Board recognizes staff for commitment to students, school system

Board recognizes staff for commitment to students, school system

The Board of Education at its Feb. 13 meeting honored six Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) exemplary employees for their dedication to student success and commitment to teaching and learning.

Honored were Julie Colaizzi, Dr. Alan Freeman, Pam Pichola, Connie Sorzano, Nichole Thomas and Tina Thomas.

Colaizzi is a learning resource teacher at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School. She has been teaching with CCPS for the past 13 years. She started her career at the elementary school level and has been working with middle school students for three years. She recently helped to rearrange computer lab space at Stoddert for online testing, areas for small intervention work, grade recovery activities and professional development. Colaizzi remains up-to-date in practices and information pertaining to her position, such as testing regulations, technological resources and best practices in gifted education. She collaborates with Stoddert staff to provide guidance with enrichment services and is currently assisting a long-term substitute in two social studies classes. Colaizzi helps the classes stay on track academically and is coordinating the schoolwide History Fair project. In recent years, she has served as team leader, teacher-in-charge and testing coordinator. She also helps supervise the science, social studies, physical education and media departments. Colaizzi is chair of the Stoddert Relay for Life team and strong supporter of the school community. Stoddert Interim Principal Marvin Jones refers to Colaizzi as a true advocate for children. “We are extremely fortunate to have Mrs. Colaizzi as one of our most valuable staff members at Benjamin Stoddert. We should all hope to work with someone as dedicated and committed to children as Mrs. Julie Colaizzi,” Jones wrote in a nomination letter.

Freeman is the instrumental music teacher at Henry E. Lackey High School. He has taught at Lackey for the past eight years and strives to help band and orchestra students play their best. Students in his classes often advance in skill development, earning superior ratings as they advance. He has positive relationships with students and works to get to know incoming students from Lackey’s feeder middle schools. He sets up sessions with middle schools to promote performing arts and provides additional instruction to prepare students for high school. Freeman is known among staff as a teacher of excellence because he sets high expectations for students. For the past several years, Freeman has worked to secure grant funding from the Charles County Arts Alliance to support a student strings clinic. This year, he extended the clinic to students in both band and orchestra in which guest composers helped prepare them for upcoming state performances. He also maintains relationships with professional musicians that help to support his students. Lackey Principal Kathy Perriello said Freeman is an asset to the school community. “Everything he plans, leads and delivers is done with the utmost quality and care. Dr. Freeman is a gem and is truly our rock star,” Perriello wrote in a nomination letter.

Pichola is a first-grade teacher at C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School, where she has taught for the past 14 years. Pichola strives to embody the school motto of “Work Hard and Be Kind.” She arrives to school early and often stays late to finish her work. Her classroom is inviting and she incorporates fun and engaging lesson plans for students. Her colleagues see her as a creative, resourceful, understanding person who goes above and beyond to help anyone in need. Pichola arranges monthly staff breakfasts, holds classroom dime drives and coordinates student raffles. Additionally, Pichola is a strong supporter of Relay for Life. She has served as captain of the Relay for Life team for 14 years. The team raises nearly $5,000 annually and staff attribute the success to Pichola’s leadership. Barnhart Principal Ben Kohlhorst said Pichola is an example of a kind teacher who works hard. “Our school motto at Barnhart is ‘Work Hard and Be Kind.’ One teacher who epitomizes this philosophy at Barnhart is Pam Pichola. Her positive and easy going nature is felt the moment you walk into her classroom,” Kohlhorst wrote in a nomination statement.

Sorzano is the library media instructional assistant at T.C. Martin Elementary School. In her position at Martin, Sorzano helps to manage the school library and its 10,000-book inventory. She demonstrates a high degree of pride in her work and exemplary work ethic. Sorzano ensures each student has opportunities to take home books and develop a love for reading. She also serves as the bus coordinator at Martin, helping to direct traffic and ensure the parking lot is safe for students during arrival and dismissal. Sorzano is known among staff as an excellent problem solver and go-to person for technology assistance. Her approach with students is caring and consistent, and she is often sought to help cover classes during emergencies. As a member of the school sunshine committee, Sorzano helps to promote team-building activities among staff. Martin Principal Robert Opiekun said Sorzano is an asset to the school community. “Mrs. Sorzano accomplishes all she does with an amazing attitude toward her profession and the children she serves. She speaks positively about all children and works well professionally with everyone. She is a clear asset to T.C. Martin and thus for Charles County Public Schools as well,” Opiekun wrote in a nomination statement.

Nichole Thomas is a longtime school counselor at John Hanson Middle School. She has worked in the counseling department at Hanson for the past 20 years and is dedicated to students and staff. She strives to provide support to students and their families. Thomas holds one-on-one sessions, provides classroom presentations and holds conferences with parents regularly. She also serves as a source of support for staff. Students trust her and often spend their lunch with her, visit with her between classes and stay after school to talk with her. Thomas works beyond the school day to present at Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) meetings and oversees the Hanson National Junior Honor Society. She supports schoolwide initiatives to help those in need, such as annual holiday food and supply drives. She is chair of the counseling department and served as the Just Say No and step team sponsor, minority achievement coordinator and social committee chair. Hanson Principal Susan McCormick describes Thomas as an integral part of her team. “She understands our students, parents and guardians. As a result, she plays a key role in helping everyone in the building establish positive relationships. Relationships are the key to a successful school. For that reason she is invaluable,” McCormick wrote in a nomination letter.

Tina Thomas is a secretary at Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary School. She has worked at Dr. Brown for nearly 10 years and is an asset to school staff. She works with instructional staff to manage the new student information system, Synergy. She arrives early each day to ensure staff and teachers are ready to greet students at arrival. Thomas strives to be a support resource to teachers and staff members, and volunteers wherever she is needed. Her rapport with students and parents is positive, helping to establish and support relationships within the school community. Each year, Thomas coordinates donation activities to help support students and families in need such as hat, glove and scarf collections during winter months. Her colleagues describe her as a staff member who will do what she can to help anyone. Brown Principal Christienne Warren said Thomas has a lasting impact on the school community. “Ms. Thomas has been a very important influence in the lives of so many children who have matriculated through Dr. Brown Elementary School. She has made an indelible impression on so many Dr. Brown families,” Warren wrote in a nomination letter.

The Board at its monthly meetings recognizes outstanding CCPS students and staff for exemplary accomplishments.

About CCPS

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,900 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education. 

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

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