Extra work nets DePaul Catholic High School Spanish teacher Educator of the Year Award
WAYNE – When DePaul Catholic High School sophomore Grace Hawruk missed a sizeable chunk of this past school year after having surgery, she fell behind in a lot of her classes. Spanish II wasn’t one of them, however – thanks to Stacey Gottesman.
Gottesman, who has been teaching Spanish at DePaul for the past 12 years, gave Hawruk a lot of grace – taking time out of her busy weekend schedule to visit Hawruk at home and help Hawruk catch up on missed work. Gottesman also provided tutoring during the week, ensuring that Hawruk would not feel lost and would be properly equipped to succeed at the highest level in her class.
Those wonderful accommodations are not what won Gottesman the 2012 New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) Educator of the Year Award, however – at least not on their own. Gottesman also ensured that Hawruk consistently felt comfortable in the classroom, especially when Hawruk had to tic.
“My Tourette often affects my school work and not every teacher is understanding of that,” said Hawruk, who is adamant in saying that Gottesman taught her not only Spanish, but also how to be the best person possible. “When I told Ms. Gottesman about my Tourette, she was understanding and shared that her friend, too, had the disorder. She knows I struggle with my tics sometimes and understands my need to move and squeak.”
Gottesman, who describes Hawruk as a phenomenal young lady with a heart of gold, didn’t favor Hawruk. She didn’t give Hawruk any special treatment that she wouldn’t afford to any other student in need. And she didn’t eye Hawruk as one iota less of a student and person as anyone else in the class.
“Grace always did the best that she knew how to do in Spanish II. She never gave up. She tried her hardest always. When she told me that she had TS, I told her that we would work together with it so no one else knows about the TS. When Grace was under a lot of pressure, her TS got more noticeable. I made sure she never felt uncomfortable in class. She could always come to me no matter what the problem was,” Gottesman said. “I still have tears in my eyes – that’s how she’s touched me with this award. The DePaul kids are my kids. The day I can’t say that, that’s the day that I need to retire.”
Added Hawruk: “My favorite memory of Ms. Gottesman was when she came to our home the weekend after my knee surgery with get-well-soon flowers! Her best qualities are her patience, enthusiasm, compassion, positive attitude and her understanding.”
Since 2003, NJCTS has awarded 13 Educator of the Year awards – in some years, such as 2012, there have been more than one winner – and more than 200 NJCTS Children’s Scholarships to graduating high school seniors with TS. This year’s other Educator of the Year winner was Anita Riccardelli of the Good Shepherd Academy. More information about the Educator of the Year and Children’s Scholarship awards is available by calling 908-575-7350 or by visiting www.njcts.org.