Shaler Area employees go the Extra Mile
The Shaler Area School District recognized employees with the Extra Mile Award for going above and beyond for their students or contributing to the district’s success.
The following winners discovered that they had won during a Jan. 22 assembly: Nicole Geary and Ellen Helfrich, both Scott Primary School teachers; Alexandra Myroniuk, Marzolf Primary School teacher; Michael Penn, Shaler Area Elementary School GATE (gifted and talented education) teacher and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) coordinator; Jeffrey Rojik, Burchfield Primary School principal; and Kim Baysek Young, Reserve Primary School teacher.
The district solicited award nominations in the fall and winter for a panel of stakeholders to review.
“This group is undeniably deserving of this award for a variety of reasons,” district Superintendent Sean Aiken said. “The nominations clearly articulated a staff member who is willing to do whatever it takes to help our students and the school district. The nominations included detailed examples of their willingness to work with students before, during, or after school or even over the summer.”
A Shaler Area teacher of 27 years, Helfrich teaches second grade. Beforehand, she spent 10 years teaching kindergarten within the district.
“I knew since I was in first grade that I wanted to be a teacher. I am living my life’s dream career.”
She and her husband, Brian, graduated from Shaler Area High School, along with their daughter, Rebecca. They also have a son, Ian, who attends Shaler Area Middle School.
Next, Marzolf kindergarten teacher Myroniuk previously taught kindergarten and third grade at Reserve Primary, worked as a substitute teacher and provided academic support within the district.
The Middlesex resident said that her students have taught her to “never stop growing and learning.”
“They have taught me to give 100 percent because many of them give 100 percent. They show me work that they have done at home ‘to help their brain grow.’ They tell me about new books they are reading and how they have solved a problem we discussed in school.’’
Penn said he has had the “best job” for 18 years teaching gifted and talented students, as well as addressing enrichment needs for the entire student body.
“Because we work specifically with the strengths of the kids, we don’t have a curriculum — we can do whatever addresses the needs of our students. So, it’s always fresh and interesting. We have an administration that is always very supportive and encouraging, so we often are able to do some very exciting activities for our students.”
This is Penn’s 27th year teaching at Shaler Area. Prior to holding his current position, he taught special education and Pennsylvania history within the district. He recently returned from a six-week Antarctic expedition through PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating), an educational research experience partnering middle and high school teachers with polar science researchers.
Rojik said that the “wonderful” teachers and coaches that he encountered as a Shaler Area student inspired his career. This is Rojik’s sixth year as Burchfield’s principal. He started his Shaler Area career in 1998 as a Shaler Area High School emotional support teacher, prior to working as a learning support teacher for three years. Thereafter, he served as a Pine-Richland High School baseball head coach and taught within the district. He returned as Shaler Area Elementary School’s assistant principal from 2008 through 2013.
“There are so many deserving professionals within the district, and I work in a building full of dedicated, loving and hard-working people,” he said. “Each and every one of them would be equally deserving. It is humbling to know that there are people that feel I make a difference enough that they would even nominate me.”
Finally, Shaler Area teacher of 20 years Baysek Young spent her first two years within the district teaching first grade, prior to teaching third grade at Reserve Primary.
“This award doesn’t just belong to me,” Baysek Young said. “I am surrounded by inspiring colleagues, dedicated students, families, energetic community members and my amazing family, which support all of curricular and extra-curricular activities.”
Aiken said the Extra Mile recipients “demonstrated love, care and empathy for all students.”
“While they may not be the only group of staff members to exhibit these daily habits, they are each deserving of this recognition for the work they do with our students.”
Erica Cebzanov is a