Lyndonville district honors nurse, 2 teachers as staff member and educators of the year

Photos by Tom Rivers: These three were recognized by the school district on Monday. Jennifer Trupo (left) and Dan Dragula were named educators of the year, and Mary Bateson-Kurz, the school nurse who was named staff member of the year.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 June 2021 at 11:36 am

LYNDONVILLE – The school district on Monday honored a nurse as staff member of the year and two teachers as educators of the year.

Mary Bateson-Kurz – dedicated school nurse the past 20 years

Mary Bateson-Kurz, the school nurse the past 20 years, was named the first recipient of the staff member of the year. She has always been a dedicated nurse for Lyndonville students, but took on an even bigger role this past school year during the Covid-19 pandemic, said Jason Smith, the district superintendent.

She was praised for being “a calming influence in the storm” and an “essential member” of the district’s team that makes safety decisions for the schools. Bateson-Kurz sorted through ever-changing regulations from the state and made those guidelines understandable to students, parents, faculty and staff, said Sharon Smith, the district’s director of instruction and student services.

Bateson-Kurz responds to numerous emails, voicemails and texts from parents and staff, often on weekends and in the evenings.

The school nurse position has become more demanding with changing mandates and regulations from the state and federal governments, and some students with complex health needs, said Dr. Aaron Slack, middle-high school principal.

Bateson-Kurz assumed a leadership role with the district the past year, handling an increased workload and stress with “a calm, wise and supportive voice amidst the ever-shifting myriad of bureaucratic guidance and directives related to COVID safety and reopening,” Slack wrote in his nomination for her.

Bateson-Kurz , in accepting the award, thanked parents for their cooperation in the past year. They screened their children before sending them to school, and kept them home if they had Covid symptoms. She acknowledged the challenges for families when students needed to stay home if they were determined to be a close contact with someone who had Covid.

She praised the district staff for their increased efforts with keeping the school clean this past year.

“It has been a community effort,” she said about fighting the spread of Covid and keeping the schools open all year for in-person classes.

Bateson-Kurz will receive a $500 grant from the district for receiving the award. She will use that towards the cost of buying an audiometer which can help screen children as young as 3 for hearing acuity. It performs the test in English and Spanish.

Jennifer Trupo – Lyndonville grad connects with students at her alma mater as music teacher

Jennifer Trupo was recognized as one of two educators of the year. A music teacher, she works with elementary and high school students as K-12 vocal and general music teacher. She also directs the high school music in a combined production with Lyndonville and Medina students.

Kristina Best, a Lyndonville music teacher, was among the nominees for Trupo. Best said her colleague is resilient and “the most positive person I know.” Trupo has brought stability to the music program, and allowed students to flourish, Best said.

“One of the things that sets Jen apart is her incredible ability to connect with students at all levels,” Best said. She can be teaching kindergarten one period and high school the next, and she does it flawlessly.”

Several students also nominated Trupo for the educator of the year. Brian Cunningham, a senior, has been in the chorus, musicals and select chorus for many years with Trupo. He said he is grateful he has had the privilege of being her student.

“She has an unbelievable ability to reach out to even the most close-minded student and inspire them to put their best foot forward and help them to be the best version of themselves they can be,” Cunningham said in his nomination letter. “Mrs. Trupo is a daily inspiration to not only me, but to countless other students and teachers.”

Alissa Klinetob, another student, said Trupo “is a smiling face in the halls and a ray of sunshine through school.”

Trupo was awarded $1,000 for winning the award and she said she would use it to purchase ukuleles for her students.

She praised many of her former teachers when she was a student at Lyndonville. They were the role models for her to pursue teaching.

She has built a level of trust with her students where they feel comfortable taking risks and expressing themselves.

“I go out of my way every day to show and tell my students that I care about them as people and that they are loved by me, and in turn they respond to me because they know it to be true,” Trupo said. “I would have zero success in the classroom if this wasn’t the case.”

Dan Dragula – science teacher praised for use of humor, creative class lessons

Dan Dragula teaches physics and astronomy at Lyndonville. He also is a class advisor and happily helps build sets for the school musical, and is a go-to person with sound, electrical, lights and technology.

Dragula received numerous nomination letters from current and former students, who praised his use of humor, creative experiments and passion in helping the students to understand complex concepts.

Dragula has been teaching at Lyndonville since 2013. He said he struggled in the beginning and didn’t feel like students were understanding the material. He continues to modify his teaching style, looking for ways to engage all students.

He was praised by the district for being a highly effective teacher, even with students who have been remote during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He was nominated for the award by Kristina Best, a music teacher, who called him “the epitome of a caring educator.” He is also a great resource to the other teachers.

“He helps anyone and everyone, and he truly wants to see if teacher succeed,” Best said. “He wants to help out simply for the joy of helping others and giving our students the best possible experience during their school careers.”

Parents also nominated Dragula and praised him for using a positive attitude and humor, as well as technology to help the students learn.

Jacob Corser, a senior, said Dragula is much more than a physics and science teacher. He fixes broken Chromebooks, builds sets and works on the light configurations at musicals.

“He gives so much of himself while still being an amazing teacher and person,” Corser said in his nomination letter. “I’m beyond grateful for all he has done for the school, my life and the lives of the students.”

Dragula said his focus for students isn’t just memorizing facts and formulas. Like Trupo, he wants students to feel safe to take risks in class and not be afraid of failure.

“My desire isn’t that I produce mindless robots with extensive scientific knowledge,” Dragula said. “I want smart, thoughtful, ethical students that use their knowledge and learning to better their lives and the lives of those around them.”

Retiring teacher grateful for career at Lyndonville

Jeff Gress is retiring after 29 years as a teacher and coach at Lyndonville.

The school district also recognized Jeff Gress on his impending retirement after 29 years at Lyndonville. He was hired as a technology teacher in 1992, and was a dedicated coach in wrestling, volleyball and track and field. He was also a GCC approved instructor, teaching Lyndonville students engineering and architectural drawing classes.

Gress was always willing to take on new challenges for the district, said Jason Smith, the district superintendent.

Two years ago he led Lyndonville’s new FFA chapter. He has served on other district committees and has brought a servant’s heart to the position while setting high expectations for students and athletes, Smith said.

Gress said he is happy his career was spent at Lyndonville.

“I love our district,” he said. “I love everything about it.”

• Lyndonville also awarded tenure to teachers Alisha Duffina and Maegan Suhr