John E. Dwyer Technology Academy
Teacher of the Year
Degrees and Certifications:
Ms. Kelly Ann Kielbasa
I choose teaching because in high school I was teaching dance classes and found it to be very rewarding. I was also an athlete all my life and wanted to be a coach so I could inspire other athletes. Becoming a Health and Physical Education teacher gave me the best of both worlds.
I believe I was chosen for this award because I have found the balance between a loving environment and a structured environment in my classes. I am very caring when I need to be, but I am also able to give tough love when it is needed. I believe that I am able to constantly connect my students with the world around them by using current events and real-life scenarios that appeal to their everyday lives.
Educational Service Professional of the Year
Degrees and Certifications:
Ms. Monica Caicedo Sarmiento
When I started my path in education, I was very enthusiastic and ready to change the world. I quickly learned that my “role” was beyond what I have learned in college and realized all the challenges that came along with it. During the 9 years I spent in the classroom, I enjoyed teaching, and I was constantly finding ways to create an engaging, safe, and happy environment for my students. It came a point during my teaching career that I started questioning if I was doing enough. I was supporting my students’ academic development, but I saw the need many of my students had for safety, support, and guidance. Mental health was impacting my students’ performance and as a teacher, I feel limited in addressing those issues. Those needs motivated me to pursue my master's degree in school counseling. In that way, I was going to be able to support the psychological, academic, and social development of students. Getting out of the classroom would allow me to expand my service to my students while I accompanied them in their academic achievement.
I was 19 years old when I came to the United States and as an immigrant, I encountered multiple challenges. I faced many experiences that shaped who I am today. I had to find motivation, persevere, and create my path to success. It was not easy, but I can proudly say I made it! When my students get to know about my story, they can feel empowered and motivated. As a school counselor in an urban district, I work with a lot of students that I can relate to very closely. I love to share my personal story, because I can see myself in a lot of them. Working in a district with a high immigrant population, I feel as an important agent of change. I love to support my students and help them believe in themselves, validate their feelings, and accompany them on the rocky road they feel they are on. I take pride in being a liaison to the parents, educating them on our school system, and involving them in our team effort. As a school counselor, I am actively involved with my students to help them become productive and successful adults. I am a team player along with administrators, teachers, and families, as well as a mentor to my students. Through compassion and support, I keep on helping my students to channel their strengths and overcome their weaknesses. In that way I can “change the world”, one step at a time!