Honorees

This year's honored guests

Our 2020 Honorees

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Donna Michael-Ziereis

2020 Community Leader

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David Lamkin

2020 District Faculty of the Year

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Past Honorees

2019

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Junetta Dix

2019 Community Leader

Junetta Dix

2019 Community Leader

The 2019 Linwood Education Foundation (LEF) Community Honoree is Junetta Nowell Dix (June to many of us). Although it seems like Junetta has lived in Linwood her whole life, she moved here in 1996. Most move here for our incredible school district. Junetta moved here for her two loves – Michael Dix and the tidal coast. At that time, she had no idea how much she would grow to love this small coastal village and become such an integral part of it.

Junetta was raised in North Carolina and spent summers on the beach of Topsail Island. She grew up loving the sea and followed that dream with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology from UNC-Wilmington and a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University. She immigrated north to Jersey in 1989, accepting a job at an engineering firm. She opened her own environmental consulting firm in 1994 and, in late 2018, merged her one-woman business with ACT Engineers, Inc., where she is the Director of Environmental Services.

Blessed with two sons, Zachary (18) and Noah (17), Junetta began her volunteer work in our schools, serving in the PTO, as Playground Volunteer Coordinator and publishing the School Directory; as a member of the Educational Affairs Council; as an advocate for students with Individual Education Plans with the Special Services Parent Advisory Committee; and, as an appointed parent member of the Superintendent’s District Advisory Committee. Although she no longer has any children of her own in our elementary or middle school, Junetta believes they’re all our children and continues to volunteer. She actively contributes to Linwood’s outstanding Science curriculum with her Threatened and Endangered Species’ on the Edge presen- tation to all 5th graders and her active participation in science career fairs.

In 2014, Junetta transitioned to the Linwood Education Foundation Board, serving for four years and as Co-President in 2016. She currently volunteers with the Mainland Regional High School After Prom Committee.

Junetta finds other ways to give back to her village. She was appointed to the Zoning Board in 2007 and served 11 years. She’s a member of Central United Methodist Church and its Board of Trustees; is Committee Chair of Linwood’s Boy Scout Troop 39; and is a Board member of the beloved 100+ year- old Atlantic City Day Nursery School. In 2015, Junetta was honored as Linwood’s Citizen of the Year.

"It takes a Village" is one of Junetta’s mantras and absolutely believes in the words of her favorite Margaret Mead quote:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has."

Honored to be recognized as this year’s community leader, Junetta continues to be amazed by the dedication and hard work of the Linwood Education Foundation members. Indeed, it takes a village and Linwood is so fortunate to have LEF as part of ours.

Junetta wishes to extend her heartfelt congratulations to Marisa Hieb, this year’s Teacher Honoree. "What a joy to share this evening with you! Our children are so fortunate to be taught, loved and nurtured by you and all our teachers and staff." And, finally, Junetta would like to thank everyone who attended tonight to celebrate with her; placed an ad; donated an auction item; or, contributed their time or talent, on her behalf. She is truly grateful for your love and support.

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Marisa Heib

2019 District Faculty of the Year

Marisa Heib

2019 District Faculty of the Year

The 2019 Linwood Education Foundation Staff Honoree, Marisa Hieb, is a third grade teacher at Seaview Elementary School. Marisa lives in Somers Point with her husband Geoff and daughter Finley. She has been a Linwood teacher since 2009 and has taught kindergarten and third grade.

Born and raised in Mt. Laurel, NJ to Thomas and Ellen Parente, Marisa credits her hard work ethic and philosophy of education to her parents. Her Dad always put in long hours at work to achieve the best for his clients while maintaining time to coach and guide Marisa and her sister Jamie. Marisa’s parents taught her to find the qualities that make each person special as they did with Marisa and Jamie and then guide them to use those qualities to reach their own best potential. This is the message Marisa brings to school each day to each of her students.

After graduating from the University of Delaware, Marisa began teaching just down the road from her childhood home in Medford. Marisa taught in Medford for 8 years as both a Kindergarten and first grade teacher. Marisa credits her strong educational foundation to the guidance of her principal Rich Lacovera, who encouraged her to reflect upon and embrace all the different educational experiences happening within their building. Each person she worked with became a piece of the teacher she is today. She still keeps in touch with all of her colleagues and continues to grow through them.

