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Westfield schools promote innovative fundraising methods

Date: 12/16/2008

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD Diminishing funds for public schools are requiring personnel to search for innovative ways to supplement the budget and reward teachers.

The Westfield Helps Its Public Schools Committee has created the Staff and Teacher Appreciation and Recognition (STAR) program that allows teachers and staff to be recognized by parents, students and peers for excellence in their fields. Each award is personalized and requires a $15 donation to the STAR program, which will provide $300 mini-grants for teachers wishing to supplement their curriculums.

Barbara Trant, volunteer coordinator for Westfield Public Schools, explained that six teachers have already been granted a STAR award.

"Teachers feel isolated because they're in their classrooms all the time," she said. "It's great to give them support from the community."

Southampton Road Elementary School teacher Lisa Korzenecki was given her first STAR award last month by her fourth grade student Daniel O'Connor.

"She's really one of the most fabulous teachers [my] children have had," Kim O'Connor, Daniel's mother, said. "There's not many chances to recognize your teacher for their work not many ways that you can say, 'This teacher is great.' Teachers don't get enough praise for all the hard work they put in.

"[Korzenecki] is very humble. She just does a tremendous job and I don't think I've ever heard a bad thing about her," she continued. "[She's got] that unexplainable quality that makes her reach the kids."

Daniel explained that he wanted to reward his teacher because of her kindness and exceptional teaching methods.

"She's a star in my book," he said.

Korzenecki explained that she chose to become an educator 15 years ago in order to make a difference in the lives of children.

"I don't think that [my teaching strategies are] a lot different from what other teachers do," she said. "You just so love the children and the process of teaching that I'm just so inspired when I teach. You want them to learn and grow and be happy and caring toward others . It's wonderful to hear that you are making a difference in someone's life.."

Korzenecki added that she is grateful to the new STAR awards program because it will provide her and other teachers with the opportunity to push the boundaries of their curriculums.

"Right now, in all the schools, funding is very limited," she said. "If teachers know about [this program] it allows us to go beyond what we normally teach. This will certainly give [students] the opportunity to do more things [in the classroom]."

Trant explained that the goal of this program is to provide eligible educators with a $300 grant twice each year. Grants will be offered in three categories: elementary, middle school and high school educators.

To give a STAR award, contact Trant at 572-6345 or go to