Henry Defer Intermediate School fourth-grade teacher Linda Valenti was honored as "Educator of the Year" April 11 at the 26th annual Staff Appreciation Ceremony at Streetsboro High School.
Also honored at the event were "Educational Support Person of the Year" Jill Fowley, who serves as the district's library media specialist, and Streetsboro High School Custodian Sean Speck, who received the "Support Person of the Year" award. The district also awarded "Friends of Education"awards to the Streetsboro Alumni Association and Streetsboro American Legion Post No. 685.
The nomination process for the "Educator of the Year," "Educational Support Person of the Year" and "Support Person of the Year" is the same. All school employees fill out a survey asking for nominees in each category. Then, nominated staff complete a brief survey of questions, which are then given to individuals outside the district who evaluate them, according to a rubric. The top three nominees for each award are then interviewed by judges from outside the district, according to an email from the superintendent's office.
District employees reaching milestone years of service to the district also were recognized.
Educator of the Year
Defer Principal Bill Basel said Valenti's leadership within the school has distinguished her.
"She's got so much respect from her peers," he said. "She's a go-to person among her peers."
Valenti said she was surprised and appreciative of the award.
"It's been an honor and a privilege to serve for 18 years in this district," she said. "It was nice to be recognized by my peers for my years of service in the district."
Valenti has been Defer's primary liaison with Kent State University, overseeing the university's mentorship and student teacher programs at the school, said Basel.
Not only does Valenti take on extra duties -- she's also on Defer's building leadership team -- she completes them with gusto, said Basel.
"She's such a consummate professional," he said. "She puts in time above and beyond the commitment a teacher has during the day."
Valenti said she believes in the mentorship as a way to help "pay it forward."
"I think it's important with all the challenges educators face today that someone is playing that mentoring role for people coming into the profession," she said.
Another role Valenti said she takes seriously is that of a communicator. As a Streetsboro parent and resident herself, Valenti said she knows how important it is to be responsive to parents' questions.
"I treat those parents as I would like to be treated as a parent," she said.
She said time management is the key to her success as a classroom educator, leader among staff, parent and wife.
"It's just a matter of time management and trying to make sure I wear each of the hats I wear well," she said.
Educational Support Person of the Year
As the Streetsboro City Schools' only library media specialist, Fowley doesn't stay in one place long. She travels to all the district's buildings in the course of her work week, and, according to Streetsboro Middle School Principal Steve Hatch, places an emphasis on accommodating the needs of the classroom teachers who rely on her for library support, whether that means keeping a useful collection of books on hand or providing help with technology.
"Teachers will come down to her and say, 'Hey, I'm doing a unit on this,' and she'll start pulling every book she has on that topic," said Hatch. "She is just super to work with. She's very cooperative in helping teachers, and everything she does with them helps kids."
Fowley said she doesn't "do anything on a daily basis that I don't think I should be doing anyway."
One special program she said she completed recently was a "March Madness" program, in which children voted for their favorite books using brackets.
Technology is another area where Fowley has become a leader in the district. She's become a Google trainer and helps teachers district-wide use new technology.
"She's truly a supportive person, and I think everybody feels that way," said Hatch. "Teachers like working with her."
of the Year
If he's carrying a load of materials down a hallway, Streetsboro High School Principal Eric Rauschkolb said he's never surprised by an offer from this year's Support Staff Person of the Year, Speck, to help carry things.
"He always goes above and beyond what's asked of him to do a better job than would have been done, otherwise," said Rauschkolb. "I would say, also, that he looks for ways to be helpful to others."
Speck said he was "very surprised" to receive the honor.
He said he's proud to have taken part in the recent renovations of the Streetsboro High School stadium.
"Just within the last couple of years, there's been so much done to it," he said. "I think it looks great."
Rauschkolb also said Speck maintains a positive attitude.
"That's a tough job sometimes to keep a good attitude when you're cleaning up people's messes or cleaning up things that shouldn't have been there in the first place," said Rauschkolb.
FB: The Gateway News/Bob Gaetjens