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Another local teacher honored

Alton Central's Derek Pappaceno named Science Teacher of the Year

Derek Pappaceno (click for larger version)
April 28, 2010
ALTON — From a front-row seat to one of NASA's final space shuttle launches to a close encounter with soil samples taken from the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, this has been a year of personal and professional milestones for Derek Pappaceno.

The fifth grade science teacher, affectionately known as "Rocket Man" by students and colleagues alike, added another achievement to that list last week, when officials at the Alton Central School informed him that he had been selected to receive a New Hampshire Excellence in Education Award (or EDie) as Science/Engineering Teacher of the Year.

With students and community members crowding around the lunar soil samples on display in the school's gymnasium on April 22, Pappaceno (who was given the news earlier that day) said he was still in a state of disbelief.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet," he said, explaining that when he received a call on his classroom phone asking him to report to the principal's office, his first thought was "What did I do?"

When he appeared at her office door, as requested, however, Pappaceno said Principal Bonnie Jean Kuras invited him to take a seat, said "We have something to read to you," and proceeded to read a letter from the Excellence in Education Awards Board of Directors informing school and district officials that he had won.

Although he remembered a fellow teacher telling him that he had been nominated for the award, Pappaceno said he had all but forgotten about it in the hustle and bustle of the past few months, which saw him attend the Nov. 16 launch of the space shuttle Atlantis as a V.I.P. (an opportunity rarely offered to civilians) and complete a three-hour lunar rock certification workshop (along with sixth grade science teacher Sue Quinn) that enabled him to bring a collection of lunar samples to Alton Central.

"It was definitely a surprise … a nice surprise," he said, adding that he was "very appreciative" of the fact that the long hours and effort he puts into his work have been recognized.

Pappaceno's selection as Science/Engineering Teacher of the Year comes on the heels of Joan Rees' selection last month as Special Education Teacher of the Year.

Second grade teacher Pam Forbes is also one of 25 teachers across the state in the running for the 2010 Teacher of the Year award.

This is the second year that two faculty members from Alton Central have been recognized with EDie awards. At the 2009 awards ceremony, former Reading Director Jackie Verville (who retired at the end of the 2008-09 school year) was honored as Reading Teacher of the Year, while Enrichment program coordinator Otis Wirth was given the Pat Keyes award for Technology in Education.

Rees and Pappaceno are not the only local educators recognized with EDies so far this year. Earlier this month, Prospect Mountain High School guidance counselor Cathy Bond was named School Counselor of the Year.

Pappaceno said that while he appreciated the personal recognition that came with his award, he was also grateful for the positive light the EDies shed on all educators.

"I think we work in a business where you don't always get those positives … so to be recognized was really nice," he said.

Pappaceno will join Rees and Bond at this year's awards ceremony on Saturday, June 12, at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester.

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

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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