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McCleary, Kando, Tomazin honored for extraordinary work

McCleary, Kando, TomazinThree Community Consolidated School District 89 employees earned the “89 Empowers Award” for their generous and extraordinary under-the-radar work that makes the district an outstanding place to learn. 

Briar Glen kindergarten teacher Stephanie McCleary was named the 89 Empowers recipient for certified staff. Arbor View aide Amira Kando was named the 89 Empowers recipient for non-certified staff. CCSD 89 Director of Buildings and Grounds Tim Tomazin was named the 89 Empowers recipient for administrative staff.

The 89 Empowers Award honors those who embody the district’s mission to empower students, staff, and families to reach their full potential. All district employees are eligible to be nominated.


Briar Glen kindergarten teacher Stephanie McCleary

Stephanie McCleary joined the district in 2018.  

“She is the epitome of a kindergarten teacher," one co-worker wrote. "She is compassionate, warm-hearted, and cares deeply about her students. When you walk into her classroom, it is filled with positive energy.”

McCleary is known for embedding supports and accommodations into her instruction to benefit all students, not just those with disabilities. She asks great questions about her students and collaborates well with specials and specialists.

One teacher said: “She empowers me to keep going after a trying day and to think outside the box when I’m feeling stuck on a student behavior.”

Co-workers also said McCleary always seems to be smiling and is always caring for others.

“She remembers the small things, such as her students’ activities, hobbies, and family outings,” one colleague wrote. “She also remembers things about staff and makes sure to let them know she is thinking of them.”

McCleary makes all of her students feel welcome and included.

“Stephanie's students love coming to her class day after day," her colleague said.


Arbor View aide Amira Kando

Amira Kando has been part of District 89 since 2018. She works with students every day to help them reach their goals in reading and math.

She also supervises recess. You know it’s winter at Arbor View because she will have on her snow pants, boots, and a big smile!

Arbor View Principal Dawn McCray said Kando is a ray of sunshine at Arbor View who is always willing to go the extra mile for students and staff.

“You can always depend on her to give an uplifting word, a hug, or a smile,” McCray said.

One of Kando's co-workers wrote: “Her love for the students, staff, and her job is what sets her apart. I have watched her work magic with individual students, small groups, and whole classes. The care and attention she gives to each child goes above and beyond.

"My class cheers when she comes into our room....and that says it all!”


Director of Buildings and Grounds Tim Tomazin

Even after three decades working in CCSD 89, Tim Tomazin is still one of the first people to arrive every morning, often before the sun is up. He starts his day by walking the schools, meticulously noting any areas that need repair or improvement, so that the students and the staff can learn in a safe, clean, and comfortable environment.

“Tim puts the same amount of love and effort into caring for the District 89 buildings as he does in his own home," said Maureen Jones, CCSD 89 Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations.

He’s also on call when a pipe breaks in the middle of the night or the power goes out in the middle of the weekend. Tomazin will be there. Tomazin is also currently supervising construction projects at all five schools. Last summer, several schools had ceilings ripped out, doors removed, lights replaced, roofs torn off, and much, much more but all the schools were ready for Day One thanks to Tomazin's work ethic and expertise.  

CCSD 89 Director of Student Services Katie Kreller also points out the extra steps Tomazin takes to help a child with unique needs.

“Whenever there is a request for a swing to be installed in the ceiling, communications boards to be installed on playgrounds, Tim is highly sympathetic and makes it a priority," Kreller said. "He is generous with his time and his heart.”


89 Empowers nominees

Delia Alfonzo, Briar Glen: "You take such good care of the kids. You teach, you care, and you love each child and you do it so well."

Jessica Arellano, Arbor View: "Working as an instructional assistant in a specialized academic classroom is a very hard job. Jess makes the job look easy with her compassion, patience, and high level of understanding of our students’ needs."

Kristen Brach, Briar Glen: "From preparing art projects to fixing broken toys or furniture with the tools she brought from home, she is always doing something for the betterment of the students."

Jennifer Bravo, Briar Glen: "Jen’s observant nature allows us to identify students’ individual interests and skill sets which we then apply to meet them where they are at and help them grow."

Tessa Carter, Westfield: "She is consistent and reliable and always there if you need anything!"

Lori Carver, Park View: "Lori is so kind and she is a very hard worker. Her job is demanding and she keeps a very sunny disposition."

Amanda Casmer, Briar Glen: "She uses her past teaching experience and really collaborates with teachers on her lessons to make them more salient for all of our students' learning."

Brittany Christie, Briar Glen: "She connects with her students on a deep level and is able to bring out the strengths of our most diverse learners."

Colleen Chung, Westfield: "She has such a calm demeanor about her no matter what situation she is placed in. That helps bring calm to the environment."

Jessie Commo, Westfield: "Some of Jessie's most challenging students have found new purpose in the gardening club and her hands-on approach has allowed a healthy outlet for their energy."

Abby Coran, Westfield: "She is the most positive teacher in our building and always treats her students with the utmost care and respect."

