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Inaugural Scholarship Recipients Begin Student Teaching and Near Graduation

With only one semester left until graduation, the inaugural Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship recipients are student teaching and taking the final steps to begin their teaching career. The inaugural recipients have immersed themselves in diverse cultures through their experiences and travels.

Christine Aumais, a senior at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, spent the fall semester interning in an inclusive preschool classroom as part of the Developmental Disabilities and Human Services program in Amherst, Massachusetts.

“I have loved working in this class, getting to know the students and being able to learn from the teacher and para-professionals,” Aumais discussed. “Because specialists are brought into the classroom, I’ve been able to learn not only about teaching, but about speech therapy, physical therapy, and many of the other services the children in the class receive.”

With a degree in Public Health with minors in Education and Psychology, Aumais plans to pursue graduate school, or a job in the field prior to returning to school for a Masters in School Counseling/School Adjustment Counseling following graduation.

Aumais expressed significant gratitude to the donors of the scholarship fund.

“My love for learning grows more and more each day, and makes me excited to someday help young people find that love as well,” Aumais explained. “I often think how lucky I am to have had the help of the scholarship, and knowing that I have the support of so many people encourages and uplifts me, especially during difficult or stressful days.”

Courtney Comeau, also a senior at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, gained much experience in the classroom this past semester. She spent time observing a kindergarten class in a local Amherst public school, where she enhanced her knowledge of various teaching techniques and the importance of a student’s well-being.

“What I found most helpful was learning about the importance of the children’s well-being in order to succeed in and out of the classroom,” Comeau said. “In this classroom, we spent a lot of time reassuring students their importance and encouraging them to love learning.”

After graduating with a Sociology degree and a minor in Education, Comeau plans to pursue a Fellowship Program, where she will receive a Master’s degree and begin her student teaching experience.

Comeau had kind words to share with the supporters of the scholarship fund.

“You have given me the opportunity to further my teaching career and thanks to Colleen, I will always remember to bring kindness into every day and to help others,” Comeau said. “I hope to pay it forward in the classroom someday.”

Studying at the University of Connecticut, Elizabeth Dever ill spend her final semester student teaching in the same classroom where she recently completed her observation hours in Glastonbury, CT. Through her time in the classroom, she has learned about many teaching and learning techniques.

“I have learned so much not only about building and running a classroom, but creating a classroom environment where all students can succeed,” Dever said.

Dever will graduate with a degree in Elementary Education. Following graduation, Dever plans to pursue a one-year Master’s Program in which she will focus on Moderate Special Needs Education or Elementary Education.

Emily Felter, studying at Endicott College, spent the semester student teaching in a third grade classroom at Witchcraft Heights Elementary School in Salem, Massachusetts. After Felter saw her impact on students’ growth and learning, she reflected on her student teaching experiences.

“The most important thing I have learned throughout my experience is to have confidence,” Felter said. “When I have confidence in myself the students respond well. Their learning is impacted and I feel our time together is overall more meaningful.”

After graduation, Felter is hoping to enroll in the fifth year program at Endicott College to pursue a Master’s degree in Special Education, while simultaneously working in a school.

Felter expressed her appreciation and gratitude of the supporters of the scholarship fund.

“I would like to thank the supporters of the scholarship fund for helping us reach our goals throughout our education,” Felter discussed. “Their money is going to good use and we are learning more and more every day how to become effective teachers.”

At Assumption College, Jessica Ferronetti is preparing for her final semester during which she will be student teaching at Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough, Massachusetts. In addition to spending a month in Argentina this past summer, she also spent time at a local high school, where the lessons she taught helped her find ways to further her teaching career.

“I learned that students are so much more engaged in the class if you are also engaged in the material,” Ferronetti discussed. “I taught about Argentina and I had little things that I had brought back to show them, and they were so much more interested in the lesson because of it.”

Following graduation, Ferronetti is hoping to teach abroad for another year in Argentina or Spain or pursue a career as a high school Spanish teacher. She also plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Spanish Literature to add to her Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Secondary Education with a certificate in the Honors Program.

Also studying at Assumption College, Carly Sakellarios spent the past semester observing and assisting in a classroom with a diverse range of students. She will return to the second grade classroom at McGrath Elementary School in Worcester, Massachusetts next semester to complete her student teaching. Working in this classroom has allowed Sakellarios to watch students grow each time she is in the classroom.

“The students in this class touch my heart every time I visit,” Sakellarios discussed. “Getting to know the students more deeply, as well as learning how to meet their needs as diverse learners, has been a privilege, and I cannot wait to spend more time with them in the spring.”

