Teacher & Para of the Year
Teacher of the Year
We are excited to share that Susan Coco is the 2022-23 Teacher of the Year (TOY) for 2022-23 for Wethersfield Public Schools. When you enter Sue’s technology education classroom at Wethersfield High School, you can expect to feel and see a diverse community of lower and upper grades including students of all abilities and backgrounds working together on authentic learning challenges–from creating original architectural designs to filming engaging news segments.
Sue started teaching in the Technology Education Department at Cheshire High School in 1994 after working in an engineering firm. She shared that once she found her true passion for connecting with teenagers and changed her major to education, she became an exceptional learner. Sue often shares her own personal journey as a way to connect with her students and inspire them to be their very best. She joined WHS six years ago and has created a vibrant student-run television studio from the ground up. If you are part of the Wethersfield Public Schools System we can guarantee that you have seen Blue Eagle News! Sue has a passion for helping students responsibly report news, especially topics that can result in positive change for a school or community.
Sue’s students know that she doesn’t accept mediocrity, instead she pushes them to be better all the while she models how to be “human” and helps her students understand that no one is perfect. Sue believes that she can help students push through “uncomfortableness” in their lives that will result in growth. She does this through strong trusting relationships with students. Her students seek out her advice because they know that they will get a straight answer from her. During her interview, she shared her compassion for students when they are seriously struggling on how to navigate the world around them. When she notices students are overwhelmed, she will stop the lesson and provide a safe space for students to talk, reflect, and lean into that uncomfortable feeling as a way to support their social emotional learning. She helps diverse learners and thinkers embrace uncomfortableness. Sue shared that, “social emotional growth is a daily thing that will continue for their [students’] lives and we need to give them tools.”
The person who nominated Sue stated:
I believe that Sue’s enthusiasm for her students and this school are incredibly infectious. She is always willing to work with everyone (both students & staff) to promote their function, idea, fundraiser and event. Sometimes the Tech Ed teachers can be the real unsung heroes of the school. Sue works with other staff to make sure that a student or her student is being taken care of emotionally and academically. I think that when you have a teacher or staff member that rises to the occasion,for the betterment of the students and the school, it can’t help but be emulated by others.
Sue is also deeply passionate about civic opportunities and hosts a blood drive during the school year and during the summer months. Students also flock to Sue at the many student events she attends throughout the year. I’m sure you have also seen or heard the positive impact Sue has had on her students both within and outside of her classroom. Her sphere of influence goes beyond the students in her classes as their news clips have had a positive impact at WHS, the district, and the greater community at large.
Please join us in congratulating Sue Coco!
Paraeducator of the Year
We are excited to share that Stacie Distin is the 2022-23 Paraeducator of the Year (POY) for Wethersfield Public Schools. Stacie has worked as a paraeducator and behavioral specialist for Wethersfield Public Schools since 2014. She currently serves as a behavioral specialist in the STRIVE program at Hanmer Elementary School. Stacie is truly passionate about helping kids and she absolutely loves her job. She cherishes the small, but oh so important moments, with her students. Getting to know her students well allows her to connect with them when they are having a difficult moment. Stacie is well known for sitting with a student and helping them navigate difficult moments in time and it wouldn’t surprise anyone in the room if she has her student laughing after a few minutes. Her students and her colleagues all know she has a heart of gold and they know that she will never, ever, ever, give up on kids!
The people who nominated Stacie shared following in her nomination form:
Stacie has been a crucial asset to the Strive program and at Hanmer, which is a unique experience. She has been involved in Strive since the beginning stages of the program and therefore is a crucial part as the program continues to develop. Her advice and perspective are valued by her colleagues because she has so much experience in this area. Her expertise on students with the most significant needs and students with trauma is very respected. She approaches all her students with trauma-informed practices. More importantly, Stacie continues to create a strong rapport with students in both primary and upper-level Strive. She cares about the students, she values the students, and she shows compassion, and kindness to students every day. Stacie is an extremely observant individual who advocates for all Strive students. She has a strong ability to anticipate problems before they arise and therefore prevents the problem from escalating. Her proactive approach allows her to help students use their strategies to find success.
Stacie is in one of the most difficult positions that is physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging. She is aware of the risk of the physical aggression that students might exhibit but never gets angry or flustered in these intense situations. She continues to find the best in her students and shows compassion to her colleagues. Stacie is a positive light and uplifts Strive by continuing to support and promote the purpose of the program to everyone around her.
Every day Stacie makes a difference in the lives of everyone she interacts with. In addition to the compassion and care she shows to the students, she is also very mindful of the well-being of her coworkers. Not only the tangible things like making sure we get lunch breaks when there are staffing shortages or asking how she can help when a student is upset. She has an uncanny ability to see a need and fill it. At the end of challenging days, she checks in to see if her colleagues are okay whether it is with a phone call or a text. That support is encouraging and creates a safe environment.
Working in Strive comes with some very real challenges. There are no quiet days. There are hardly any quiet moments. Stacie shows up every day ready to face those challenges with enthusiasm and passion to make a positive difference for each student she encounters. She models the practice of every student, every day. Strive and Hanmer would not be the same without Stacie Distin.
Compassion is the word that first comes to mind when many think of Stacie. She has true genuine compassion for all. This includes the students that she works directly with that are so impacted by significant traumatic events but also all the staff and students who her life connects with on a daily basis. She knows the importance of a friendly greeting and always is looking for that individual that needs something extra to help them with their day. It is this compassion that adds so much to the climate and culture of Hanmer Elementary School.
Please join us in Congratulating Stacie Distin!