Teacher of the Year

One of the hallmarks of Hillsides is the longevity of its staff. This past week we celebrated the 30thanniversary of one of our teachers, Debi Szilagi-Johnson. As one of the very first teachers at Hillsides Education Center, Debi, like no one else, can tell the story of the school’s evolution, attempting to be responsive to the constantly changing needs of its students.
Recently, flooding in the school building impacted Debi’s classroom. As I walked through the school assessing the damage, it was clear to me that Debi was very upset. I attempted to reassure her that we would replace what had been damaged, but soon I realized what upset her more than anything else. It was not the supplies that could easily be replaced, but rather it was the “priceless” mementos of the past thirty years that were irreplaceable. Aside from being a great teacher, she is de facto our archivist, cataloguing the many pieces of treasure from the last thirty years. These treasures in her classroom told the story not only of her career and the evolution of instruction at the school, but more importantly served as the repository for the memorabilia of countless students.
Inevitably when alums return to visit, they make their way to Debi’s classroom to recall those formative experiences and, once again, take pride in the achievements they were able to make while at HEC. She is one of those memorable teachers that leave an imprint on the lives of those she instructs, an indelible mark that lasts a life time…a truly great teacher!
Debi’s style is a great example of the approach that we take at Hillsides with all those we serve–to be an essential resource for them, driven by a desire to see them achieve success. This year’s annual fund appeal, Together on the Path, reflects our hope that those we serve will move beyond the trauma they have experienced to being restored to an unencumbered and full life.
This great mission requires resources that go beyond the public funding we receive. Hillsides Education Center alone requires about $250,000 a year to maintain the quality instruction it provides because of the growing funding gap resulting from significant cuts to public education.
Support Debi and so many other dedicated staff members like her by contributing to our annual appeal. Your support makes a big difference in our efforts to together walk the path that leads to achievement and success for all we serve. Thank you!

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