‘Inspiration Awards’ Recognize Bridgeport’s Best Teachers

May 17, 2022

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

TRUMBULL– May 4, 2022 – Twenty inspiring teachers, administrators and community leaders were honored today for making a difference in the lives of Bridgeport students and families during the 28th-annual Inspiration Awards.

The packed ceremony – a highlight of the school year — brought together more than 200 supporters from throughout the region at the Trumbull Marriott Hotel to recognize and honor Bridgeport teachers, administrators and institutions 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 (FCCF), the Inspiration Awards honor the good work being done in Bridgeport’s public schools.

“I look forward to this event each year, and am thrilled we are back to doing it in person in 2022!”, remarked Juanita T. James, President/CEO of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. “It is so appropriate we are holding the Inspiration Awards, in partnership with The Bridgeport Public Education Fund, during Educator Appreciation Week. We are so pleased to be able to acknowledge the extraordinary talents of four Bridgeport teachers with the Beard Excellence in Teaching Award. These teachers have persevered during the most challenging past two years and are especially deserving of our recognition.”

Beard Awards
A highlight of the ceremony is the awarding of The Theodore and Margaret Beard Excellence in Teaching Awards. Known as The Beard Teaching Awards, it’s among the largest education awards in the country.

Recipients of this prestigious fund receive a $20,000 award 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 and provide resources to new Bridgeport teachers.

In 2020, the Beard Award winners are Alexandra Lage, a sixth-grade teacher at Watersville School, and Nicole Lynk, a sixth-grade history teacher at Wilbur Cross School. The 2020 Inspiration Awards were postponed to 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. Both the 2020 and 2022 Beard awardees were celebrated on May 4th. In 2022, the Beard Award winners are Cynthia Crudale, a Science at Fairchild Wheeler High Interdistrict Magnet School, and Careen Derise, a Social Studies teacher at Discovery Magnet School.

BPEF Outstanding Teacher Awards
In addition to the four Beard Awards, for 2021 and 2022, the Inspiration Award ceremony also recognized sixteen (16) 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 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 2021* BPEF Outstanding Teachers are:

• Cynthia Crudale, Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet School
• Susan DePascale, Beardsley School
• Kimberly Doran, High Horizons Magnet School
• Kathleen Fuchs, Beardsley School
• Carrie Hasenbein, John Winthrop School
• Patrick O’Rourke, Bassick High Schools
• Carli Rocha-Reaes, Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet School
• Georgeann Stewart, Classical Studies School

The 2022 BPEF Outstanding Teachers are:

• Jessica Baldizon, Cesar Batalla School
• Laura Ellwanger, Read School
• Rebecca Feola, Discovery Magnet School
• Teresa Oliveira, Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet School
• Michael Paolucci, Jettie S. Tisdale School
• Christina Shanahan, Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet School
• Mikeya Stovall, Read School
• Jennifer Wehmann, Multicultural Magnet School

Bellinger Leadership Award
Recognizing that teachers aren’t the only ones making a difference in education, 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.

The 2021 Bellinger Leadership recipient, Dr. Eric Graf, has been an administrator and leader in the Bridgeport Public School district in various capacities for more than 20 years. Under Dr. Graf’s leadership, Central earned national and state rankings in the US News & World Report for academic and post-secondary improvements. Dr. Graf has fashioned and designed a culture of continuous improvement for all stakeholders.

The 2022 Bellinger Leadership recipient, Brett Gustafson, has been an administrator and leader for 12 years. Mr. Gustafson has been the Principal of James J. Curiale School since 2010. In his tenure, Brett has built a close-knit community where staff, students, and community feel valued and safe. Brett is the coach of the girls’ basketball team and avid cheerleader for all of his students. His support for his students and families goes beyond school hours and borders. He is a “world class leader” as exemplified in his ability to find resources to rescue efforts of two of his students who were stuck in war-torn Afghanistan.

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.

The 2021*Elizabeth M. Pfriem Civic Leadership Award recipient is The Tauck Family Foundation, a local family foundation established by Arthur C. Tauck in 1994. The Foundation’s mission is to invest in a small number of organizations and initiatives that equip the children of Bridgeport, CT with the necessary social and emotional skills to thrive academically and in life. The Foundation has partnered with the Bridgeport Public Schools since 2013 to support the Social-Emotional Learning initiative.

The 2022 Elizabeth M. Pfriem Civic Leadership Award recipient is Douglas H. Wade, Jr., President of Wade’s Dairy, Inc. Doug is a fifth-generation operator and purveyor of quality products at Wade’s Dairy. Founded in Easton, the dairy was located in Fairfield before being relocated to Bridgeport in 1995. As a community business, Mr. Wade and his brigade offered his space and products to distribute to families in need. With the support of the United States Department of Agriculture, Wade’s facilitated weekly drive-thru events to distribute over a ton of lean meats, fresh fruits, vegetables and milk to families.

Karen R. Brown
Fairfield County’s Community Foundation
(203) 750-3203

Faith Harrison-Villegas
Bridgeport Public Education Fund
(203) 331-0551