Top Teachers 2018
We are pleased to introduce New Hampshire’s Top Teachers for 2018. Once again we received many thoughtful submissions from our readers telling us about a teacher that has made a difference in their school and community.
We selected five Granite State educators to feature in ParentingNH’s second-annual Top Teacher issue. The nominators described them as being caring, inspiring and exceptional — and we think you should know more about them.
The nomination essays written about these talented people are included here along with a short profile about each teacher. We look forward to honoring the Top Teachers in an on-the-field ceremony held before a New Hampshire Fisher Cats game in the spring (look for details in a future issue of ParentingNH). Note: Some essays may have been shortened for print, but the full version of the nominating essays will be sent to the teachers for them to read.
– Melanie Hitchcock, Editor
Dr. Lewis F. Soule Elementary School, Salem
Kathleen Pappalardo graduated with her master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and began her teaching career at Dr. Lewis F. Soule Elementary School, where she has taught for 25 years.
Kathleen Pappalardo says: As a busy mom of three active boys, I enjoy juggling the duties of motherhood and my responsibilities as a fourth-grade teacher. Along with my teaching duties, I am an active participant in afterschool activities such as promoting community involvement within the town of Salem, establishing a school-run post office and leading the Soule LEGO First Club. I feel that the combination of the afterschool activities and my academic responsibilities have resulted in a most rewarding career.
Nominator: Nancy Russell, co-worker of nominee
“Kathleen Pappalardo has been a Soule School teacher for over 25 years. As an elementary teacher, she is responsible for teaching all subjects to her students. She brings a smile, a positive attitude, and great enthusiasm to each and every student in her classroom. She is known for her humor and takes an active interest in each of her students. She is a warm, caring, and inspiring educator and is well loved by the staff and students alike.
In addition to her teaching duties she choreographs the annual school musical, began a school radio station, organizes the annual school talent show, and this year began an afternoon LEGO club. Kathleen is absolutely an amazing teacher and would be most deserving of this honor.”
Windham High School
Sophomore biology; anatomy/physiology for juniors and seniors
Matt Bryant has taught at Windham High School since it opened in 2009 and this is his 18th year teaching overall. In addition to biology and anatomy/physiology, he has taught chemistry, integrated science and a “mythbusters” class focused on engineering design.
Matt Bryant says: Everything I do as a teacher and coach is about relationships. My number one job is making sure students come into my classroom feeling safe, valued, and willing to take risks to get better. I know I’ve done my job when I help put kind, generous, hard-working people out into the world. The hardest and most rewarding part of teaching is finding ways to do that through the things we do in our classroom every day.
Nominator: Donna Indelicato, parent of student at nominee’s school
“Windham High School teacher Matt Bryant deserves to be recognized as a top teacher in NH. In addition to caring about the success of each and every science student that has the good fortune to be in one of his classes, Mr. Bryant is a terrific instructor and mentor for all of the students, a valuable resource for the entire school culture, and a champion for young women in particular.
Part of the founding staff of this relatively new high school, Mr. Bryant has been integral to science course academics and inspirational to school athletics. He has played a big role in the paradigm of community service that makes kindness and giving truly woven into the school’s identity. In addition to teaching a full load of courses at WHS, he is the girls’ soccer coach, building a varsity girls program that is one of the top in the state. His coaching includes really being there for the young women on his team, helping them build self-confidence, resiliency, social and life skills needed to navigate high school and beyond.
Perhaps more importantly, he constantly strives to help the high school community engage in charitable work and develop authentic empathy. Together with his co-advisors, Matt launched the SMILES Club, which stands for Spreading Meaningful Irreplaceable Experiences Selflessly. This community service club serves several purposes. It helps many students, mostly young women, develop leadership skills by way of managing community service projects.
For the past nine years, under Matt’s advising, WHS SMILES Club has produced a large, multi-faceted fashion show event, Styles and SMILES, that engages the WHS and Windham communities and has raised about $30,000 to help those dealing with breast cancer. He is among the first to help other staff in his professional learning communities, and is often found chatting with students before and after school for academic help or just to help them navigate the stresses and excitements of teenage life. This teacher is “all in” as an educator, friend, and motivator for the school as a whole, and for any individual students that may need a helping hand. Teaching isn’t just what he does, it’s who he is, and Windham High School is fortunate to have him.”
James Mastricola Elementary School, Merrimack
Holly Lubelczyk, who has been teaching for 16 years, says: The elementary school classroom is my happy place, the place I feel most myself. I strive to make the right decisions and provide just what each student needs to reach their next goal. I am thankful for supportive families and a network of colleagues who inspire and challenge me. I am proud to be a public school teacher, and I truly love what I do.