Alaina Dettlo, Westfield: "She is hardworking, disciplined, and empathetic not only to her students but to her fellow teachers also."

Tracy Dietel, Glen Crest: "She has embraced her new curriculum this year and she is always looking to improve her lessons for her students."

Rachel Druger, Briar Glen: "Rachel has been working hard in trialing a communication device for a student in her class and was able to successfully incorporate it to support a student's learning."

Mitch Dubinsky, Briar Glen: "Mitch is a great principal and leader. He asks reflective questions, listens, and helps problem-solve issues, both big and small."

Doug Eccarius, superintendent: "Doug loves to ask questions and we are happy to answer and share our knowledge and experience. "

Zinnia Elavia, Briar Glen: "Zinnia cares deeply about her students and works tirelessly to ensure that they not only make progress on their goals but make growth in the classroom as well."

Emily Fujiura, Briar Glen: "Emily approaches her work with expertise and care, always seeking to make a positive impact on those she interacts with."

Stacy Gemelli, Glen Crest: "Stacy has gone above and beyond the role of a special education aide. She is a positive role model for each student."

Katie Gibbons, Westfield: "She has a way of understanding how to work with a variety of students with all sorts of needs and does it with ease."

Nathalie Hanzel, Westfield: "Her schedule is jam-packed with pushing into classrooms all day and she navigates switching classrooms and students with ease."

Wendy Jacoby, Park View: "She sets a wonderful example to both staff and students as she actively gives her time to others, says yes to anyone's call for assistance, and is very willing to share her expertise with all staff."

Megan Jakobsze, Arbor View: "Megan is truly making a difference in these students' lives, helping them learn how to feel more comfortable in their own bodies to participate in the world around them."

Tracy Kalle, Glen Crest: "Her positive encouragement goes beyond the classroom and plays a role in the lives of students and staff."

Rana Khan, Glen Crest: "Not only do students thrive with their academic achievement under her instruction and guidance, their social-emotional growth is impressive with Rana in their corner."

Nicole Lennie, Glen Crest: "Her presence is always so positive and students truly feel better and work harder when she is alongside them."

Annie Lillwitz, Briar Glen: "Her calm, fun, and enthusiastic approach perfectly complements her exceptional teaching skills."

Julie Literskis, Glen Crest: "She goes out of her way to make sure all students understand the activity, help them, and cheer them on."

Gina Lofgren, Glen Crest: "In an age where students are constantly doubting their self-worth, Gina is there to remind them of their endless potential each and every day."

Kristin Malmstedt, Glen Crest: "She helps manage scheduling, compliance and so many moving parts in the special-education process."

Karey Moore, Briar Glen: "The kids are happy each day to see you and it’s clear how much they love you and the environment you create."

Cindy Mullen, Westfield: "Cindy works hard at jumping into the material of her students and easily goes back and forth between helping a high-energy first grader to a disengaged fifth grader. "

Bea Murphy, Park View: "For over 27 years, she has made the parents, students, and staff feel so welcome and comfortable with her charisma and positive personality."

Wendy Nadeau, district office: "She finds ways to improve processes and systems at every turn all while possibly being the most pleasant gal to work with!"

Rose O'Connell, Glen Crest: "Rose is also just such a positive and forward-thinking individual who genuinely cares about the well-being of the children in our building, as well as the colleagues she works alongside."

Mark Odell, Glen Crest: "He listens with genuine concern and helps students work through some very difficult issues."

Linda Papanikolla, Glen Crest: "Linda is extremely hard-working, dedicated, flexible, dependable, and intelligent."

Park View special teachers: Brendan Altieri, Nate Arenson, Will Brewer, Dawn Weathers: "Students have the opportunity to learn something new or hone their skills on something they've tried before from someone other than their classroom teacher. They all contribute to making Park View a wonderful place to learn and grow."

Maddie Payne, Glen Crest: "Maddie is incredible at building relationships with kids and goes above and beyond to help kids understand and master the math skills she teaches."

Katie Picicco, Glen Crest: "Katie's dedication doesn't go unnoticed. Students rave about her engaging lessons and her ability to make science fun."

Julie Ramirez, Glen Crest: "She makes sure her students are fully supported and each one has the encouragement and respect they deserve."

Dina Salca, Briar Glen: "She goes above and beyond her duties to make sure her assigned students as well as others in the class receive the support and guidance needed to succeed."

Jen Scalf, Arbor View: "She supports and encourages students to do their very best at all times and supports and encourages the parents as well."

Daenon Scobee, Glen Crest: "She answers innumerable questions daily and responds to requests, big and small, with a smile on her face."

Meghan Sedlacek, Glen Crest: "Despite teaching two content areas across two different grade levels, she always appears poised and prepared."

Lauren Semorile, Glen Crest: "She has an uncanny ability to listen and empathize, yet at the same time advocate for what’s best for kids and push staff to improve."

Sammy Smith, Glen Crest: "I admire her ability to not shy away from difficult conversations with staff, always advocate for what’s best for kids, and consistently just be present."

Posted: June 3, 2024