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Four school employees recognized for their contributions

Two Palmerton Area School District and two Panther Valley School District employees were named Lauretta Woodson Award winners Tuesday at the Carbon County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees’ fall luncheon.

Tina Manning, a school counselor, and Sofia Mendes, a custodian, at Parkside Education Center in Palmerton were honored for their contributions. They were slated to receive the awards in 2020.

“Tina is a person of many, many talents,” said Molly Phillips, who presented the awards for PASR. “From monthly grade level data meetings to new student orientation, she had a laundry list of responsibilities and excels at each one of them. Palmerton is very lucky to have her.”

Phillips said Mendes, who was unable to make the luncheon due to the lack of a substitute for her position, “knows the students by name and they look forward to seeing her.”

“She has given her time to make the students a part of her life,” Phillips added.

The 2021 award winners were Francine Collevechio, a Panther Valley paraprofessional, and Maria Wozniak, a Panther Valley Elementary School teacher.

Phillips called Wozniak a “phonics guru within the building who is sought out by other teachers to help.”

Collevechio, she added, goes above and beyond and has developed a fantastic rapport with students.

“She handles stressful situations with ease,” Phillips said.

Tuesday’s event, held at the SS. Peter and Paul School Hall in Lehighton, was the first time the Carbon PASR chapter has met in two years due to COVID-19.

“We’re very happy to be back together,” Gloria Bowman, outgoing chapter president, said. “We have a wonderful turnout. Carbon County has been really lucky in that last year we added 13 new members and we’ve added 12 so far this year. We do an awful lot of volunteerism from Toys for Tots to cancer telethons and to be able to get back here together is great.”

Grants awarded

The group also presented several grants to educators from Carbon County school districts.

Autumn Gilbert, a Weatherly Area School District special education teacher, received the seed money to help make a three-year dream project a reality.

“My plan is for a vending machine fully stocked with books ranging from the pre-K level to eighth grade,” Gilbert said. “Every other week, we’ll randomly pick out 5-10 kids and have them go to the vending machine to pick a book they can keep. It will also be tied to our district’s positive behavior program. The vending machine will be one of the things our students can use their positive behavior tokens on.”

Lauren Wall and Tonya Drum, second-grade teachers at Panther Valley Elementary School, plan to use their grant money on equipment for students to use outside on the playground.

“We would also like to couple it with other donations for an outdoor lockable storage area to keep all that equipment in,” Wall said.

Other awards

In other news from Tuesday’s Carbon PASR meeting, Rebecca Zehner and Molly Phillips were named John Dillon Award winners, while Pam Moore was named “Volunteer of the Year.”

“Throughout the pandemic, the food pantry at Ebenezer Evangelical Congregational Church has been so fortunate to have Pam Moore as its guiding light and driving force,” said Mary Ann Ashner. “She was in the Lehighton Area School District for 35 years. She gave so much of herself then and continues that now.”

Four area school employees were named Lauretta Woodson Award winners Tuesday at the Carbon County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees' fall luncheon. Pictured, from left, are Francine Collevechio, Panther Valley School District; Tina Manning, Palmerton Area School District; and Maria Wozniak, Panther Valley School District. Not pictured is Sofia Mendes, Palmerton Area School District. JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS
The Carbon County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees' handed out several educational grants during its luncheon meeting Tuesday. From left are Lauren Wall, Panther Valley School District; Autumn Gilbert, Weatherly Area School District; and Tonya Drum, Panther Valley School District.