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June 10, 2011 > Honors from New Haven

Honors from New Haven

By Suzanne Ortt, Photo courtesy of Rick La Plante

May 3 was award night at the New Haven Unified School District (NHUSD) Board meeting. Enthused supporters, many of whom held flowers or balloons, filled the room. From many nominees, two winners were selected. The crowd welcomed the announcements by Derek McNamara, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel, that Julie Panebianco had been selected as the Teacher of the Year. Then Vicky Ballard, Coordinator of Personnel Services, recognized Joan Wolfe, as the Classified Employee of the Year.

Julie Panebianco teaches English at James Logan High School. In addition to her teaching duties, she leads the Puente Program. Under her tutelage, the Puente Project at Logan can claim being one of the most accomplished programs in the state. Puente offers college preparation, especially for educationally disadvantaged students.

Panebianco helps Puente students with college applications and the requisite essays, and takes them on college tours. Additionally, she helps their families find ways to afford college and devotes countless hours to fundraising for the program. She shares these duties with another teacher and a counselor. Panebianco is also an "anchor of Logan's literacy team."

Panebianco shares her feelings about the honor. "I am so honored - and so surprised - to win this award! I am constantly inspired by my amazing colleagues, supportive parents, and, most of all, my brave, tenacious, passionate and hilarious students. I feel so lucky to get to work with the people I do - they are all so excited for me right now, which makes this even more special."

Joan Wolfe is the secretary at Searles Elementary School. As a school secretary, Wolfe is an adept multi-tasker. Daily she produces a bulletin informing co-workers about events, and tracks messages and staff absences. Quick with a humorous comment and always smiling, she leads a collaborative effort, realizing that she is involved with the entirety of Searles, as well as at the District level. Wolfe, at times, counsels parents and gives support to others. Colleagues throughout the District know she is a good resource.

Wolfe considers, "It was a great honor to be nominated for the Classified Employee of the year for NHUSD. And to be chosen from amongst my peers was an even bigger surprise. So many of the other people nominated I have worked with during my 16 years with the district. I have been with Searles Elementary School since 2006. It's a wonderful school and fabulous staff to work with."

New Haven is proud of its teachers and staff but this year celebrates these two stars, Julie Panebianco and Joan Wolfe.

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