Inspiration Awards Honor Bridgeport’s Best Educators & Community Leaders Renowned Beard Awards – A Noted Highlight at the Ceremony

May 04, 2018

(Bridgeport, CT) The Inspiration Awards celebrating teachers, administrators and community leaders making a difference in the lives of Bridgeport students and their families was hosted today by the Bridgeport Public Education Fund, Inc. (BPEF) and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation at the Holiday Inn. More than 300 supporters from throughout the region gathered for this annual ceremony which is a highlight of the school year.

The Inspiration Awards are dedicated to those teachers, their colleagues and friends who have committed their time and passion to helping Bridgeport students succeed. The awards honor the level of excellence and its impact currently occurring educationally in Bridgeport’s public school system by paying tribute to teachers, administrators and community leaders making a difference in the lives of Bridgeport students.

The Beard Awards

The Beard Awards were a highpoint of the inspiring award ceremony. They are among the largest education awards in the country and 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 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 members of the Superintendent’s Leadership Roundtable, a prestigious honor.

The 2018 Beard Award winners are Natalie Liberty-Murray and Bianca Rivera.  Ms. Liberty-Murray has been teaching in the Bridgeport Public Schools for six years. As a science teacher at Central High School, she plans student-centered lessons in AP Biology, Anatomy and Physiology as well as collaborates with colleagues to deliver college and career readiness workshops. Ms. Liberty-Murray came to the Bridgeport Public Schools via Teach for America-Connecticut, where she served a corps member from 2012 through 2014. She resides in Milford, CT.   Ms. Rivera has been teaching in the Bridgeport Public Schools for 18 years. As a grade 4 teacher at Roosevelt School, she goes above and beyond to create a rich classroom environment for her students. Ms. Rivera has been successful in using Donors Choose to fund 88 projects over the past ten years, resulting in bringing new art and educational supplies to her classroom. She lives in Trumbull, CT.

BPEF Outstanding Teacher Awards

 In addition to the two Beard Awards presented, the Inspiration Award ceremony recognized eight Bridgeport educators with a Bridgeport Public Education Fund’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.

The 2018 Bridgeport Public Education Foundation Outstanding Teachers are Beth Aronstam, a social worker at High Horizons Magnet School; Vanessa Arroyo, a Central High School English teacher; Joan Collins, a special education teacher at High Horizons Magnet School; Cristina DaSilva-Novotny, an English as a Second Language teacher at Blackham School; Ashley Lupo, Beardsley School third grade teacher; Tara Oliwa, a Beardsley School special education teacher; Carol Ortiz, a physical education teacher at Roosevelt School and Theresa Welch, a Beardsley School librarian/media specialist.

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.Charmaine Worthy, serves as Principal of Jettie S. Tisdale School. 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 was The Bridgeport School Volunteer Association. Also, being honored at the award ceremony was the retiring University of Bridgeport President Neil Salonen who received special recognition for exceptional education leadership.

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The Theodore and Margaret Beard Excellence in Teaching Awards were presented to Natalie Liberty-Murray and Bianca Rivera. The Beard Awards were a highpoint of the inspiring award ceremony. Pictured left to right are John Beard; Natalie Liberty Murray; Bianca Rivera; Molly Beard; Susan Beard and Andy Beard.