From left, Wellesley Public Schools 2019 Chair Ceremony honorees: Deb Levine, Holly Holmes, MaryAnne McDonald, Ilene Sharpe, Kristen Blackwill, Jayne Byrne, Kathleen Derian, Jen MacPherson. Jenny Leung and Kristen Snyder were also honored. Photo by George Roberts
The Wellesley Education Foundation (WEF), Wellesley College and the Wellesley School Committee honored 10 staff members who contributed 25 years of their professional career to the Wellesley Public Schools at the Chair Ceremony, held on March 14 at the Wellesley College Alumni Hall.
“These dedicated members of our team have collectively touched the lives of thousands of students and exemplify a standard of excellence that remains a hallmark of our District,” said Superintendent Dr. David Lussier of the Wellesley Public Schools.
Commonly known as the Chair Ceremony, over 120 friends, family and colleagues were in attendance to celebrate, toast (and roast) the honorees with skits, poems and personal speeches. The Chair Ceremony serves as a wonderful celebration of the dedication of long-term Wellesley Public School employees. In appreciation for their years of service, the honorees receive a captain's chair embossed with the Town of Wellesley seal.
The 2019 honorees are listed as follows:
Kirsten Blackwill, grade 7 social studies teacher. Kirsten came to WMS after two years of teaching 7th grade at the American School in Jakarta, Indonesia. She has taught 7th grade American history ever since. This subject never feels stale to Kirsten because of current events connecting to civics and cultural awareness, and because modes of instruction and assessment are always changing. Speaking on behalf of Kirsten was Liz Aceti, grade 7 ELA teacher, and longtime colleague and friend.
Jayne Byrne, Sprague grade 3 teacher. Jayne Byrne did her graduate work at Schofield with Ginny Balicki in 1992 and then started permanently at Hunnewell in 1993. She taught at Hunnewell for nine years, then moved to the “new” Sprague when it opened and has been there since: 16 years. Speaking on behalf of Jayne was Penny Copplestone, retired WPS teacher who is still a guest teacher for WPS.
Kathleen Derian, grade 8 science teacher. Kathleen Derian has worn many hats during her career at WMS. She has worked on teams of 2, 3 and 4; taught 6th and 8th grades; and has taught both English and science. Speaking on behalf of Kathleen Derian was Wellesley Middle School Guidance Counselor Tara Dufour, who has worked with Kathleen in both the sixth and eighth grades.
Holly Holmes, Hunnewell instructional library assistant. Holly Holmes has held a variety of positions in the Wellesley Public Schools, mostly at Bates, including elementary building assistant, teaching assistant in a classroom, and special education elementary floating assistant throughout all six elementary schools. In 2003, she became the instructional library assistant at Bates, and in 2013, she moved from Bates to Hunnewell, where she continues to work in this capacity. Speaking on behalf of Holly was Liz Rey, the current Bates librarian, and Roxanne Scott, the current Hunnewell librarian.
Deb Levine, high school Special Ed Department head. Debi started her career at the Hardy School as a special educator and team leader. She then moved to the middle school as a special educator for eight years, and has been the High School Special Education Department head for the past 10 years. Debi is now retired. Speaking on behalf of Debi was Principal Dr. Jamie Chisum of Wellesley High School.
Jen MacPherson, Mathematics Elementary Department head, preK-5. Jen MacPherson began teaching at Hunnewell School under the leadership of Ellen Cunniff. She, along with fellow honoree Jayne Bryne and retiree Roberta Maguire (also present), were hired together to open multi-age classrooms at Hunnewell. Jen taught a 4/5 classroom at both Hunnewell and Sprague Schools. In 2004, she took on the role of elementary mathematics coordinator and is now the preK-5 department head for mathematics. Speaking on behalf of Jen MacPherson was Moe Henzel, who has been teaching grade 4 at both Hunnewell and Sprague Schools for 24 years. She and Jen taught together at both schools.
MaryAnne McDonald. MaryAnne started in her position in the athletics office in 1993 after teaching nursery school for nine years. She fell in love with Raider sports and the student-athletes who quickly became her extended family. She takes great pride in her student-athletes and their achievements, but mostly their visits to her office to “check in.” Many alums make sure they stop by her office when they come back to visit WHS, and many current and past student-athletes consider “Mrs. Mac” their second mom. Speaking on behalf of MaryAnne was WPS Athletic Director John Brown.
Ilene Sharpe. Ilene Sharpe began her teaching career in the spring of 1979 as a student teaching at Wellesley “Junior” High and Senior High Schools. After some time away, she rejoined the Wellesley Public Schools as a long-term substitute teacher and library paraprofessional at Wellesley High School. She then moved to the Wellesley Middle School Family & Consumer Science Department and eventually became a part of the Fitness and Health Department. Ilene believes passionately in providing a place for her students to explore and discuss health-related topics that may empower them to lead safe, healthy and happy lives. Speaking on behalf of Ilene was former Wellesley and Brookline Public Schools Director of Performing Arts Dr. Sandra Nicolucci; Dr. Nicolucci is Ilene’s former colleague and supervisor in the Brookline Public Schools.
Also honored but not present at the March 14 ceremony were:
Jenny Leung, Upham School grade 1 teacher. Jenny was hired by WPS at the age of 21 and has taught her entire career in Wellesley - and only at the wonderful Upham School. She taught kindergarten for her first eight years, then seven years in grade 2. She has taught for 11 years (so far) in first grade.
Kristen Snyder, high school special education teaching assistant. Kristen also came to Wellesley right out of grad school and has worked at the high school ever since. She has worked in different learning centers, and has been a one-to-one teaching assistant at times. She enjoys her time in classrooms, but has also spent many years on the basketball court as the team’s official scorekeeper.