Katie McElhaney, who teaches a Medically Fragile 6:1:1 class located at Brockport’s Hill Elementary School, was recently recognized with the 2020 Helen Bach Moss Memorial Better Beginnings Award. Sponsored by the New York State Department of Education Board of Regents, the award celebrates elementary teachers who are gifted in finding and nurturing the strengths of each student and fostering trusting relationships among pupils, parents, teachers and administrators.
McElhaney was nominated by her colleagues, including: Math Specialist Tina Bonfiglio and the Instructional Specialist team, Special Education Paraprofessional Laura Lockhart and Speech-Language Pathologist Jennifer DiLeo, along with Special Education Supervisor Debi Walton. Special recommendations were submitted by 6:1:1 parents Gina Fazzina, and Maria and Hector Hernandez, with personal comments on “Why I Love My Teacher” from students Jasmine and Anthony.
In the eyes of her students, McElhaney is a hero. She makes Jasmine “Happy!” Anthony communicates with his device: “Ms. Kate make, I’m so happy.” He said his teacher helps him: “Do work. Make good choices.”
Anthony’s parent, Gina Fazzina, sees McElhaney as “a remarkable woman and teacher” who “cares as much as we do about our son’s education and future.” The Hernandez family is grateful for the exceptional progress their son has made, thanks to his teacher’s patience, understanding and encouragement. They note that she challenges their son to use his communication skills in class and out, to “socialize with other students in the hallways, making connections and sharing experiences.”
McElhaney’s coworkers see her as a “consummate professional,” “true innovator” and “one of the most inspirational and passionate teachers I have worked with.” DiLeo said, “Kate’s classroom is a very unique but beautiful place for students with significant complex needs to receive the intense support they need, and also where they go to be accepted, loved and challenged to … become the best versions of themselves they are capable of being.”
A surprise presentation on Jan. 20 in McElhaney’s classroom was attended by coworkers and BOCES 2 administrators, and shared with her proud family members over Zoom. During the ceremony, she received the Better Beginnings Award plaque and a cash prize of $1,000.