Inspiration Awards Honor Bridgeport’s Best Educators & Community Leaders – Renowned Beard Award Highlighted the Ceremony

May 05, 2017

MAY 4, 2017, BRIDGEPORT, CT — The Inspiration Awards honoring the best of the best teachers in Bridgeport, Connecticut was hosted by the Bridgeport Public Education Foundation (BPEF) and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation last night. Over 300 supporters from Bridgeport and throughout the region gathered at the Holiday Inn in Bridgeport, Connecticut to honor teachers, their colleagues and friends of the schools who have dedicated their time and passion to helping Bridgeport students succeed.

The Inspiration Awards honoring the best of the best teachers in Bridgeport, Connecticut was hosted by the Bridgeport Public Education Foundation (BPEF) and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation last night.
BEARD AWARD Winners with the Beard Family and other dignitaries.
Standing Left to right: Juanita James, CEO & President, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation; David Emerson; John Beard; Molly Beard and Laura Emerson.
Seated left to right: Beard Award Winners, Arlette Mello Johnson and Wendy Milson.

The Inspiration Awards honor the level of excellence and its impact currently occurring educationally in Bridgeport’s public school system. Teachers, administrators and community leaders making a difference in the lives of Bridgeport students and families were honored at the Inspiration Awards.  The annual ceremony is a highlight of the school year.

The Beard Awards

The Beard Awards were a highlight of the inspiring award ceremony. The Beard Awards, among the largest education awards in the country, are provided each year through an endowed fund at Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. The Theodore and Margaret Beard Excellence in Teaching Awards presented in Bridgeport are two $20,000 unrestricted cash awards presented to teachers who have brought innovation, excitement and a love of learning to the classroom. The recipients of the Beard Award are given a $20,000 gift payable over three years as an incentive to remain in the district, to be a resource to new Bridgeport teachers, and to serve as a teacher-leader in their building. The Beard Award recipients are also invited to be a member of the Superintendent’s Leadership Roundtable, a prestigious honor and attend monthly meetings.

The 2017 Beard Award winners are Arlette Mello Johnson, a first grade bilingual teacher at Multi-Cultural Magnet School and Wendy Milson, a middle school mathematics teacher at John Winthrop School.

Ms. Johnson has been teaching in the Bridgeport Public Schools for nearly five years. She passionately uses her own immigration journey to help her students become successful English language learners. Ms. Johnson lives in who lives in Stratford, CT.

Ms. Milson has been teaching in the Bridgeport Public Schools for over fourteen years and specializes in middle school mathematics. Using a theatrical approach and creative technology, Ms. Milson makes mathematics come alive in her classroom in her mission to help her students understand the importance of mathematics in the real world. Ms. Milson lives in Milford, CT.

BPEF Outstanding Teacher Awards

In addition to the two Beard Awards presented, the Inspiration Award ceremony also recognized eight Bridgeport educators with a Bridgeport Public Education Foundation’s Outstanding Teacher Recognition Award. This award was established in 1993 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Bridgeport Public Education Fund.  The teachers selected demonstrate leadership in the field of education and by their example, encourage other Bridgeport teachers to excel. A teacher is nominated by a colleague who has been inspired by their proposed candidate. This year, each recipient received a Tiffany crystal apple and a $1,000 certificate to be used for professional development enhancements for themselves or for the enrichment of their classroom and students.

2017 Bridgeport Public Education Foundation Honorees
Standing: Robert Laska (BPEF), Marcos Olivera (Tisdale School), Jacqueline Simmons (Roosevelt School), Bryan Ripley Crandall (Fairfield University), Wendy Milson (John Winthrop School), John Joyner (Hallen School), Natalie Liberty (Central High School), Rebecca Kaplan (Central High School), Arun Kadam (Bridgeport Military Academy), Barbara Bellinger (BPEF)
Seated: Amy Henson (Geraldine W. Johnson School), Jacee Rhodes (High Horizons Magnet School), Pamela Jannetty (High Horizons Magnet School), Arlette Mello Johnson (Multicultural Magnet School).

The 2017 Bridgeport Public Education Foundation Outstanding Teachers are Amy Henson, Geraldine Johnson School; Pamela Jannetty, High Horizons School; John Joyner, Hallen School; Arun Kadam, Bridgeport Military School; Rebecca Kaplan, Central High School; Natalie Liberty, Central high School; Marcos Olivera, Tisdale School and Jacee Rhodes, High Horizons School.

Bellinger and Pfriem Awards

Recognizing the importance of the education community and education advocates to make a difference in education in Bridgeport in addition to teachers, the Bridgeport Public Education Fund also honors those community and school leaders who work to improve Bridgeport’s schools.

The George Bellinger Leadership Award is presented annually to a Bridgeport school principal. This year’s recipient, Ms. Jacqueline Simmons, has served as Principal of Theodore Roosevelt School since 2015, when this newly built school re-opened. Ms. Simmons has been an educator in the Bridgeport Public schools for twenty years as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal. 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.

Named in honor of the late Elizabeth M. Pfriem, noted 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, Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall, is director of the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University and assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions at Fairfield University. Among his many accomplishments, Dr. Crandall offers a writing institute for Bridgeport teachers and students each summer. The Ubuntu Academy, a summer literacy camp for immigrant and refugee youth from Bridgeport, is an important partnership Dr. Crandall created with the Bridgeport Public Schools and The International Institute of Connecticut, a local nonprofit organization.



13420m2_fccflogo_rgb_lgFairfield County’s Community Foundation promotes philanthropy as a means to create change in Fairfield County, focusing on innovative and collaborative solutions to critical issues impacting the community. Individuals, families, corporations and organizations can establish charitable funds or contribute to existing funds. The Community Foundation is in compliance with the Council on Foundations’ national standards and has awarded over $212 million in grants to nonprofits in Fairfield County and beyond. As a trusted nonprofit partner and thought leader, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation brings together community organizers, business experts and philanthropists to solve our region’s challenges. Our goal is to create a vital and inclusive community, where every individual has the opportunity to thrive.




The mission of The Bridgeport Public Education Fund, Inc. is to develop programs and to mobilize the community for quality public education in Bridgeport.  Goals include: increasing the community’s involvement in and support for the Bridgeport public schools; strengthening communication between the educational, civic and business constituencies; deepening awareness of excellence in our schools; encouraging and reward teacher’s outstanding efforts through support for classroom projects; developing programs and opportunities which will enrich and improve public education in Bridgeport.


ABOUT 2017 Theodore and Margaret Beard Excellence in Teaching Award Winners:

Name:                                                 Ms. Arlette Mello Johnson

Lives in:                                               Stratford

School:                                                Multi-Cultural Magnet School

Grade:                                                 1st Grade Bilingual Teacher

Years teaching in Bridgeport:             4.5 years

Total years teaching:                           4.5 years

Principal:                                             Dr. Luis Planas  (203) 275-4601


Name:                                                 Ms. Wendy Milson

Lives in:                                               Milford

School:                                                John Winthrop School

Grade:                                                 7th and 8th Grade Mathematics

Subjects:                                              Mathematics

Years teaching in Bridgeport:             14.5 years

Total years teaching:                           14.5 years

Principal:                                             Ms. Selena Morgan  (203) 275-3000