Special Programs' Achievement Above All Event

Special Programs' Achievement Above All Event
Pam Reicks and Jim Loftus
Governing Board Member Pam Reicks presents
Mr. Loftus with his award.
Erin Golden and Jim Loftus
Mr. Loftus poses for a photo with homebound
coordinator Erin Golden.

Teacher of the Year- Jim Loftus

Jim earned a degree in business from Mercyhurst College and a degree in special education from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. He began teaching in special education in Rochester, NY in 1993. His career began in Glendale Union almost 17 years ago at Glendale High School in the multiple disabilities classroom. After seven years at Glendale, Jim had the opportunity to become a district Homebound teacher.

Students who are eligible for Homebound services have been medically certified as being unable to attend school on their home campus, due to a severe illness or psychiatric needs. The Homebound teacher provides instruction in the home of the student or in a hospital setting. As the Homebound teacher, Jim is expected to prep and teach multiple grade levels and subject areas, sometimes in excess of 30. While not every student has the opportunity to return to their home campus, it is always the hope of the Homebound teacher to help students seamlessly transition back to their home campus. Often, the Homebound teacher is the only connection the student and family have to their campus.

As the only Homebound teacher for the district, Jim ensures that the needs of these students and their families are met. He exceeds expectations for a teacher, going above and beyond his assigned duties to make sure his students receive the best education possible as they fight through debilitating, often terminal, illnesses, and their families receive much needed support as they, too, struggle through such a difficult time. Jim’s presence and support sometimes gives our students the only feeling of normalcy they may have while they battle through their illness.

A parent of a Homebound student who graduated in December stated that without Jim, the dream of graduating from high school would have never been possible for her daughter. She described Jim as being a second father to her daughter, and she says can’t imagine where they would be now if Jim had not been there.  The student herself also chimed in, saying, “without Jim, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Homebound coordinator Erin Golden says, “His compassion and belief in his students has undoubtedly made a world of difference in the lives of the students he has taught. He serves as a life-line to our students and makes what could be the most challenging periods in their lives much more endurable. He gives his time and his heart to all of his students. I would say that he's just what the doctor ordered.”

Congratulations, Mr. Loftus!

Keith Donnelly
Ketih Donnelly loves his job at K-Mart, giving
gifts, and super heroes. 
Next STEP Staff and Keith Donnelly
The Next STEP faculty and staff enjoy having
Keith around because of his kind heart.

Student of the Year- Keith Donnelly

Keith Donnelly attends the Next STEP program, a special education program at Thunderbird High School.

One unique quality about Keith is his ability to make everyone he meets his friend. People from all over the valley know him from various jobs, including his current job at K-Mart, which he loves. Anyone who knows him knows that he loves to give presents to people to show his gratitude for their existence.

Keith has a level of independence that does not require prompting.  At K-Mart, Keith is thorough and organized as he puts on security stickers and stocks shelves. In the shoe department, Keith knows just what it takes to get shoes ready for display. He is a self-starter and is a perfectionist in what he does. Keith’s mother, Stacy, says she has never met anyone who is more devoted to being at work than Keith.

Maybe his most profound achievement has been passing on his strength and positive attitude to everyone he encounters.  For example, Keith recently spent 6 difficult weeks in the hospital. He did not talk very much, but when he did, his favorite words were “home” and “K-Mart,” the two places on Earth that are always on his mind. Hospital staff members were so inspired by Keith’s optimism, that they didn’t want Keith to leave the hospital. Staying true to form, Keith gave each of them presents before he left.

Next STEP facilitator Kathy Goodwin says, “It is ironic that Keith Donnelly loves super heroes, because to us, he is the super hero. Keith personifies the qualities of the super heroes he so admires.  Keith has shown remarkable resilience in the face of many obstacles.  His dedication to his work and his loyalty to his employer is seldom seen today.  He has taken the skills that he has acquired at Next STEP and used them to be successful in the workplace.”

All of the teachers at Next STEP agree that Keith’s loyalty, optimism, and gracious heart make him a joy to be around each day.

Congratulations, Keith!

Patty Kenendy and Tori Charette
Governing Board Clerk Patty Kennedy presents
Tori Charette with her award.
Tori Charette
Tori consistently goes above and beyond in her
position with the Transitions program.

Support Staff of the Year- Tori Charette

Tori Charette, a Thunderbird High School Graduate, has worked for the Transitions Program as an instructional aide for the past 4 years. She has taken on many different duties this year beyond her instructional aide tasks, including assisting students with academics and emotionally coaching them through intense crisis situations. Another extra responsibility she has taken on is helping students acclimate and find success when phasing from the Transitions Program back to their home schools.  This requires an extraordinary ability to communicate with multiple different people on all nine campuses to keep organized their events, calendars, and transportation needs.  Tori also took on the new Transitions Community Learning Center site assistant position, helping to coordinate after-school academic and enrichment activities. 

Tori is well-regarded by her team mates, who describe her as a genuinely nice person, who is positive no matter what is going on around her.  Her colleague, Ms. Leonard, speaks of Tori’s outstanding work ethic and believes the TCLC Program would not be half as successful as it has been without her.  Tori is extremely reliable and often takes on additional responsibilities around campus.  Teacher and department chairperson Mr. Eklund describes Tori as indispensable due to her outstanding organization skills and reliability.

Students find Mrs. Charette to be a cheerful addition to their day.  She maintains high expectations for behavior and academics, while still being supportive.   She is relentless in her desire to see each student succeed. 

In her spare time, Tori loves to sing, read, and clean, and is a Zumba aficionado.  She is a doting aunt to her nephew, and she and her husband spend much of their time as youth ministers in their church. 

Congratulations, Tori!