During the recent Lehighton Area School Board meeting, Carbon Chapter of PASR (Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees) presented the prestigious Lauretta Woodson Award to a teacher and a support professional of the school district.

Educational Support Committee Chair Jill DeLong and Committee Member Gloria Bowman first recognized John Lopata, Lehighton Area Middle School American history teacher.

Now in his 35th year of teaching social studies, Lopata has served as Camera Club advisor; cheerleader advisor; Student Advisory Council advisor; social studies department head; a game manager for 15 years; and the school's Boston field trip coordinator for 20 years. He has been instrumental in raising a substantial amount of money for numerous charities – including Dream Come True, American Cancer Society, dance marathons for students with cancer, and Adopt-a-School Katrina Hurricane Relief.

"Mr. Lopata works tirelessly behind the scenes to provide opportunities for all our students to grow within and beyond the classroom," said Dr. Mark McGalla, LAMS principal. "He is always willing to lend a hand to provide a better experience for our students at LAMS."

The Carbon Chapter of PASR representatives then recognized Michelle Blasiak, Mahoning Elementary School and Shull-David Elementary School learning support paraprofessional – working with both special needs and general education students.

"She has an extremely challenging schedule and is always willing to go 'above and beyond' her daily duties by reinforcing basic language skills, adapting student material, and providing accommodations to help the students perform to the best of their ability," remarked DeLong. "She is very positive in her approach with both the students and fellow employees."

"Michelle is an outstanding para educator in our schools. It is a pleasure to work with such a professional, team-oriented individual," said Elementary Principal Aaron Sebelin. "Lehighton Area School District is extremely fortunate to have her working with our children."

According to Bowman, both Lopata and Blasiak were selected by the Lehighton Area School District administration "for their outstanding creativity, initiative, and productivity relevant to the learning process of their students."

The awards are given in the name of Dr. Lauretta Woodson, an educator born and raised in Chester, PA. She attended West Chester State Teacher's College where she earned a degree in Secondary Education in English. Woodson went on to earn her master's degree from Columbia University and her doctorate from Temple University. She taught English at Eddystone School District and then became an instructor and assistant professor at Temple for more than 25 years.

After retiring in 1984, Woodson joined PASR and rose through the ranks of the organization, playing an instrumental role in helping PASR to become what it is today. Upon her passing, she bequeathed a sum of money to PASR to be used for support of public education. The purpose of the Lauretta Woodson Recognition Program is to honor one teacher and one support professional for doing an outstanding job within a district or school.

Carbon Chapter of PASR is comprised of 278 retired members who were employed at one of five school districts in Carbon County – Jim Thorpe Area, Lehighton Area, Palmerton Area, Panther Valley, and Weatherly Area – as well as Carbon Career & Technical Institute and Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21. Members may also be Carbon County residents who were employed by public school districts outside of the county.

Carbon Chapter of PASR – along with Berks, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill Chapters – comprise Region 2 of PASR. Members are former school teachers, administrators, counselors, nurses, secretaries, aides, cafeteria workers, bookkeepers, business managers, bus drivers, and maintenance staff.

For more information about Carbon Chapter of PASR, visit www.orgsites.com/pa/carbon-county-pasr/ or call (610) 377-4740.