Congratulations to the 1st Quarter Successories winners and nominees!

collage of five photos of a high school counselor, a kindergarten teacher, a technology coach, a middle school social studies teacher and a high school math teacher

Presenting the 1st Quarter Successories winners: From the left are HS counselor Jen Grimmick, kindergarten teacher Valerie Hamel, instructional technology coach Allison Renda, MS social studies teacher Brian Zientak and HS math teacher Lynsey Hulbert.

HS Counselor Jen Grimmick wins the day off

Gift cards to be awarded to Valerie Hamel (TLC), Allison Renda (IS), Brian Zientak (MS) & Lynsey Hulbert (HS)

Congratulations to all of this quarter’s winners and nominees! Between paper forms and online submissions, more than 50 nominations were received for the first quarter. Don’t forget, all nominees are entered into a drawing in June, and could be the grand prize winner of a $100 gift certificate.


Student to Grimmick: ‘Without your help, I would not be able to even apply to my dream college’

portrait of a high school counselorGrimmick was nominated by a high school senior who showed appreciation for the steps Grimmick took to ensure the student could follow her dreams.

“Thank you for physically calling Cornell University and asking about their academic requirements,” the nomination said. “She also figured out how to enroll me for FMCC calculus in order to have my requirements met. Without your help, I would not be able to even apply to my dream college.”

Grimmick said the nomination was unexpected and she felt excited, shocked and humbled to receive it.

“It’s nice to know someone recognized the time and care that I have for each student,” Grimmick said. “I love being a part of each student’s journey. It’s been a pleasure to watch her grow and mature as she worked toward her college and career goals. I can’t take credit for her success. She takes advantage of the skills developed by her teachers and the programs we’ve offered.”


Valerie Hamel (TLC)

portrait of a kindergarten teacherHamel was nominated by a parent of one of her kindergarten students. Hamel began her career 16 years ago as a kindergarten teacher, but this was her first year back after spending the last nine years as a second grade teacher. 

“Thank you for helping my child have an AMAZING transition to kindergarten,” the nomination says. “Every day she is excited to share what she has learned from the day, and is becoming more self-confident. Thank you for being so caring, compassionate and willing to help her be her very best.”

“Kids deserve the best experience,” Hamel said. “Kindergarten is so important to the core of who they become. Receiving a nomination means so much because we put so much into what we do.”

Anyone who has seen Hamel’s classroom could attest to the amount of time and care she’s put into it. It’s painstakingly decorated with an adorable camping theme, and she’s spent “countless hours” late at night making interactive sensory projects for her students. 

“My room is an extension of me. I hope the kids love it, and it says a lot to me that the parents can feel it,” Val said. 


Allison Renda (IS)

portrait of a technology coachRenda, the district’s technology coach, was nominated by a teacher because she took a student under her wing.

“This particular student had poor attendance last year, so Allison stepped up and has gotten him excited to come to school this year,” the nomination said. “She encourages him to do his homework and she uses her own time at the end of the day to read with him. Allison lets the student come to the computer lab daily. She is making a huge difference in this little guy’s life, and I truly appreciate the positive impact and love that she gives him every day.”Allison said she was surprised to receive a nomination.

“I felt like I was just doing what I thought I should do, not because I was going to get something out of it,” she said. 

Renda said she loves connecting with her students and says she shares a lot of the same interests with them in technology, video games and music. 

“I’m a big kid,” she said. “It makes it easy to connect with them. I don’t feel like I’m teaching, I feel like I’m playing with them.”


Brian Zientak (MS)

portrait of a middle school social studies teacherZientak has been teaching at the middle school for 17 years. He was nominated by one of his students. 

“Thank you for helping me in social studies and making seventh grade easier,” the nomination says. “Social studies has always been a struggle for me up until now. I love how we can have fun and learn a lot all at the same time. You have helped me get amazing grades that I could never have achieved without your help. Thank you for all you do!”

Zientak said he tries his best to be friends with every kid in his class. He’s even gone as far as subjecting himself to a student painting his nails with orange polish.

“I remember when I first started teaching, a professor told me, ‘Kids don’t need you to be their friend, they need you to be their teacher,'” Zientak said. “I said, ‘this person has no idea what it’s like to be a teacher.’ You need to be that bright spot and the reason they look forward to coming to school. I try to make sure I’m not the reason a kid doesn’t want to come to school.”


Lynsey Hulbert (HS)

portrait of a high school math teacherHulbert was nominated by one of her students. She said she got to know the student through her advisory last year.

“Thank you for being there for me, not just as a math teacher but as a friend,” the nomination says. “I truly appreciate all the advice you give me. Whenever I am down I can always count on you for a good laugh. Also, you get a A++ as a pre-calc teacher. Thank you for being the best!”

Hulbert has been a teacher for 17 years. 

“I love it because of the kids,” she said. “I love the subject obviously, but it’s the kids who keep me going. They become part of your family.” 

The student who nominated Hulbert hadn’t been in one of her classes until this year. However, Hulbert got to know her well because she was in her advisory last year. 

“Advisory really gives us the opportunity to build bonds with more kids,” she said. “You give them help and advice, and by spending time with them, you find out their personalities. They become people instead of just students.”