Four Westfield High School Teachers Receive Awards for Excellence

(above, l-r)  Westfield High School science teachers Christopher Tafelski and Stephen Boyle, special education teacher Megan Breitenbach, and social studies teacher Hilary Haskell were honored by the Westfield High School community with awards of excellence.  Pictured here with WHS principal Mary Asfendis.
Photo by Westfield Public Schools

Award Winning Educators Announced

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 5.

Nominated by students, social studies teacher Hilary Haskell is the recipient of the 2023 Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award, established to annually recognize a 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.   

One nomination letter describes Haskell as “the pinnacle of what an amazing teacher should be, always highly engaged in the class and interested in her students’ opinions and questions, placing a high value on feedback and providing a forum for various opinions.”

“Instead of just having us recite specific dates or minute details, she assesses us on our ability to synthesize events and establish causal relationships, which I feel is much more applicable in the real world and leads her class to care more about learning than achieving a certain grade,” says one student nominator. 

The 2023 recipient of the Jeffrey Family Above and Beyond Award is science teacher Christopher Tafelski.  Students were asked to nominate a teacher who provided extraordinary assistance to a student. The teacher is one who truly made a difference in the life of a struggling child either socially, emotionally, or academically.

Mr. Tafelski is called “a kind, passionate teacher” who “makes sure that the students know he not only cares about their academics, but also their well-being.” One student nominator writes,   “I truly noticed he was above and beyond in an experience he had with my best friend earlier this year. He took my friend straight down to the guidance office and stayed with her until she felt okay and comfortable. My friend felt so safe and comfortable in his care. He made her problem his and didn’t leave her side until it was resolved.”

Science teacher Stephen Boyle received the 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  readily available to individual students, attempts to elevate standards, encourages students to excel to their greatest potential, is cheerful, flexible, sensitive, and a good role model. 

“He is an unusually effective teacher, unfailingly caring and available,” says one parent nominator.  “We cannot stress enough how impactful he has been to our son, and we are certain, to anyone whom he teaches. We are both advocates for increasing young people’s interest in STEM, and consider WHS to be so fortunate to have a teacher like him in the trenches, encouraging young minds to embrace science with his knowledge, talent, caring and enthusiasm.”

A student writes:  “He is my AP Biology teacher this school year. He is an outstanding teacher who gives 110% to our class every day. His lessons are well thought out and engaging. To say I have learned a tremendous amount in his class is an understatement.”

For the Robert and Linda Foose Memorial Award, students were asked to nominate any WHS staff member, except the principal, for a specific contribution to the educational process at WHS during the 2022-2023 academic year. Special education teacher Megan Breitenbach is the 2023 recipient of this award, which is named for a former principal and teacher.  

“She is a very professional but very caring teacher. She has helped me with my work and even cared for me when it wasn’t school related,” says a student nominator.  “She did the same for my peers. She has done a lot for the school community especially as junior class advisor and no one else deserves this award more than her. She has been so helpful to me, my peers, and the fellow school community.”

The awardees will be honored by the Westfield Board of Education at a public meeting on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.

“We enjoy recognizing the many achievements of our students and staff throughout the school year,” says Superintendent Dr. Raymond González, who joined Principal Asfendis on May 5 in congratulating the recipients of the WHS awards. “These recognitions by the WHS school community are particularly meaningful as the nominations are made by appreciative students, parents, and colleagues.” 

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