Sakellarios will graduate in May with a license in Elementary Education and a double major in Elementary Education and English with a concentration in STEM Education. After graduation, Sakellarios plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education.

To the donors, Sakellarios expressed her gratitude for the support she has received over the past four years.

“Thank you so much for being part of my journey to becoming a teacher,” Sakellarios said. “Having some financial relief with the help of this scholarship has enabled me to focus more on learning from amazing professors and volunteering more in elementary classrooms, so I am very grateful.”

Catherine Lamoly, studying at Roger Williams University, has spent nearly 100 hours observing and assisting in a public high school in Fall River, Massachusetts that has proven immensely valuable. She will continue her student teaching next semester at B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River in a ninth grade World History class.

“Every day, I am learning new things about myself and becoming a teacher;  if there is one thing that I’ve taken from my senior year student teaching thus far, it’s that the students may very well teach me just as much as I teach them, if not more.”

Following graduation, Lamoly plans to teach in a ninth or 10th grade classroom for a year prior to starting her graduate degree in English Language Learners or Special Education. Lamoly will graduate from Roger Williams University in May with a degree in Secondary Education and History.

Lamoly expressed the impact the scholarship fund has had on her education.

“More than anything, this scholarship has been one of my biggest motivations beginning from the day I became one of the first recipients in 2014,” said Lamoly, a former student of Colleen’s.  “When I talk about the kind of teacher Ms. Ritzer was, I feel incredibly motivated because I know how important it is to be a teacher that exudes the kind of positivity she did. Every student needs that in their life.”

At the University of North Carolina, Andrea Lang will apply skills learned in observations hours, time in a classroom setting and her study abroad experience to Valencia, Spain during her student teaching next semester. Lang will be student teaching in a kindergarten classroom at a local elementary school in Wilmington, North Carolina.

“Out of many lessons I have learned from both the teachers and children along the way, the most influential has been the power of patience, understanding and love,” explained Lang. “Through the successes and the challenges, it is these three things that I have found foster the relationships and environment that is vital to children’s success, both in learning and in life.”

Graduating with a major in Elementary Education and minors in Mathematics, Spanish and English as a Second Language, Lang is exploring teaching opportunities in North Carolina, the Boston area or abroad in a Spanish-speaking country following graduation. She is passionate about her desire to teach and work with children, which continues to encourage her to work with lower elementary school aged children.

Lang also expressed her gratitude to the donors of the scholarship fund and the impact they have had on her education.

“I would like to share my gratitude and appreciation for the opportunities I have been given as a result of this scholarship,” said Lang. “The experiences I have had continue to be extremely influential in shaping me into the teacher I have become and I am forever grateful.”

Mary Leahy, pursuing a degree in Psychology and Childhood General and Special Education at Wagner College, has spent time in 15 classrooms in 12 schools in Staten Island, New York during her three and a half years as an undergraduate.

Upon graduation, she will pursue teaching opportunities and begin working towards obtaining a Master’s degree as a Reading Specialist. Her dream job is described as a resource room special education teacher in an elementary school.

Leahy shared her appreciation for the donors and supporters of the scholarship fund.

“I want to thank all of the supporters of the scholarship fund for not just honoring Ms. Ritzer, but providing me and my fellow aspiring teachers the opportunity to become caring, passionate teachers, just like Ms. Ritzer,” Leahy shared. “The scholarship has gone a long way in helping me fund my education, and I look forward to using what I have learned, to give back to my future students and community.” 

Sarah Mountain, a senior at Salem State University, is part of the 4+1 Graduate Program and will student teach in her final semester next year just prior to receiving a Master’s degree. Currently, Mountain is completing her field practicum in a fourth grade classroom at Molin School in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

She will receive a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and American Studies in May, prior to pursuing her Master’s degree.

Mountain offered her gratitude to the supporters of the scholarship fund.

“I would like to thank them for supporting me for the past four years, because of their help I have been able to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher,” Mountain explained. “I would also like to thank them for continuing to honor Ms. Ritzer and her passion for teaching.”

Samantha Walters, also studying at Salem State University and a former student of Colleen’s, has been spending time at Danvers High School as part of her pre-practicum in the classroom with one of her own high school teachers.

“I can’t begin to describe how grateful and excited I’ve been to have the opportunity to spend time back at my hometown high school with one of my favorite teachers,” Walters explained. “Every day that I go, I’m reminded of why I’ve wanted to be a teacher and what inspired me to choose this path.”

Walters will graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with a minor in Secondary Education. Upon graduation, Walters will be returning to Salem State University for the 4+1 Graduate Program to receive a Master’s degree, where she will have the opportunity to student teach.