During her time in Medford lots of doors and experiences were opened for Marisa. She was given the opportunity to study a few summers with the Reading and Writing Institute at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University. This is where Marisa solidified her love for children’s literature. Which is quite funny when you ask her family, as she was not a reader as a kid. In fact, she didn’t like reading at all and saw it as a chore. This fact is what Marisa shares with her students year in and year out. Nowadays you will find on Marisa’s nightstand, a pile of books of recommendations from students.

Her love for math grew too! Marisa worked for Kendall Hunt and presented workshops to primary math teachers. In addition, Marisa was given the opportunity to present at the National Council for Teacher of Mathematics in California and Philadelphia. Marisa truly loves giving back her knowledge from all of her experiences to those that she meets.

While Marisa was in college, she lived down the shore with her friends, which landed her a summer job at The Doc’s Place. Through this time, she met her husband Geoff and gained another family through the Hiebs. After the years of commuting to Medford, a golden opportunity came to Marisa when Susan Speirs called to offer Marisa an interview for a kindergarten position. Sitting in the Seaview conference room, Marisa felt the connection to Mrs. Sellavag and a few days later got the call for a final interview with Dr. Baruffi. Seaview would be her new home. Marisa continues to grow as an educator at Seaview. She believes that working together improves the environment for everyone and that we can all learn from each other.

Seaview provided the exact same community feeling that Marisa loved about Medford, a community that has engaged parents, engaged staff, and engaged administrators. An added bonus has been watching her nieces grow up in Seaview School. Since Linwood is a smaller community, Marisa loves knowing that she can go anywhere and get a hug from a student or chat with a parent about their life. Marisa cherishes seeing the kids outside of the classroom whether at a family night or at All Wars Memorial Park. Marissa now serves as an assis- tant coach, as Finley has joined the Mainland youth sports community on the U8 travel soccer team. Marissa gets to cheer for Finley’s Seaview teammates both on and off the field.

Family plays a crucial role in shaping Marisa as a person. Time spent with family is truly worth every second. Marisa loves knowing that she can walk into the restaurant and chat with one of her family members. You will often find an entourage of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins cheering Finley on in basketball, hockey, and soccer. Mondays during the summer is the day they spend at the beach laughing and playing together. Marisa is grateful for both the Parente and Hieb families.

On any given day you will often find Marisa talking in the office, lending a hand, chatting with a former student or standing outside until the last child leaves school. Seaview is her second home. Teaching encompasses her heart and that is why Marisa Hieb is the Linwood Education Foundation Teacher of the Year.

Marisa would like to thank her colleagues who always give her new ideas and challenges to be a better teacher and all of the families that have supported the schools and have given time to make the Linwood Schools one of the best places to be! She is thankful to have a loving and supportive family that enables her to always be present at school and community events.

2018

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Christine D'Alessandro

2018 Community Leader

Christine D'Alessandro

2018 Community Leader

The 2018 Linwood Education Foundation (LEF) Community Honoree is Christine D’Alessandro, whose universe revolves around her children, Olivia and Joseph, her patient husband John, and her always happy dog, Sadie.

Christine grew up in a military family, allowing her to see much of the country and engendering in her a love of travel, an attachment to our country’s national parks, and a deep respect for the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces, including her father and brothers, Paul and Michael.

Christine graduated with a BA in English from Siena College in Albany, NY, where she studied to become a teacher, and also managed to lasso her husband, John. Following graduation, Christine moved to the Bronx where she taught English at Preston High School, and then at Gateway Regional High School in South Jersey.

Upon marriage, John D’Alessandro claims to have given Christine the two greatest gifts a woman could ever ask for: an Italian last name and a New Jersey residency. They would first live in Center City Philadelphia, before ultimately settling in Linwood, where Christine would finally have a hometown.

Since moving to Linwood, Christine has served as PTO secretary, room mom, ink cartridge connoisseur, member of the Educational Affairs Council (EAC), and co-chair of Belhaven’s Fine Art Focus with Mandanna Salartash.

More recently, Christine has inherited the role of “ghosting house” from Cindy Smith and Christine Sands-Bennett, and is grateful to all the friends who cut-and-paste countless eyes and mouths on over 500 ghosts so the children of Linwood can learn the art of the ding-dong-ditch.

