SEPTA Honors Terrific Trio
Just about every organization takes its mission seriously and that's the way it should be. Why form a group and continue to operate if the energy and focus of its officers and members wanes and losing clarity?
The Huntington School District's Special Education PTA (SEPTA) is an organization with a clear understanding of its reason for existence and a laser-like approach to accomplishing its objectives. Monthly meetings and activities are tightly aligned to the group's core mission. There hasn't been any waning of interest or fuzzy goals over the years.
SEPTA's support of Huntington's special education teachers and teacher aides is the stuff legends are made of. The organization encourages excellence in all facets of the special education program and it puts its money and muscle behind those efforts.
SEPTA recently presented three Distinguished Service Awards to a terrific trio of faculty and staff for their exemplary service to the students they work with. This year's recipients include Heather Barfuss, Lori Haggerty and Kim Schaefer. The annual awards are among the most prestigious any Huntington teacher can win.
"These awards of appreciation recognize current employees in our district who have displayed a commitment to the success of students with special needs," said Maria Kiley, a SEPTA vice-president who made the formal presentation. "Through their dedication, creativity and advocacy, they have enriched the lives of their students and have assisted them in achieving their goals."
Among the honorees is teacher Heather Barfuss, who worked with second and third graders in a self-contained classroom at Flower Hill School. "Heather Barfuss has been described as an energetic, optimistic, compassionate and dedicated treasure to our community," Mrs. Kiley said. "As one parent stated, 'she is unfaltering in the belief that all children can learn and she sees the possibility and potential of every child. What more can you ask from an educator?'"
Ms. Barfuss has displayed a remarkable commitment to integrating her students into the Flower Hill community. "Whether it is the read-a-thon for the Make-a-Wish-Foundation, a holiday concert, library time or even playground activities, Heather Barfuss embraces the spirit of inclusion," Mrs. Kiley said. "As English poet, John Ruskin once stated, 'when love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.'"
Mrs. Kiley said it was "a pleasure and an honor" to recognize Ms. Barfuss' outstanding service to her students and the community at large.
As far as her colleagues are concerned, J. Taylor Finley Middle School special education teacher Lori Haggerty is an exceptional educator. SEPTA couldn't agree more. Described as the "Pied Piper of Teaching," Mrs. Haggerty shined this past year.
"As a co-worker noted, 'students gravitate and embrace teachers who are kind, compassionate and who go the extra mile for them,'" Mrs. Kiley said. "Mrs. Haggerty is one of those teachers."
The Finley veteran "has a way of connecting with her students and making them feel special while inspiring them to also go that extra mile," Mrs. Kiley said. "She values each member of her class with all of their different abilities and works to help them achieve their personal potential. Ms. Haggerty is a beloved teacher who has, in the words of former students, 'changed lives.' By teaching, she has touched the future."
Kim Schaefer has sparkled as a one-on-one teacher aide at Huntington High School. "It has been said that 'people may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel,'" Mrs. Kiley said. "Kim is not only an academic mentor; she is a companion, friend and role model to her student. Through her dedication and compassion she has earned her student's trust and has been instrumental in both the academic and social successes of this child."
The award winning teacher aide was said to have inspired the teenager she worked with this past school year "to gain greater confidence when she interacts with the wider student body," Mrs. Kiley said. "By her tireless commitment and steady encouragement she has helped this student feel welcome and embraced as a member who belongs."
Life is full of changes. But, SEPTA remains a sturdy rock, always there, always advocating on behalf of Huntington's special education students and the programs that have served the community so well over the years.