Hamilton Community Foundation, Wilks Foundation honors 19 educators

Credit: Greg Lynch

Credit: Greg Lynch

The annual Harry T. Wilks Hamilton Celebrates Education event tonight will honor 19 from area schools in Hamilton.

And as tonight’s event at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Hamilton will be the 21st annual event, it’s probably more impactful today than when it started.

President and CEO of the Hamilton Community Foundation John Guidugli said it started out as a conversation with him and Harry Wilks, which led to a series of discussions and then a committee, and then the event that first started at honoring one educator of the year.

It evolved to where the schools around Hamilton ― from the individual Hamilton public school buildings to the parochial and private schools ― put forth a nominee to be recognized. Nominees could range from administrators to aides to custodians, all of whom have an influence on a child’s education.

“Mr. Wilks created a legacy of honoring education,” said Katie Braswell, vice president of the Hamilton Community Foundation and member of the foundation’s Education Committee. “We are proud to continue that legacy by recognizing deserving educators with the support of the Harry T. Wilks Foundation.”

Wilks died in March 2014 at the age of 89. He was a longtime donor and supporter of charitable causes in the community and believed in the importance of education as he established a fund at the community foundation to provide program grants and honor educators.

The 19 area schools’ nominees will receive a $1,000 grant from the Hamilton Community Foundation via the Wilks Foundation for use in their classrooms or at their respective schools. They will also receive a custom-made picture frame made by artists at InsideOut Studio.

“Carrying on the tradition of the late Mr. Wilks and his tremendous generosity to the community and to local education is something we’re proud to do,” said Braswell. “Each year, we are impressed by the caliber of educators in our local schools, and this year is no different.”

The 2023 Hamilton Celebrates Education Educators of Excellence are:

  • Elijah Balsbaugh, Intervention Specialist at Bridgeport Elementary School
  • Colleen Brewer, English Language Learner Teacher at The Miami School
  • Kelsey Brooks, Math Teacher at Garfield Middle School
  • Amy Butterfield, English as a Second Language Teacher at Highland Elementary School
  • Michele Campbell, Third Grade Teacher at Queen of Peace School
  • Steve Connaughton, English as a Second Language Teacher at Crawford Woods Elementary School
  • Katy Cook, Instructional Coach at Linden Elementary School
  • Emily Fontaine, First Grade Teacher at St. Ann Catholic School
  • Mme. Christina French, Science & Language Arts Teacher at Immanuel Lutheran School
  • Debbie Gleason, Custodian at St. Peter in Chains School
  • Sarah Graf-Philpot, Intervention Specialist at St. Joseph Consolidated School
  • Steve Heckman, Social Studies Teacher at Hamilton High School Main Campus
  • Tina Mazzeo, Title 1 Teacher at Brookwood Elementary School
  • Laura McFarland, Counselor at Stephen T. Badin High School
  • Eryn McNabb, Intervention Specialist at Hamilton High School Freshman Campus
  • James Platt, Custodian at Ridgeway Elementary School
  • Roberta Smiley, Kindergarten Teacher at Riverview Elementary School
  • Gaby Tagliamonte, Math Teacher at Wilson Middle School
  • Brandi Taulbee, Kindergarten Teacher at Fairwood Elementary School

Guidugli said communities can always do more, saying, “Enough is probably never enough for teachers.” Unrelated to tonight’s event, the Hamilton Community Foundation does have a program to help educators buy supplies for classrooms.

To learn more about the Harry T. Wilks Hamilton Celebrates Education program and other community foundation involvement in the community, including grants and scholarships, visit hamiltonfoundation.org.

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