Christine currently works in development and media for The HERO Campaign, where she is inspired daily by the work of the amazing Elliott family, and their commitment to keeping our roads safe for everyone’s children.

Christine has also forever given a part of her heart to the Atlantic City Day Nursery, where she’s served as Board President since 2013, and owes the world to her fellow board members for their unending work and support.

In collaboration with the Linwood Historical Society, Christine and photographer Aleia Ward launched the Facebook page, "Linwood, USA", a retrospective intended to highlight our town’s rich past, and the amazing people in its present.

She encourages everyone to visit the Historical Society Museum, and spend some time with historian, Carolyn Patterson.

Of her accomplishments, Christine is most fulfilled by her role as mom to Olivia and Joseph. They make her proud every minute, of every day.

Christine is also indebted to her parents, Bob and Barbara, who modeled love, compassion, and the importance of personal integrity. As far as parents go, Christine hit the jackpot.

Christine is most humbled to be recognized as an honoree, and is so grateful to the LEF for the tremendous work they do each year. It’s her hope that everyone attending the 2018 Gala participates in the Silent Auction with reckless abandon (she’s looking at you, Grammy), and also attends the LEF showcase in the spring to witness the LEF’s tremendous contributions to our schools.

Finally, Christine would like to thank everyone who attended tonight’s event on her behalf, and to also congratulate Chris Meade on his most deserving recognition.

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Chris Meade

2018 District Faculty of the Year

Chris Meade

2018 District Faculty of the Year

The 2018 Linwood Education Foundation (LEF) Staff Honoree, Chris Meade, is a seventh grade math teacher at Belhaven Middle School. He is a devoted husband to his loving wife Chrissy, and the extremely proud father of his children, Madison and Landon. Chris is a dedicated teacher and coach who goes above and beyond, always giving back to his players, students and community.

Chris' Linwood connection goes back to his earliest days as the the youngest of four children raised by his parents with strong morals and beliefs through the Central United Meth- odist Church in Linwood . A product of our school system, Chris attended Seaview, Belhaven, and Mainland Regional High School. Chris and his family moved back to Linwood four years ago and they are thrilled to be a part of the Lin- wood community.

Chris' decision to pursue a career in teaching and youth sports was largely influenced by his parents. His father taught history for a few years before becoming the middle school guidance counselor at Mill Road School in Northfield. While his dad provided the teaching inspiration, Chris credits his mom for his mathematical mind. She was the financial secretary at Central United Methodist Church for over 30 years while keeping the family well organized and scheduled.

Chris earned a Bachelor’s degree from West Chester University and a Master’s degree in Instructional Technology from Richard Stockton University. He began his career teaching fourth and sixth grade at the Hess School in Mays Landing. Chris joined the Linwood school system in 2003 and has been a seventh grade math teacher since then.

Before the regular school day begins, you can find Chris in his classroom giving extra math help to his students and players. During the day, Chris utilizes the most up to date methods and technology to teach math, offering support and encouragement to learners of all levels. When the school day ends, you will find him in one of his many coaching positions. Chris has coached many teams at Belhaven. He has coached both the Boy’s and the Girl’s Soccer teams, and is currently the Boy’s Basketball Coach. On the high school level, he has also coached Boy’s Basketball and is currently the Head Soccer Coach at Mainland Regional High School. In addition to his coaching duties, Chris is an active supporter of the Renais- sance program and is always present at pep rallies, ice cream socials, movie nights, the Blue and Gold game, Almost Anything Goes, Make A Difference Day, and more.

Even in the summer, Chris is never too far from his students, as he sees many of them daily in his job as manager of the Mainland Recreation Association Swim Club. Chris also coaches basketball, soccer and baseball in local community programs.

Chris knows that there is more to life than the numbers, in a math problem or on the scoreboard. He uses sports activities to develop character values and leadership skills in his players. As director of the K-2 Basketball Clinic, Chris provides an opportunity for his players to share their skills and interact with over 50 youth players each session. Chris organized the 3 on 3 Down Syndrome Awareness Tournament with his Belhaven basketball players and encourages them to remain a part of the event as they move onto high school. As a direct result of Chris’s fundraising activities, his players have had the opportunity to travel overnight to participate in competitive tournaments in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. His teams have played on the courts of the University of Pennsylvania, Saint Joseph’s University, and Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, before a Harlem Globetrotter’s game.

