Introducing Bennington's new teachers

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BENNINGTON — A host of new teachers are joining the Bennington School District for the 2016-2017 school year.

A last minute resignation caused a shuffle at Molly Stark Elementary School, said Principal Michael Mugits. Kindergarten teacher Catherine Keenan submitted her letter of resignation on July 31. Fourth grade teacher Susan Page will now teach kindergarten, and Andrea Wolff, who had been a long-term substitute with the school, will teach fourth grade in her stead.

"I have enjoyed working at Molly Stark, the staff were truly the most amazing and supportive individuals I have ever worked with," Keenan wrote in her letter of resignation. "Dr. Mugits was a great role model and mentor as well, I will never forget the positive experience I had with him."

Wolff was a first grade teacher from 2006 to 2013 at St. Mary's Academy in Hoosick Falls, N.Y. and prior to that was a substitute kindergarten teacher at Hoosic Valley Elementary in Schaghticoke. She has a master's degree in education from the College of Saint Rose in Albany.

Molly Stark first grade teacher Lisa Ellis resigned in June to take a position with the Maple Run Unified School District in St. Albans. Lise Smith will move from teaching third grade, where there were four teachers instead of the usual three during this past school year due to a demographic bubble, to first grade, to fill the gap left by Ellis. Kristi Knapp Steere was hired this summer to be the fourth fourth grade teacher for this school year as the "bubble" moves up one grade.

Steere had been a part-time math and technology teacher and school librarian at Woodford Hollow Elementary School, but was seeking a full-time position after earning her master's in education from Concordia University in Oregon in November 2015. She has also been a substitute teacher at both Fisher Elementary School in Arlington and Arlington Memorial Middle and High School, a special education paraeducator at Fisher, a student teacher at Shaftsbury Elementary and Molly Stark, and a library assistant at Bennington Elementary.

There will also be a new fifth grade teacher at Molly Stark, with Laura Saddlemire taking over for Michael Mazzola. Saddlemire graduated with a bachelor's degree in early childhood education with a concentration in English from the State University of New York Plattsburgh in 2014, and has student teaching experience at two New York elementary schools and several years of experience as a substitute.

The last remaining position to be filled at Molly Stark is the art teacher, which was vacated by Martha Phelps, who announced her intention to resign last December. Mugits indicated that the position is expected to be filled within the next few days.

Molly Stark will also have a new assistant principal, after longtime administrator Gail Johnson retired in June. Kimberly Tenner, assistant principal for Manchester Elementary Middle School since 2013, has been hired to step into the role. Prior to that, she was a third and fourth grade teacher at MEMS from 2004 to 2013, a teacher at Clear Lake Independent School District in Texas from 1996-2004, and a reading specialist and third grade teacher at Vernon Elementary School in Vermont from 1985-1994. She received her bachelor's degree at Castleton State College in elementary education and her master's in education curriculum and instruction from Keene State College in New Hampshire.

Monument Elementary School will hire a new physical education teacher, replacing Judith Stone, who retired at the end of the 2016-2017 school year after 25 years. The new teacher, Michael Bocech, will also spend some time at Molly Stark, where gym classes are being increased to from 30 minutes to 40 minutes, supplementing current Molly Stark gym teacher Lisa Plummer. Bocech has a bachelor's degree in physical education and health from Montclair State College in New Jersey and a master's degree in physical education and health from East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. He taught physical education for 37 years in Vernon, New Jersey before leaving that position this June.

John Duval will be the new fourth grade teacher at Bennington Elementary School, replacing Kasey Ferguson, who submitted her letter of resignation in June. Duval comes with several years of teaching experience from Massachusetts, including as a substitute teacher and paraeducator at C.T. Plunkett Elementary School in Adams from 2006-2013, a long-term fifth grade substitute at Cheshire Elementary School in Cheshire for the 2014-2015 school year, and finally as a fourth grade teacher at C.T. Plunkett from 2015 until this June. He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. with a degree in political science.

Bennington Elementary also announced the hiring of Stephanie Parascandolo, who will fill in for fifth grade teacher Hannah Lanzillo during her one-year leave of absence. Parascandolo has a background in teaching math and science, including spending a year as a fifth grade science teacher at Central Queens Academy Charter School in New York and a year as the lead environmental educator at The Great Basin Institute at the Galena Creek Visitor Center in Nevada. Most recently, she has been a long-term substitute for sixth grade science at Mount Anthony Union Middle School.

The majority of these hires were approved at Tuesday's special meeting of the Bennington School District Board, pending the completion of criminal background checks.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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