Joan Rees earns statewide honor


ACS teacher is named Special Education Teacher of the Year


March 31, 2010
ALTON — The halls of the Alton Central School have been buzzing this week with the news that one of the school's own was recently named as New Hampshire's Special Education Teacher of the Year.

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), which sponsors the annual "EDie" Awards, announced Monday that it had chosen Pre-School Special Education teacher Joan Rees as the recipient of this year's award based on its evaluation team's observations of her work in the classroom during a recent visit to the school, and on testimonials from parents about the impact she has had on their children.

Rees, who has been a fixture of Alton Central's Special Education program for the past nine years, said during a telephone interview Monday afternoon that she was "very honored and touched" to be receiving the award.

"It's heart-warming to know that what we do matters so much to people," she said. "I love what I do, I love my [students], and I love my family."

Special Education Director Cathy Dix-Herndon, who was "thrilled" to hear the news, said that when she and other staff members discussed the idea of nominating someone from Alton Central for the award during an administrative meeting several months ago, Rees was the first choice on everyone's mind.

"She's a dynamo in going above and beyond what goes on during the school day," Dix-Herndon said, explaining that the support Rees provides for the parents of young students with special needs at school and at home helps to make the transition into the public school system much easier for them.

"She's always working toward the best for both her students and the parents in the community," she added.

Rees, who was still reeling from Monday's announcement, said she did not expect the CEC's nominating committee (which visited Alton Central last Thursday) to reach a final decision so quickly.

"I didn't expect that it would get this far," she said, adding that this is the first time in her career that she has been recognized with an award of any kind.

Explaining that she came to Alton Central with a degree in Early Childhood Education and no background in special education, Rees credited her fellow staff members with helping her through the often difficult classes she completed to arrive at her current position.

"I've learned so much from them," she said. "They've been amazing."

Dix-Herndon said Rees' modesty about her abilities is a part of what makes her stand "above the rest."

"We've always thought [Rees] was the best here at the school, and now we have the whole state [agreeing]," she added.

This marks the second straight year that a staff member from Alton Central has been honored with an "EDie" award. At last year's ceremony, former Reading Driector Jackie Verville was honored as New Hampshire's Reading Teacher of the Year, while Enrichment coordinator Otis Wirth was presented with the Pat Keyes Technology Award in recognition of his efforts to incorporate technology into the curriculum.

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

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