Bridgeport’s Best Teachers Will Be Recognized at the 2023 Inspiration Awards

May 02, 2023

Ceremony includes the coveted Beard Award, one of the nation’s largest education awards that aims to address teacher retention and encourage leadership

NORWALK, CT. (April 18, 2023) – Bridgeport’s top teachers will be honored at the upcoming 2023 Inspiration Awards ceremony on May 3 that will include two educators receiving the prestigious Beard Excellence in Teaching Awards.

One of the largest education awards in the country, the Beard Awards aim to support and recognize outstanding teachers within Bridgeport public schools. The award was established in 2002 by Theodore H. and Margaret S. Beard and is managed by Fairfield County’s Community Foundation in partnership with the Bridgeport Public Education Fund.

Every year, the fund provides up to two $20,000 unrestricted cash awards, presented at the annual Inspiration Awards which honors exceptional Bridgeport teachers and is scheduled during Teacher Appreciation Week. Payable over three years, the Beard Awards offer skilled teachers an incentive to remain in the Bridgeport School District, helping to address the growing teacher shortage across the state.

This year’s honorees are Jessica Baldizon, English teacher for third, fourth and sixth-grade multilingual learners at Cesar Batalla School in Bridgeport, and Terésa Oliveira, biotechnology research and zoological sciences teacher at the Fairchild Wheeler Science Teacher.

“Earning the Beard Award has been such an honor, and I am truly grateful for this recognition,” said Oliveira. “My passion and love for teaching in Bridgeport has shaped me into the teacher I want to be, as I continue to learn from my students every day. My intention and motivation are to create a safe and respectful classroom environment where my kids are excited and comfortable to learn.”

The Beards, who have called Bridgeport home since 1929, firmly believe in the power of education and that all children deserve first-class learning experiences. For them it was clear: teachers perform the most important job in our society.

“Our family believes that a good education is the most precious thing a child can be given,” said Sarah Beard, whose father John Beard established the Fund in his parents’ name in 2002. “The awards are a way to recognize and celebrate those bringing great teaching to Bridgeport students.”

The Beard Awards come at a critical time as residents and lawmakers learn of the heightened educational disparities that were exacerbated by COVID-19 in Fairfield County. Since local tax dollars fund our public schools, differences in the tax bases between cities and towns create disparities in per-student spending. Research indicates that limited resources in schools negatively impacts education and post-secondary opportunities.

The recent release of the 2023 Community Wellbeing Index (CWI) report highlights the stark disparities from town-to-town in Fairfield County. Consider the percentage of students in the class of 2014 who had earned a postsecondary degree – only 20 percent of graduating high school students in Bridgeport and 40 percent in Danbury earned a college degree within six years, versus 82 percent of students in districts representing the six wealthiest towns.

Additional CWI data indicate that the learning gap that resulted from the pandemic has led to widening gaps in academic outcomes between students in wealthy districts and those who attend schools in less-resourced districts.

“Now is the time to come together to invest in efforts that address our educational disparities and advocate for public policy changes to close the equity gaps for future generations,” said Mendi Blue Paca, CEO and president of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. “By addressing and solving these problems, we can create a happier, healthier community that thrives economically – and it begins by directly supporting our teachers in the classroom.”

For more information on attending the Inspiration Awards, please visit The Bridgeport Public Education Fund.

The full Greater Fairfield Community Wellbeing Index 2023 report can be found at

About Fairfield County’s Community Foundation

Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is partnering with our community to create a county where every person has an equitable opportunity to thrive. We work closely with community organizations, nonprofits, businesses, and philanthropists to address challenges and identify opportunities to create a stronger, more vibrant community. Informed by three decades of partnering with and serving our community, we have awarded more than $390 million in grants to nonprofits in Fairfield County and beyond. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Lauren Stewart | | (804) 690-9966