Green Meadow Named 2021 National Blue Ribbon School

Green Meadow Elementary School was named a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday morning. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance. Green Meadow is one of only 325 schools in the country, including one of 19 schools in New York to receive the 2021 National Blue Ribbon School award. Congratulations to Green Meadow students, teachers, staff and families!

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Audra Di Bacco receives Teacher of the Year award

Columbia High School Social Worker Audra Di Bacco, center, receives the EGTA Teacher of the Year Award from EGTA President Drew Romanowski and EGTA Vice President Alison Hosier.

In an ordinary school year, Columbia High School Social Worker Audra Di Bacco is so important to the students and families she serves. This school year, however, has been anything but ordinary. From hybrid models and remote learning to the mental health issues caused by COVID-19, students have never seen challenges like this before.

“This year was one of those years where no one knew what to expect or what to do,” said Mrs. Di Bacco. “I don’t get flustered by a lot of things. So people came to me and I tried to help.”

Mrs. Di Bacco was recognized for her positive impact on Wednesday morning when she was named the East Greenbush Teachers Association Teacher of the Year. She was presented with the award in the Guidance Department conference room by EGTA President Drew Romanowski and Vice President Alison Hosier, with her colleagues joining the surprise event.

“I was shocked. I didn’t even know what to say when they all came in,” said Mrs. Di Bacco.

“Anyone could have won it,” she continued. “I’m sure everyone was trying to dig deep and find strategies to help kids. So for people to put my name on that piece of paper and nominate me I felt like ‘Wow this is humbling.’”

This is the second time in three years that the EGTA Teacher of the Year Award has been given to a school social worker (Maria Fontaine – 2019).

“I believe that speaks to the admiration and deep respect that our EGTA members have for the wide range of roles and responsibilities that we collectively have in our educational world,” said Mr. Romanowski.

Mrs. Di Bacco has worked as a school social worker in the East Greenbush Central School District for the past 17 years. She provides individual and group counseling to students, attends Individualized Education Program meetings and child study meetings, helps with crisis management and serves as the Dignity for All Students Act coordinator. She is constantly connecting with students and trying to get them on the right track.

While it’s a demanding job every school year, the past 15 months have shown how valuable Mrs. Di Bacco is to the high school community.

Back in March 2020, when New York State went into lockdown and schools and businesses were closed, Mrs. Di Bacco immediately took action to help families.

“I said ‘Families are going to need food. We need to do something,” she told her colleagues at the high school. “I’ll do it.”

She worked with Columbia Athletic Director Michael Leonard to create a Food for Families program that opened the first day of the statewide school closure. They collected food and other necessities, boxed them up and gave them to families for free. They even coordinated with the Transportation Department to have boxes delivered by school bus to families who had no access to transportation. Hundreds of families were served, and continue to be served by that program.

Throughout this school year Mrs. Di Bacco has been a resource for teachers and staff, helping to reach students who struggled with remote learning and were in danger of failing. Whether it was going on Google Meet with a student or driving to their home to help them with an assignment on their front porch, Mrs. Di Bacco tried to think creatively for the benefit of students.

“It’s finding those little positives – ‘Hey you did one assignment. That’s great. Let’s work on that,’” she said.

Unified team with bronze medals

Audra Di Bacco coached the Columbia Unified Basketball team to a bronze medal at the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle in 2018.

In addition to her regular work duties, Mrs. Di Bacco is the head coach of the Columbia Unified Basketball team, which won a bronze medal at the Special Olympics USA Games in Summer 2018, and helps coordinate the Adopt a Family gift program during the holidays.

What Mrs. Di Bacco does for Columbia can’t be listed in a job description. She has a presence in the building, giving her time and expertise to all.

“Audra Di Bacco is a resource for students, faculty and staff,” said Columbia Principal Michael Harkin. “There isn’t a single person she hasn’t helped this year. Audra spends her days working with students and staff to help them with any challenges that arrive. As her principal, I can rely on Audra to help me with any problems knowing she will not stop until it’s resolved.”

Congratulations to Audra Di Bacco, the 2021 EGTA Teacher of the Year!

A special thanks goes to the Teacher of the Year Committee Co-Chairs Christine Dushensky and Kristen Zilgme for their time and effort throughout this process as they graciously serve in this role.

EGTA Teacher of the Year Award

2021   Audra Di Bacco

2020   All EGTA Members

2019   Maria Fontaine

2018   Scott Siver

2017   Wendy McAlonie

2016   Curtis Sankey

2015   Melissa Gilligan

2014   Nancy Boucher

2013   Monica Blanchfield

2012   Bob Halek

2011   Diana Prout

2010   Jean Decker

2009   Lisa Westman

2008   Linda Kaminski

2007   Peter Zilgme

2006   Christina Rogone

2005   Denise Nahal

2004   The Staff at CHS

2003   Sean Crall

2002   Larraine Gillette

2001   Nikki Carter-Piechnik

2000   Susan Owens

1999   Sally Sroka

1998   Virginia Congemi

1997   Kevin McCann

1996   Mary LaFleur

1995   Linda McCabe

1994   Lynda DeCelle

1993   Denise Poost

1992   Barbara Poole

1991   Kathy DeWeese

1990   Henry Kolakoski

1989   Robert Crosby

1988   Benedict Schaefer

1987   Elizabeth Lyman

1986   Shirley Howard

1985   Carlton Eno

1984   Louise Pearce

1983   Peter Citrolo

1982   Michael Angelo

1981   Marilyn Reeves

1980   Kileen Stone

1979   Edith Cosgrove

1978   Thelma Donahue

1977   Robert King

1976   Jean Burgess

1975   Raymond Gietz

1974   Elizabeth McMaster

1973   Alfred Viola

1972   Bernice Pechenik

1971   Paul Bourgeois

1970   Ruth Herr