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Librarian Rose O'Connell, aide Amita Shah, and principal Kristie Mate receive 89 Empowers honor

The 89 Empowers Award was created in 2017 by CCSD 89 Superintendent Dr. Emily Tammaru as an end-of-the-year recognition to honor those who embody the district’s mission to empower students, staff, and families to reach full potential. All district employees are eligible to be nominated. In total, 24 staff members, one team, and one substitute teacher were nominated for the award this year.

Certified staff: Glen Crest librarian Rose O'Connell

Rose O'Connell has been the Glen Crest librarian since 2015. O'Connell was nominated because she embodies the district’s mission of empowering others. A colleague wrote: “She goes above and beyond in every facet of the job. My students absolutely love working with Rose and look forward to our library visits every month.

"She not only continually finds books that kids love to read, but she goes out of her way to meet with kids to discuss book choices. She's an incredibly positive person and finds the best in every student and staff member. She is always there to help you and she makes Glen Crest a better place to work."

Support staff: Park View aide Amita Shah

Amita Shah has been an aide at Park View since 2002. Shah was nominated by her colleagues for her positive attitude and her willingness to do whatever it takes to support Park View students.

"Amita does an amazing job connecting with the students," a co-worker wrote. "She is very knowledgeable and thoughtful in her dealings with both students and staff."

Administrator: Park View principal Kristie Mate

Kristie Mate has been the principal at Park View Elementary School since 2019. Mate was nominated by multiple colleagues.

"In a world where substitutes and aides are hard to come by, Kristie is not afraid to roll up her sleeves and do any job at Park View that needs to be done," one staff member wrote.

"Kristie goes out of her way to make sure that the staff feels supported," another co-worker wrote. "When you see Kristie in the hallway, she has a smile on her face. I know I like seeing her in the hallway smiling and I'm sure students do, too."

"I have not seen her lose her cool even once. Her positivity is contagious. Kristie cares deeply about our school, and it shows in the way she strives to make Park View an amazing place to work, learn, and grow together as a community."


Danielle Bongiorno, Glen Crest: A co-worker wrote: “One of her best qualities is that she is always considering the impact on the students as well as the staff."

Olivia Clarey, Arbor View: "For her outstanding work with her students, supporting them academically and socially; and her extra work after school through Girls on Fire."

Bella Colangelo, Park View: "Bella's teaching style empowers the students to do their best whether in individual or group settings."

Derek Desjardins, Briar Glen: "His ability to imagine what things can look like beyond how they currently exist is truly a gift and one that benefits his students, colleagues, and the district."

Donald Duncan, Glen Crest: "He has made powerful, positive connections with all the students - not just the kids he works with."

Rachel Druger, Briar Glen: "If you look in her classroom, you will see 20-something five and six olds bursting with joy and excitement to see her, make her proud, and ultimately be lifelong learners."

Robin Dye, Park View: "Robin uses creative thinking to enhance the students' learning and experiences during the day."

Kiley Grabko, Park View: "She is kind, extremely calm, and always has a smile on her face. Park View and her students are lucky to have her as a teacher."

Lisa Groves, Park View: "Lisa approaches every challenge positively and professionally while demonstrating a sincere ability to problem-solve."

Chelsea Innocenti, Glen Crest: "While many of us were only able to think of surface-level solutions, Chelsea was able to visualize a broader perspective that would benefit all parties - students and teachers alike."

Julie Literskis, Glen Crest: "I am so thankful to have her around as she helps remind us all of why we are here and how to stay involved and positive toward students when the going gets tough."

Amy Mescher, Park View: "She is patient with students and staff members who may not realize the volume of 'patients' who need her care on a daily basis. Parents so appreciate her experience and knowledge."

Bill Milnamow, Westfield: "Bill has the honor of working kindergarten lunch and he is able to keep the lunchroom calm and organized by making sure the students know the expectations and are held accountable while keeping a fun atmosphere."

Stephanie Mullany, Park View: "She cares so much about the school, teachers, and students that we'd be lost without her!"

Bea Murphy, Park View: "I have yet to meet a child who doesn't adore Mrs. Murphy -- she is truly loved by all."

Mark Odell, Glen Crest: "He not only brings a positive and empathetic perspective in problem-solving meetings, but he is our students' number-one advocate."

Leilani Peterson, district office: "What is most remarkable about Leilani's interaction with each of us is that no matter the time of day or the questions, Leilani treats each interaction with interest, patience, and grace."

Vesna Plavsic, Park View: "She worked very hard to follow the substitute lesson plans that were left for her, and also took time to dive into the teacher manuals that explained how to teach the math and writing lessons."

Corey Toppel, Glen Crest: "I have learned so much from Corey that has made me a better teacher. He has truly been the most genuine and passionate person I have ever taught with."

Annette Tumminaro, Park View: "Students genuinely enjoy being in her room and she is 100 percent the reason for that."

Kristina Uddenberg, Park View: "Kristina shares her vast knowledge in teaching children to read. We all appreciate her strong and giving spirit."

Denise Urso, Park View: "She will make the effort to visit a family home, send home supplies that are needed, and to check in on the family when hardship has struck."

Park View SPAC team (Robin Dye, Adriana Flores, Rochelle Burnside, Albana Romacka): "Their work is often heavy, both physically and mentally. Nevertheless, they do it with finesse, pride, and an incredible sense of humor. They make a difference."

Posted: May 26, 2022