Nominator: Amy Reczko, parent of a former student
“Mrs. Lubelczyk has been a wonderful teacher to my children over the past few years. My son was her student over three years ago and she knew exactly what he needed when it came to his sensory issues. She was able to tell when he needed a little squeeze on the shoulders when he was getting antsy and couldn’t sit still. She accommodated him in every way possible without even being told to; this was a huge comfort to him and to me as his mother. My daughter had her for first grade last year and once again, Holly knew just what to do to boost her confidence when she had a difficult time reading. Holly advocated for Megan to get reading assistance immediately and keep me in the loop about it all. Holly is one of those teachers that you remember the rest of your life. My son, who is now in fourth grade, still goes by to give her a hug. She is the teacher you want your first grader to have so they love going to school.”
World Academy, Nashua
Grade 6-8, math; assistant principal, K-8
Math teacher and coach, Sri Sankar, taught for a year in 2006. After a break to have her children, she returned in 2009 and has been teaching since. Sankar was honored by the Mathematical Association of America in August 2018 with the Edyth May Sliffe Award for distinguished math teaching at the middle and high school levels.
Srilakshmi Sankar says:
I bring to the classroom, not only the international experience that I have, but also the dedication and passion for teaching through content knowledge and practical applications with a focus on 21st-century skills along with strategies to teach culturally diverse students. I believe in the need to have a positive relationship with students, their families and my colleagues.
From Anna Vyskoubenko, parent of current student:
“Mrs. Sankar supports an individual approach to each kid’s needs, which allows students to learn math at their own pace. Her students graduate middle school completing Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry, which are the high school courses. Mrs. Sankar prepares her students and provides access to many math competitions in the region, and her students are at the top of the winner list. She fosters creative and independent thinking, encourages non-standard solutions; she is always open to dialog with her students. Her classes are well structured and help her students learn self-organization. I believe that all the above describes an exemplary math teacher, and Mrs. Sankar should be commended for her enthusiasm and dedication to teaching math.”
From Amy Dobski, parent of current student:
“Her breadth of knowledge is amazing. That she choose to use this knowledge to broaden the minds of these young adults at World Academy is admirable. Her rapport with their students is inspiring. She has excellent communication and organizational skills with parents.”
From Devlin Pena, parent of current student:
“My son is a new student to the school. Mrs. Sankar has made his transition into this new environment and curriculum smooth and easier. She takes her time explaining her lessons and my son comes home confident he’s mastering the subject due to her attention to detail and patience with each child. She is an amazing teacher who deserves this award.”
Michelina (Lena) Madden
New Durham Elementary School
Lena Madden has taught for nearly 32 years, the last two at New Durham Elementary School. She was nominated twice for Massachusetts Teacher of the Year during her 30-year tenure in Topsfield. Lena and her husband moved to New Hampshire to be closer to their five grandchildren. She spends free time at the hockey rink watching them play and enjoys designing colorful quilts.
Lena Madden says:
I am a third grade teacher this year, but had the privilege of having Stefanie’s son Timothy [student of nominator] last year in second grade and in third grade this year. Our class mantra is, “It’s not a race but a journey.” We focus on the process of how we learn and making connections to the real world.
Nominator: Stefanie King, parent of current student
“I speak for all of the students, parents of students and colleagues of Mrs. Madden when I write that she is the best of the best. As a retired master teacher from Massachusetts, Mrs. Madden had been substitute teaching in our district when administration took notice of her exceptional skill and pulled her out of retirement to educate the largest and most challenging class New Durham had. Tenaciously, Mrs. Madden held the academic and behavioral bar high for all of her second-graders while attending to their unique differences and inspiring them with genuine love.
Whenever I dropped by her classroom, students were engaged in their learning, and colleagues would whisper ‘she’s amazing’ as they walked past. Regardless of what her students’ needs were, it was evident that Mrs. Madden responded to all of them attentively, personalized learning, nurtured their emotional growth, and cultivated curiosity, creativity and good citizenship. Regardless of who you ask in our little town, they will tell you that Mrs. Madden has a gift; she has made a profound difference here.
On a personal note, she has impacted our family immeasurably. When my husband passed away suddenly this past spring, Mrs. Madden wrapped our older son with unconditional support as he grieved. Our son had a long history of recalcitrant behavior, but Mrs. Madden, along with her whole class of students, lovingly walked him through the darkest and most challenging part of his young life.
Mrs. Madden went above and beyond the call of duty. She corresponded with me constantly by phone and email, she cooked him his favorite meal and she sent him letters throughout the summer so he was excited to go back to school. He is lucky to have been placed in her class again as a third grader, and he is positively thriving — academically, behaviorally, socially and emotionally — under Mrs. Madden’s ongoing love and guidance. As a widow, I simply cannot convey the gratitude I feel for Mrs. Madden. In the wake of our loss, to see our son who had struggled for years confidently succeeding is an ineffably priceless gift. To see all of her students succeeding is a boon to our entire community. New Durham is privileged to have a whole faculty of incredible educators and staff who never cease to rally for the children of our community. Among that cluster of blindingly bright and beautiful stars, Mrs. Madden shines as one of New Hampshire’s Top Teachers.”