Northborough has no shortage of wonderful teachers. For the second year, Northborough Patch ran its Teacher of the Year contest, and attracted many touching, thoughtful and inspirational nominations.
Ah, but we must pick but one.
This year, our Teacher of the Year award goes to Stephanie Dennington, a second grade teacher at the
Her seventh year at the Zeh School, she taught first grade for six years and then "looped" with her class this year, traveling to second grade together. She was lucky enough, she said, to be hired right out of graduate school with a degree in elementary education from Lesley Unversity. Prior to that, she attended Skidmore College as an undergraduate majoring in psychology and minoring in early childhood education.
Christine D'Angelo has two kids who have been in Dennington's class.
"She has been our favorite teacher for years now," said D'Angelo. "There is a sense of caring and support in her classroom. She uses great strategies to keep the class motivated and in control of their behavior. She doesn't lose her cool. Never once have my children come home and said she yelled at them today or she's in a bad mood. They only have positive things to say about her."
D'Angelo also appreciates the Dennington gives detailed reports on her child, paying close attention to strengths and weaknesses in her son in an effort to praise the strengths and improve on the weaknesses. Her attention to detail proved crucial to D'Angelo's son's health, too.
"At the last conference, in addition to academics, she commented on how tired he looked," said D'Angelo. "His eyes seemed puffy."
At an appointment with the doctor, D'Angelo mentioned what Dennington had said. Turns out, her son's tonsils were so big that he was unable to sleep well, and suffering in his classes. The tonsils were promptly removed and he's recovering.
"Ms. Dennington inspired the class to make get well cards for my son, which she made sure he received," said D'Angelo."The smile on my son's face as he read through the cards was priceless. She's called and emailed me a number of times but never too much. She has kept the class in the know about my son's recovery since they knew about his surgery and were concerned about him."
Dennington always wanted to work with children, and "fell in love with my job quickly," calling Zeh her second home—a place where the staff cares about one another and works together for the greater good.
"We are also lucky to be given creative freedom within our classrooms for meeting the academic and social needs of our students," she said. "I truly love my students. In my class, we often refer to ourselves as a family. In our family we work together, support each other and work out confict as it arrises. We honor all members of our class, no matter what strengths and struggles we have as individuals."
Hired at age 23, Dennington said she was most fearful of working with parents. Young, and young looking, she worried about how she would be received. She realized quickly, she said, that most Northborough parents have an unshakable faith in the school system.
"It's really nice that so many Northborough parents are involved in their children's education," she said. "I think that being a great teacher is not one specific thing; There is not a mold that you have to fit into. I'm sure that some people think I'm a little wacky and casual with my students, but for me, it gets the job done. I think good teachers do have a few things in common: a contagious love of learning, patience, fairness, perseverance, dedication, organization, strong communication skills, good classroom management, a genuine love for our students and our profession, and a willingness to look at your own practices and adjust them from year to year to meet the needs of your current class."
"Ms. Dennington is an amazing teacher, one of the teachers that my children will remember when they are grown up and talk about the teachers they had when they were little," said D'Angelo. "It will be a sad day when we have to say goodbye to Ms. Dennington at the end of this school year. Her incoming class will be fortunate to have her."