Professionally, Chris has served as the Dean of Students at Belhaven where he proactively guided and directed student issues and concerns and all discipline matters. He served as both Co-Vice President and Co-President of the Linwood Education Association and as a member of the School Improvement Panel, the Student Teacher Assistance Team and the District Evaluation Advisory Committee.

As a family, the Meades enjoy being outdoors, spending summers on the beach and at the MRA, playing and watching sports, and enjoying each others’ company at family dinners and barbecues.

Chris would like to extend heartfelt congratulations to community honoree, Christine D’Alessandro, recognizing her efforts that touch both the community and Linwood schools.

2017

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Christine Sands-Bennett

2017 Community Leader

Christine Sands-Bennett

2017 Community Leader

Christine Sands-Bennett is a devoted mother of two beautiful sons, 15 year old Logan and 14 year old Clayton; wife to her best friend, Dave (most of us know him as “B”); and “mommy” to her precious 8 year old dog Ruby!

From an early age, she learned and respected the fact that giving back to others was just a part of life. As a little girl, Christine will tell you she remembers watching her own mother make a donation when, in fact, we didn’t have enough for her own family’s needs.

During her teenage years, Christine dedicated many weekends to going away on Youth Group mission trips; cleaning up alleys in Camden; helping to build homes with Habitat for Humanity; and, feeding the homeless in soup kitchens all around New Jersey and New York. Christine, from a very early age, has always simply embraced the fact that not everyone wakes up to food, clothing or even a roof. She keeps those smiles and tears of joy from those she has helped locked in her memory as a reminder that making a difference is a part of who she is and the rewards are great. She’s passed that philosophy on to her sons and to our entire community.

During her teenage years, Christine dedicated many weekends to going away on Youth Group mission trips; cleaning up alleys in Camden; helping to build homes with Habitat for Humanity; and, feeding the homeless in soup kitchens all around New Jersey and New York. Christine, from a very early age, has always simply embraced the fact that not everyone wakes up to food, clothing or even a roof. She keeps those smiles and tears of joy from those she has helped locked in her memory as a reminder that making a difference is a part of who she is and the rewards are great. She’s passed that philosophy on to her sons and to our entire community.

Christine holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from Rutgers University and works closely with many non-profit organizations – an especially those child based programs. She may only have her two sons but truly, she’s everyone’s mother and advocate. She has spent countless evenings working with local students, mentoring, encouraging and leading various volunteer projects. Over the past seven years, she has led those students in our Peanut Butter and Jelly Challenge, making more than 5,000 sandwiches for Sister Jean’s Kitchen and for The Atlantic City Rescue Mission.

Over the past fourteen years, Christine has served on the board of a local non-profit organization called Everyone’s Children. This organization was created by local moms, all with the same vision, “to make the lives of children in need BETTER”. Everyone’s Children consists of three main projects a year, including our Back to School Back Pack Drive, Spring/Easter Baskets and our largest project, Adopt-a-Child during the holidays. Over these past 14 years, there have been 1,000’s of backpacks, distributed to students throughout Atlantic and Ocean counties; 1000’s of spring baskets distributed to several local elementary schools, churches and local food banks; and, 1000’s of happy faces during the holiday season. She leads Everyone’s Children, because she’s everyone’s mom.

Along with serving on the Boy Scouts of America Troop 39 Board, organizing field day or volunteering at our local food bank, Christine is extremely passionate about her role in one of the largest community fundraisers of all - The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. She has participated in this event for the past 10 years, and has proudly served as the event chairperson for our Linwood Relay for the past six years. In addition to event chair, Christine is team captain for two teams, one honoring her son Logan, who is a 10-year cancer survivor, and the other for Logan’s biggest fan, his brother Clayton! Over the past ten years, these two teams have raised more than $250,000 in the fight against cancer. While chairing this event, Christine is able to work closely with many local students, encouraging them to step out of their ever-so-strict school routine and take a mo- ment to feel firsthand the empowerment of giving back and making a difference in the lives of others.

The Linwood Education Foundation is truly pleased to honor Christine and all she has tirelessly done for our children, our community and the lives of countless others.

