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District 161 names staff for #AboveAndBeyond recognition

The latest four Flossmoor District 161 staff members selected for the #AboveAndBeyond recognition were announced during a Jan. 27 school board meeting.

The district started the recognition program in December to spread the word about some of the positive impacts teachers and support staff make in the lives of students.

The District 161 School Board and administrators honored January’s #AboveAndBeyond winners who were selected for going beyond their job descriptions are, from left, Eric MeInyczenko, director of administrative services; Michelle Hoereth, school board president; Katie May, kindergarten teacher; Arcelia Sanchez, school support aide; Frempomah Tolonaa, administrative assistant; and Dana Smith, superintendent. (Stephanie Markham/H-F Chronicle)

January winners include Frempomah Tolonaa, administrative assistant at Western Avenue; Pam Panozzo, fifth grade teacher at Western Avenue; Katie May, kindergarten teacher at Heather Hill; and Arcelia Sanchez, school support aide at Serena Hills.

Superintendent Dana Smith said the #AboveAndBeyond program is “one of the best things” the district has recently implemented. 

“It’s a great opportunity to recognize our incredible staff members, who are nominated by their peers, parents or even students,” he said.

Director of Administrative Services Eric MeInyczenko said staff, parents or students can nominate a staff member using the #AboveAndBeyond nomination form on the district’s website. 

Winners are selected by staff vote and are recognized with a shoutout on Twitter and the district’s website for going #AboveAndBeyond their job descriptions. They are also recognized publicly before the school board and will have their pictures displayed in the board’s meeting room.

At the Jan. 27 meeting, MeInyczenko shared descriptions of how each of January’s winners earned their nominations. 

Frempomah Tolonaa, known for greeting everyone with a smile as they enter Western Avenue, was nominated for making others feel welcome and for always being willing to help fellow staff, he said.

“No matter the occasion, you can expect nothing but positivity, a smile and kind words from Frempomah,” MeInyczenko said.

Pam Panozzo was nominated for encouraging her students to “think outside the box” and for solving a transportation issue that was preventing students from attending multiple extracurricular programs, he said.

“She pushes her students to grow in ways that they may not know are possible,” MeInyczenko said.

Katie May was nominated for providing a positive and enriching environment for her kindergarten students, he said.

“Her students come home with fun stories about their day,” MeInyczenko said. “Mrs. May knows when it’s time to get serious, and so do her students. Her classroom is a pleasant place where the students enjoy learning.” 

Arcelia Sanchez, known for greeting everyone with a smile and warm welcome at Serena Hill, was nominated for encouraging a positive attitude and showing extra care and dedication to her job, he said.

“She has cars memorized for each student so that she can make sure students are getting picked up by the right person,” MeInyczenko said. “Students love her, and at times, students at Parker stop by to tell her about their days being a junior high student.”

The first round of winners in December included Mark Eichenlaub, instructional coach at Parker Junior High; Danielle Montijo, first grade teacher at Western Avenue; Carol Creed, third grade teacher at Flossmoor Hills; Amy Gehrt, reading specialist at Parker Junior High; and Kathy Knawa, district certified nurse.

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