Westfield High School Names Award-Winning Educators

(above) Language arts teacher John Cheddar, social studies teacher Gregory Bowers, music teacher Craig Stanton, and language arts/journalism teacher Shawn McDonald were honored by the Westfield High School community with awards of excellence.  Pictured here with WHS principal Mary Asfendis (left).
Photo by Westfield Public Schools

Westfield High School Award-Winning Educators

Westfield Public Schools

Four teachers have been honored by the Westfield High School community with awards of excellence. WHS principal Mary Asfendis announced the award winners during morning announcements on May 6th, 2024.

Music teacher and orchestra director Craig Stanton is the recipient of the 2024 Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award, established to annually recognize a tenured teacher who, through both excellence in teaching in the classroom and a demonstrated commitment to intellectual pursuits beyond the classroom, serves as a model and inspiration to the WHS community to strive towards excellence.  

Mr. Stanton “goes above and beyond with helping his students remain active and provides opportunities to progress our skills,” writes one student nominator.  Other student nominators note that Mr. Stanton is “an outstanding influence” who “carefully meets the needs and character of a high level teacher” and who “provides a positive and highly creative atmosphere in the classroom.”

“I love seeing students build a community with each other through their time together in the orchestra,” says Stanton, who joined the Westfield Public School District in 2014, directing the WHS Orchestra and teaching “Writing and Arranging” courses and who, until recently, also directed the 8th Grade Orchestra at Edison. “I’m so lucky as a music teacher to be able to get a front row seat to see students discover their passion for music in real time.”

The 2024 recipient of the Jeffery Family Above and Beyond Award is social studies teacher Gregory Bowers. Students were asked to nominate a tenured teacher who has made a difference in their life as a student, or who they witnessed making a difference in the life of another student. 

One student nominator noted that Mr. Bowers “is a kind, generous, and selfless human being. Not only did he make the classroom welcoming and fun, but he made me feel like I had a safe place to go if I needed to talk. There is not one day where I don’t get a ‘hello’ or a wave from him in the hallway and it truly makes my day better.”

“I am lucky to teach a subject I really love. There are just great stories in history,” says Bowers, who has been teaching social studies at the high school for seven years. “But I really look forward to working with the students.  I look forward to hearing about all of the amazing activities they are involved in and trying to help them become a little better of a student and a little more prepared to face the world outside of WHS.”

Language Arts/Journalism teacher Shawn McDonald received the 36th Annual WHS Parent-Teacher-Student Organization (PTSO) Teacher of the Year Award, for which parents and students nominate a teacher who communicates enthusiasm, is encouraging, motivating, and is a good role model.  

Nominators note that Ms. McDonald “has the unique ability to make every student feel like her only student. She manages countless classes and yet, when you speak to her, she focuses all of her attention on addressing your comments and helping in any way she can. She pitches solutions but somehow finds the balance between not entirely telling you what to do and, instead, gently guiding you to conclude yourself. She gets to know everyone and then starts to know them more than they know themselves.”

“My favorite part of teaching is being with the kids. I love getting to know them and what they are passionate about and forging connections with each and every one of them. They are so interesting, smart, and funny,” says McDonald, who joined the district in 2018.  “There is NEVER a dull moment in Room 111 and I attribute that to the energy and engagement of the students who are choosing to be in my class. I love journalism, but I love the kids even more.”

For the Robert and Linda Foose Memorial Award, students were asked to nominate someone who, through both excellence in teaching in the classroom and a demonstrated commitment to intellectual pursuits beyond the classroom, is a role model and an inspiration to the WHS community.  Language Arts teacher John Cheddar is the 2024 recipient of this award, which is named for a former principal and teacher.  

“He is, by far, the best teacher I’ve ever had,” writes one nominator.  “He shows up every day, ready to give it 100% and constantly pushes us to be the best scholars we can be.  He is truly dedicated to our educational growth.”

“At Westfield High School, I enjoy being part of an intellectual community where I am able to collaborate with colleagues and work alongside students as they enhance their abilities to read thoughtfully, think critically, and communicate eloquently in order to take on the challenges and opportunities that they encounter both in and out of the classroom,” says Cheddar, who has been a member of the WHS English Department since 2002.  He notes that, a year later, he started teaching honors level American Literature and coaching wrestling “which have remained the two constants in my career at Westfield.”

All four award recipients were honored by the Westfield Board of Education at a public meeting on Tuesday, May 21.

“Throughout the school year, we take great pleasure in acknowledging the numerous accomplishments of our students and staff,” says Superintendent Dr. Raymond González. “These accolades from the WHS school community hold special significance because they are bestowed by students and parents who appreciate these four outstanding educators.”

Photo by Westfield Public Schools

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