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Mary Ellen Weeks

2017 District Faculty of the Year

Mary Ellen Weeks

2017 District Faculty of the Year

Mrs. Weeks joined the Seaview School family in September of 2005. Since that time, she can always be seen giving her very best to the staff and students of the school each and every day. Whether she is tying shoes in the drop-off line, on the playground for recess duty, manning the front desk, or planning and assisting with school fundraisers and events, Mrs. Weeks continues to be an inspiring presence in the school and lives of students and staff. She is involved many Seaview School happenings. Such as Box Top Collection and Ultimate Recess, Seaview Family Picnic, Seaview Family BINGO, School Volunteer Thank You Breakfast, SchoolBox supplies, refreshment table a Seaview shows, and the Seaview Staff Memorial Day Picnic.

Mrs. Spiers, Belhaven Principal says, "Thanks to Mel for working so hard to create a caring and active climate at Seaview School. She has a hand in so many initiatives that make school fun and interesting for our students! We are so appreciative of how she regularly goes above and beyond her responsibilities!"

When she is not working hard at Seaview, Mrs. Weeks loves going to the beach, the gym, BINGO, and spending time with her family including 5 grandsons. Two of her grandsons are already at Seaview School and are so lucky to see "Mommom Mel" every day.

With her warm and welcoming personality, Mrs. Weeks greets each student by name and reminds them to face each day with a smile. The Seaview School is extremely fortunate to have Mrs. Weeks as a member of their family.

2016

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David Hieb

2016 Community Leader

David Hieb

2016 Community Leader

Born in South field, Michigan in 1971, David’s family relocated to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where he spent his formative years. Living with his mother - Mary Jo, father - Greg, brother - Geoff and sister - Barbara Anne, David was active in school activities and played a variety of sports. He found his true passion in baseball, playing at Cherry Hill High School East. He graduated from there in 1989 and subsequently attended the University of South Carolina at Aiken on a full baseball scholarship.

After a successful collegiate career, David was drafted after his junior year by the Texas Rangers in the 14th round of Major League Baseball’s Amateur Draft. He returned to the South Jersey after injuries prematurely ended his professional career. He enrolled at Stockton College, completing course work for a bachelor’s degree in accounting. After a brief career in a local public accountin, David joined the family business, THE DOC’S PLACE, a restaurant in Somers Point, where he continues to work today as the General Manager.

David met his wife Heather twenty years ago and they married in October of 1999. They moved to Linwood in 2000 and reside there to this day. They are the proud parents of three girls - Riley, Kaelin and Molly Anne.

David is active in civic and community organizations such as Somers Point’s Bayfest Committee, serving as its Treasurer, Linwood’s MUSA, helping with fundraising and volunteering for the city’s National Night Out. He has aided Hurricane Sandy victims in the aftermath of that 2012 storm, working with the Atlantic City Teachers United Fund.

About four years ago, David was asked to join the Board of Trustees of CASA of Atlantic and Cape May Counties and currently serves as the President of the Board of Trustees. David is both honored and passionate to be part of this advocacy group, speaking on behalf of, and helping to defend, abused and neglected children throughout our community.

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Dr. Frank Rudnesky

2016 District Faculty of the Year

Dr. Frank Rudnesky

2016 District Faculty of the Year

Dr. Frank Rudnesky is the principal of Belhaven Middle School in Linwood, New Jersey. During his tenure as principal, Belhaven has been designated as the Intel School of Distinction and as a New Jersey and National Forum “Schools To Watch” for its outstanding student and teacher recognition program as well their integration of technology. Dr. Rudnesky has also been awarded the highest individual leadership award from Jostens Renaissance, residing in their Hall of Fame.

As an educator for almost 30 years, Dr. Rudnesky has developed, implemented, and studied the leadership process to enhance organizational culture. He has authored numerous articles published in the areas of leadership and technology integration, and authored the following books; 50 Great Things Leaders Do, Let’s Get Fired Up!, and The LeaderShip: Who’s On Board.

Dr. R. is a nationally recognized speaker and his colleagues are staples at local, state, and national conferences as they continue to present their research and programs. Belhaven is often used as a visitation site for other educators from around the country and was the subject of a Japanese film documentary by the largest television station in Japan.

Frank lives in Southern New Jersey with his wife, Kimberly, two daughters, Franki Maria and Danica Lyn, and their dogs, Jackson and Maggie.

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