Thursday, November 27, 2014

Two city teachers honored for leading

the way in the classroom

Linda Conner Lambeck
Published 11:18 p.m., Sunday, May 6, 2012



BRIDGEPORT -- Tanairy Sanchez's finger hesitates under the word "parent," stroking the sheet of paper until she finally sounded out the word correctly.

When the first-grader succeeds, teacher Candice King-Sadler tells the 7-year-old to trust herself, and then reminds her she had just read the word flawlessly a few lines earlier. A discussion then ensues between Tanairy and her four literacy group mates over what in their mind would constitute "bad news," which is in the title of the story about a little boy not happy to learn he is becoming a big brother.

Sanchez is just one of 17 students busy learning in King-Sadler's Cesar Batalla School classroom that day.

Some students use the white board to assemble words with magnetized letter titles. Others work at their desks to copy the day's agenda, which is displayed from a projector onto a smart board. A few students are engaged in a guided reading exercise with classroom aide Diane Bolarinho.

The same level of engagement can be found in a second-floor chemistry lab at Central High School, where 22 juniors in goggles are hunched over beakers and test tubes of boiling water trying to figure out the solubility of a salt. Their teacher, Kathleen Sullivan, floats between the groups, answering questions and basically making sure there are no accidents.

It is first period, but no one is nodding off or sneaking a peek at their cellphone. Everyone is on task.

"This comes from day after day, teaching them to be independent thinkers, learners and doers," said Sullivan, who at 25 could be mistaken for one of her students were it not for the string of pearls around her neck.

Between them, Sullivan and King-Sadler, 29, have just 10 years of teaching experience. It is enough, however, to be recognized as educational leaders who not only help their students succeed, but colleagues as well. Both have been selected as 2012 Beard Excellence in Education Award recipients.

One of the largest teacher recognitions of its kind, the award was developed in 2002 and is named after Theodore and Margaret Beard, who attended public schools in Bethel and Danbury. The award recognizes public school teachers who are dedicated and committed to the students of Bridgeport. Winners receive an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize spread out over four years.

King-Sadler, a Bridgeport native, is going to Tahiti with some of her prize money, something she called a lifelong dream.

Sullivan plans to pay off some student loans and buy materials for her classroom.

Both received their first installment of the prize money last week at a ceremony hosted by the Fairfield County Community Foundation and Bridgeport Public Education Fund. During the program, Multicultural Magnet School Principal Helen Moran won this year's George Bellinger Leadership award and six other teachers received Outstanding Teacher Awards. The winners included three staff members at Multicultural Magnet School: social worker Harry Seltzer, math teacher Dawn Bagwell, and Monica Tarnowski, a reading and math specialist. At Read School, math teacher Ronald Jones won the award. Speech pathologist Jennifer Luckar from Batalla School won and from Central High, photography teacher Mark Alvarez was also named.

During the ceremony, Christian Mayorga, 7, told the crowd that King-Sadler helped him get his reading score up and is simply awesome.

Ro-Anna Thomas, a Central junior, said even though her brain is fried at the end of one of Sullivan's classes, she stands out as one of the most creative, innovative, energetic teachers she has had.

Sullivan said one key for her is to leave as little as possible to chance and to exude a confidence. Students, she has taught at all levels with success, can see that, she said. She also tells students she is a valuable resource for them, but not the only one. That, she said, has led to higher test scores.

"It's all about figuring out what students need. Once you do, you can handle it," said Sullivan.

Sullivan is a graduate of Fairfield University who discovered she loved teaching in Bridgeport after teaching after-school classes at Bassick High School.

King-Sadler started as a pre-med major, but discovered teaching in her hometown was what she was meant to do.

"Just because a teacher teaches, doesn't mean a student learns. I consider myself a good teacher because above all, I am a master of loving children," she said

In her first year of teaching, one boy named Denmark, who came to first grade with a reputation as a difficult student, left every day asking his teacher if she still loved him.

"I told him I will always love you, Denmark," she said.

lclambeck@ctpost.com, 203-330-6218; http://twitter.com/lclambeck