By Rob Potter
ROCK HILL Four Sullivan County educators who go above and beyond normal expectations to teach their students the importance of literacy were honored for those efforts Wednesday.
The Sullivan Reading Council presented four ladies with the 2000 Celebrate Literacy Awards at Bernies Holiday Restaurant in Rock Hill.
The educators who received the accolades were Elizabeth Huggler of the Sullivan West district (Jeffersonville-Youngsville campus), Linda McAuley from the Eldred Central School district, Barbara Semonite of the Monticello Central School district and Lois Weinstein from the Liberty Central School district.
Each of the ladies was nominated for the award by peers from their own school district. The Celebrate Literacy Award honors educators for a number of reasons. Among them are carrying out surveys related to literacy, organizing local literary programs and providing young people with the opportunity to help in literary activities.
This is a wonderful program, and we have four very deserving honorees, said Suzanne Cecil, president of the Sullivan Reading Council.
Before Cecil presented each winner with her award, a fellow faculty member from her own district introduced the recipient. Those educators explained how and why the nominating committee at the school chose the award winners.
Huggler, a former Kindergarten teacher and current technology teacher, was introduced by Dennis Rowen. He noted that Huggler has initiated a number of programs to promote literacy at SW/J-Y. Among them are the creation of an Internet book discussion group for fourth and fifth-graders and academic color wars for the sixth grade, which encourages students to create webpages and newspapers.
She uses the forum of technology to advance education and literacy in every grade, every class in our school, Rowen said of Huggler. A lot of the things we do in the school are centered in the technology lab.
In accepting her award from Cecil, Huggler simply said thank you to her colleagues for nominating her for a great honor.
Joan Kemble, a retired teacher from the Eldred Central School district, spoke of McAuleys accomplishments. Kemble noted that McAuley, a first-grade teacher at the George Ross MacKenzie Elementary School in Glen Spey, has spent 29 years in the district and worked on many school committees. Kemble pointed out that, among other accomplishments, McAuley started an early morning tutoring program in 1998 and chaired a career day program for students in grades Kindergarten through sixth.
Thank you for this award, McAuley said. Its a big honor.
Semonite, principal of the Emma C. Chase Elementary School in Wurtsboro, was introduced by Eline Hill, who is the Chase School librarian. Hill noted that Semonite, who is in her first year as principal at the Chase School, began teaching in the Monticello district 23 years ago.
She developed a powerful literacy structure that enhanced problem solving through the use of stories, Hill said. She encouraged independent learning, and the students eagerly looked forward to the challenges before them.
Hill noted that Semonites other past accomplishments have included teaching a summer diagnostic program for at-risk children entering Kindergarten, connecting the Reading Recovery program to the classroom setting and acting as the principal for the Monticello School Districts Summer Reading Academy.
This doesnt happen in a vacuum, Semonite said. The success of these literacy programs came with a great deal of help from my peers. Without the support of my peers, nothing would have happened. Thank you for this terrific honor.
Heidi Wojdat introduced Weinstein, the Liberty Elementary School Reading Specialist. Wojdat noted Weinsteins numerous accomplishments, including the creation of a Harmony program to meet the needs of at-risk first graders and implementation of a first grade morning phonetic awareness program. That program uses singing, games and sign language to create a foundation for learning.
Im happy to receive this award today, Weinstein said. Today is a very special day its my grandmothers 97th birthday. I want to thank my colleagues, family and staff at Liberty Elementary School for their continued support.
Weinstein then displayed some of the skills she utilizes in the phonetic program as she taught the scores of fellow educators seated before her how to sign and sing along to the song, Love Grows.
The keynote speaker for the event was illustrator James Ransome. A North Carolina native who now resides in Poughkeepsie, Ransome has illustrated over 30 childrens books and done work for childrens magazines such as Cricket and Lady Bug. He also created the artwork for North Carolinas 2001 summer reading program.