was nominated by both fellow teachers and her students for her work around the principle of Culture and Purpose as well as the Social Justice and Equity principle.

As a fellow teacher said “Periodically providing coverage at Jessica’s program, I consistently found the youth having opportunities to contribute and develop their whole selves with myself and other educators. This is evident due to Jessica’s authenticity and her ability to lead with humility connecting with others in a genuine way. Seeing the youth at her program with the willingness to engage in dialogue, in itself, validates Jessica and her team’s compassion for the youth to seek, expand, and embrace their growth mindset. Jessica’s leadership and instruction connects students to a wider classroom learning community allowing the youth to knowingly reflect on their personal, social, and cultural identities.”

One of her students also shared the following: “Jess is always honest with me, has fun lessons and makes me feel learning is important.”

Metro Region:  Judge Connelly Youth Center, Diana Klimas, Teacher

Metro’s Excellence in Education – Living Our Guiding Principles award winner for November is Diana Klimas, Science and Horticulture teacher at Judge Connelly Youth Center. Diana, who is in her second year of teaching at JCYC, has been nominated for this award by three of her peers, who shared that, “Diana is not only an excellent teacher, but a natural leader… She has students work on wonderful hands-on experiences and has helped organize our first school pet.” and, “She does a great job with kinesthetic activities, engaging the students, and developing strong relationships with the students. Furthermore, she always is willing to help out her colleagues and the TC’s when asked,” and “Every time I join Diana’s class …I leave energized and more excited about the different possibilities for engaging students in the classroom.”

Northeast Region:  Kennedy School Teacher, Rhonda Fears

Rhonda Fears, Teacher at Kennedy School, is the recipient of the Excellence in Education: Living our Guiding Principles Award for the Northeast for the month of November.  Rhonda’s nomination by colleague, Carolann Tebbetts, highlighted her contributions to College, Career and Civic Readiness as well as Culture and Purpose. 

Tebbetts noted that “This month Rhonda has taken full advantage of the current Break Free Ed. Challenge.  Her students in RFK are creating architectural models that demonstrate truly amazing planning and creative construction techniques.  The students are fully engaged and learning a host of transferable 21st-century skills as well as improving fine motor and creative skills.  In addition to this Rhonda is outstanding in her sense of Culture and Purpose.  She is unfailingly compassionate and positive.  Her willingness to get involved in cross-curricular programming with peers and her ability to tailor instruction to her students’ learning styles is exceptional.  I feel strongly that her contributions to the NE RFK classrooms deserve recognition.”

Congratulations Rhonda!  Thank you for embracing and embodying our guiding principles where “youth benefit from inquiry-based, authentic, hands-on, and relevant learning experiences that enable them to develop and apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills, propelling them to explore and transfer knowledge to real-world contexts.”

Southeast:  Special Education Teacher, Marianne Pina

Southeast Secure Treatment’s Marianne Pina is the November recipient of the Living our Guiding Principles Awards. Marianne was nominated by both her Teaching Coordinator Dana Buckner as well as Teacher Robert McKnight. Dana had this to say about Marianne in the principle of Culture & Purpose.

When working with Marianne, she is always conscious of reaching our diverse group of students. For example, for high-interest reading and lessons to promote diversity, she suggested the book: The Greatest: Muhammad Ali. The students were really engaged and appreciated learning about a sports figure who was of their own ethnicity. Marianne not only strives to challenge students to achieve their best, she also helps teachers to consider bettering their teaching methodology by using strategies such as vocabulary building activities and word walls. Marianne is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to incentivizing our daily classes so that students will buy into their learning. She generates educational games i.e. Concentration, using terms and vocabulary from our readings, students must match each one from 30 of them on the board. For every holiday, Marianne goes out of her way to decorate the unit with her own unique crafts i.e. There is always an outline of a large tree on the walls whose leaves literally change with the seasons and holidays!”

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