The Award of Excellence this year is presented to Paula Vallie. Paula has worked in Amity Regional High School’s College & Career Center for the last seven years. Before coming to Amity Regional High School, she worked for 9 years at Amity Middle School in Orange and at Turkey Hill School in Orange prior to that.
In the words of her colleagues, Paula Vallie is a bright star within the Amity Regional High School Counseling Department. As the Career Center Coordinator Paula’s ability to find jobs, community service projects, and mentors for our students has been truly a gift to our community. Paula has built a strong community outreach, often researching SSLP sites or stopping in to visit on her way home from work or on the weekends. When Amity went to virtual learning Paula came up with the idea of creating a document with links to virtual college tours for the 50 colleges that Amity students most frequently apply to, which could be shared with students and parents. Paula always puts students first and will never hesitate to go above and beyond, no matter the time of day or day of the week, if one of our students needs help with something.
Paula greets everyone who enters the office with a smile, along with her innate kindness and respect. She is a student-focused educator, patiently working to answer students’ questions and assisting them in creating solutions. Whenever there is a task that needs extra hands Paula is always the first to volunteer. She has a team approach to work, and her presence is felt. She is unusually kind to all. Described as a true friend, a steadfast employee, and a loyal colleague, her work ethic and energy are rare; and the students and community of Amity are blessed to have her.
This year’s Teacher of the Year has been with Amity schools since 2006. Described by her colleagues as “lighthearted and approachable, she will always make the time for you and never makes you feel like you are unintelligent with respect to technology,” the Amity Teacher of the Year from Amity Middle School in Orange is Kristen Yaekel. Kristen started her work at Amity as an English teacher and now serves as the school’s library media specialist.
Kristen’s colleagues note that she is always available to support faculty and staff. She is amazing at technology, and whether the issue be small or major she responds quickly. They know they can always rely on Kristen. Whether it is to spark some enthusiasm with the students, support school activities, organize a field trip, or clean up at the end of a day, Kristen is always first to help. As a teacher Kristen is enthusiastic and always willing to try new things. She was one of the first teachers to Skype with the outside world, so her students get a firsthand account of how life is in other places; and she continues to help other teachers connect their students to the world around us.
As a teacher Kristen is amazing, and students enjoy her instruction. As the building’s library media specialist, she has brought a new ambience, joy, and rich learning experience to the library area. She was nominated by her peers not only because of her expertise in technology and instruction, but also for her patience, persistence, and kind helpful spirit. She has been a tremendous support with the distance learning, not only to the staff but also to the students. As noted by a teacher at Amity Middle School in Orange, “When our learning and global community was in chaos her calm comforting spirit, her understanding of my goals, and her expertise was how I got through to the other side.” Kristen is going to be an exemplary representative as Amity’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.