‘Inspiration Awards’ Recognize Bridgeport’s Best Teachers

May 16, 2019

Ceremony includes Beard Award, one of the nation’s largest teaching awards

BRIDGEPORT – May 8, 2019 – Teachers, administrators and community leaders making a difference in the lives of Bridgeport students and families were honored on Wednesday, May 8 at the 26th Inspiration Awards held at the Holiday Inn in Bridgeport. The packed ceremony – a highlight of the school year — convened more than 200 supporters from throughout the region to recognize and honor Bridgeport’s teachers, an administrator and a community organization who have dedicated their time and passion to helping Bridgeport students succeed.

Hosted by the Bridgeport Public Education Fund (BPEF) and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, the 26th annual Inspiration Awards honors the good work being done in Bridgeport’s public schools. The event is an ongoing partnership between The Bridgeport Public Education Fund and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.

Beard Awards

A highlight of the awards ceremony are the Theodore and Margaret Beard Excellence in Teaching Awards. The Beard Teaching Awards, among the largest education awards in the country, are provided each year through an endowed donor-advised fund at Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. Two recipients of this prestigious award receive a $20,000 unrestricted cash prize for their ability to bring innovation, excitement and a love of learning to the classroom. The Beard Award prize is payable over three years as an incentive for recipients to remain in the district, be a resource to new Bridgeport teachers, and to serve as a teacher-leader in their building.

This year’s Beard Award winners are Ashley M. Lupo, a third grade teacher at Beardsley School, and Laurinda Rua, a high school history teacher at Central High School.

Mrs. Lupo has been teaching in the Bridgeport Public Schools for eight years. A life-long Bridgeport resident, Mrs. Lupo brings a passion for instructional technology to her third-grade classroom. She participated in a teacher team which won a prestigious, comprehensive school technology grant from Apple, earning her the title of “Apple Educator.” She also serves on the  Beardsley School’s school improvement team

Mrs. Laurinda Rua has been teaching in the Bridgeport Public Schools for eighteen years. She makes history come alive in her Central High School classroom and endeavors to help her 9th grade students master Advanced Placement World History coursework. A highlight of the 11th grade student experience in Mrs. Rua’s U.S. History class is the creation of students’ own history textbooks. She also serves as Co-Chair of the History department at Central High School.

BPEF Outstanding Teacher Awards

In addition to the two Beard Awards, the Inspiration Award ceremony recognized eight Bridgeport educators with the Bridgeport Public Education Fund’s Outstanding Teacher Recognition Awards. This award was established in 1993 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Bridgeport Public Education Fund.  These teachers demonstrate leadership in the field of education and by their example, encourage other Bridgeport teachers to excel. Teachers are nominated by a colleague who has been inspired by their candidate. Each recipient received a Tiffany crystal apple and a $1,000 certificate entitling them to professional development enhancements for themselves or for the enrichment of their classroom and students.


The 2019 BPEF Outstanding Teachers are:

  • Jennifer Babb, Beardsley School
  • Sharisma D’Amico, Bridgeport Military Academy
  • Alexandra Lage, Waltersville School
  • Nicole Lynk, Wilbur Cross School
  • Catherine Mordecai, Barnum School
  • Lisa Petruzzelli, Beardsley School
  • Melissa Sproles, John Winthrop School
  • Nanci Zibell, Luis Marin Munoz School


Bellinger Leadership Award

Recognizing that teachers aren’t the only ones making a difference in education in Bridgeport, the Bridgeport Public Education Fund also honors school and community leaders who work to improve Bridgeport’s schools. The George Bellinger Leadership Award was established in 2004 to honor the memory of Bridgeport Public Education Fund board member and community leader, George Bellinger. This annual award is presented to a principal in the Bridgeport Public Schools who best replicates the ability of George Bellinger to foster and recognize good leadership.

This year’s recipient, Mr. Dane Brown, has been an administrator and leader since 2011. Mr. Brown has served as the Interim Principal in 2016 and Principal of Warren Harding High School since 2018, when this newly built school was ready to open. Mr. Brown was nominated by his colleagues for his dedication, morale-boosting approach to problem-solving and the care he exhibits for his Harding community. Dane’s “hold the rope” leadership style encourages everyone to participate in the learning community while being held accountable for student outcomes.

Elizabeth M.Pfriem Civic Leadership Award


Named in honor of the late Elizabeth M. Pfriem, Bridgeport philanthropist, The Elizabeth M. Pfriem Civic Award recognizes community leaders who have made a long-term commitment to child advocacy and public education. This year’s recipient is Urban Impact, a local non-profit organization primarily made up of volunteers who tutor and mentor at-risk youth ages kindergarten through grade 12 in the PT Barnum public housing community of Bridgeport, CT.  Their mission is to offer at-risk youth educational, mentoring and perspective-expanding opportunities through ‘in-school’ & ‘after-school’ activities. These include one-on-one and small group tutoring and mentoring with the purpose of helping youth achieve academic success, develop positive character traits and lead a fulfilling life.  Urban Impact has been helping the youth of PT Barnum since 2008.