Four Bucks, Montco school employees named ‘Unsung Heroes’

Newsworthy

Employees from the Bensalem, Central Bucks and Lower Moreland school districts and Bucks County Technical High School in Bristol Township each received $1,000 grants and are in the running for another $2,000.

Four school employees from Bucks or Eastern Montgomery counties have been named “Unsung Heroes” in a competition sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Education Association/Mideastern Region and the Council for the Advancement of Public Schools.

Receiving $1,000 grants were Jacqui Owens, a social worker in the Bensalem district; Katie Engelhardt, nurse at Bucks County Technical High School in Bristol Township; Jeff Klein, a school counselor at Tamanend Middle School in the Central Bucks district and Ellen Zschunke, a librarian/media specialist at Pine Road Elementary School in the Lower Moreland district.

The two sponsors asked for nominations of non-teachers from throughout Bucks and Montgomery counties and these four were chosen by a PSEA/MER panel from among 14 nominations received by peers and colleagues.

They are now in the running for one grand prize, which will be another $2,000 grant. The four are using the grant money for improvement projects within their schools.

The grand prize will be awarded on the basis of online voting. The public is invited to see videos and vote for their favorite at friendsofpubliced.org/unsung-heroes-of-bucks-and-montgomery-county-schools/. The grand prize winner will be announced Monday.

“We want to bring attention to and thank these very valuable professionals who are so critical to the success of our students, and who are often not as visible to the general public as our classroom teachers,” PSEA/MER President Alan Malachowski said. “Without them and their
colleagues across the region who serve in so many different capacities, the school experience would not be as enriching for our students.”

Engelhardt has “totally transformed our nursing suite into a nurturing place where students feel very comfortable and supported. She also started a comfort closet to assist our students with personal care items, clothes, book bags, etc.” one of her nominators from the tech school said.

She plans to use her grant money for replacing an automated external defibrillator and buying female and male-specific hygiene and laundry products for the comfort closet. If Engelhardt wins the additional $2,000, she will use it to expand a program of support and preventive services for at-risk students.

Owens is one of only two social workers in the Bensalem district and is described by officials there as a “relentless advocate for students and families, worrying about those who do not have adequate food, shelter and utilities and students who are not attending school.”

“She is one of the hardest working employees I have ever met,” Owens’ nominator said.

She is using the grant money to build libraries of mindfulness materials at every Bensalem school, including workbooks, storybooks and meditation materials like CDs, guided meditations and calming resources like stress balls and brain break activities.

Central Bucks officials describe Klein as the “go-to guy when a student is in need of a friend, requires support for a variety of issues, wants to escalate his or her academic or outside pursuits or has other needs.”

One of his nominators said Klein is a “great colleague and amazing teacher and counselor.”

He plans to use his grant money toward the design and painting of a mural in the Tamanend gym to honor past participants and encourage future involvement in a basketball tournament he runs that benefits a memorial fund.

Zschunke is “always willing to help colleagues and students alike and is constantly positive, down to earth and honest,” Lower Moreland officials and her nominator said.

She will use the grant money to purchase either 16 or 31 (if she wins the additional $2,000) Playaway MP3 players with preloaded books to aid students with dyslexia or other disabilities.

Credit: Bucks County Courier Times/Intelligencer