Naugatuck teachers honored at CAS banquet


Three Naugatuck teachers were honored Nov. 22 at the 17th annual Connecticut Elementary Schools Program Recognition Banquet held at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington.

This event is a celebration of Connecticut elementary schools’ success and featured Geoff Fox, weather center director for Action News 8, as the master of ceremonies. Dr. Marion Martinez, associate commissioner of the Division of Teaching, Learning, and Instructional Leadership for the Connecticut State Department of Education, was the guest speaker for the event.

Dr. Martinez acknowledged the uniqueness of the exemplary programs and praised the dedication and commitment of the staffs being honored.

“It’s important to shine a light on these educators who have challenged themselves and their students with engaging and creative programs,” Martinez said.

The banquet with over 400 in attendance was made possible by the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) and the generosity of Horace Mann Insurance.

In October, auditions were held for third- and fourth-grade students who wanted to have a speaking part in the Disney’s The Jungle Book kids play. Other third- or fourth-graders who wanted to were given parts in the chorus. Students met two times per week after school to work on the play under the skillful direction of Ms. Stephanie Colella.

They also worked on the choreography, coordinated by two volunteers from a community dance studio. Several parents were involved in making costumes, sets, and scenery. These parents earned hours towards the school’s Three for Me Volunteer Program while simultaneously showing the children how to pitch in for the school community and work together.

Many teachers and staff worked on various areas of the play such as scenery, music practice, and fundraising. They held a pasta supper, attended by many families and community members, to raise funds for the production. Their district music coordinator helped as well, by setting up the microphones, speakers, and sound board.

Gina Allison, a professional clown in the community (as well as mom to a former CAS student), volunteered to come in and do face paintings for our cast of characters on opening night. Overall, over 70 students, teachers, parents, and community members joined together to create an amazing experience for their students.

In May 2009, Nancy Sasso Janis joined a juice pouch brigade with an innovative company in New Jersey called TerraCycle. Students began collecting empty juice pouches in the cafeteria instead of throwing them away, destined for a landfill.

Mrs. Janis slits the bottoms of the pouches open, rinses them, and dries them on a clothesline. Then she sorts, counts, packs, and ships them to TerraCycle in a postage-paid box. The pouches are then upcycled into products such as tote bags, backpacks, lunchboxes and pencil pouches.

The school receives two cents for every pouch we ship to them. Last year they collected over 20,000 pouches and received over $350. Funds were used to purchase mostly recycled copy paper which was distributed to teachers. To date, students have collected over 36,000 pouches and they have joined three additional brigades, now also collecting Lunchables trays, gum packages and chip bags.

Maple Hill School has recently been named one of the top 100 juice pouch brigades in the country out of over 47,000 participating locations. Mrs. Janis appreciates that they are teaching their students the value of upcycling and raising needed funds at the same time. She thanks the students, teachers and staff who have enthusiastically supported this program.

At Salem School they are Revving Up Reading. They are excited to offer Literacy Nights that involve the whole school community. They recognize that involving families on one’s school can strengthen learning and communication among the family.

Students and families actively partake in after-school programs that help parents develop skills that support education in the home and inevitably help them feel more confident as a leader and teacher in their own family. Gina Kotsaftis presents workshops for parents providing them with resources and strategies to support their child’s reading development.

A key to the success of Salem’s annual literacy nights is the students’ sharing their learning with their families with a performance. The recitation of poetry, acting out skits, singing literacy songs, and playing games, all of which have been practiced at home and in the classroom, play a crucial role in these evenings.

Most importantly, the topic of all literacy nights is based on the input of the parents. Considering data collected the previous year, parents’ responses are tallied and the most popular topics are used as springboards for discussion with parents during the literacy events. Children leave excited, with a complimentary book in one hand, and their parents’ hand in the other.