If there needed to be any proof of the impact of education in southern Chester County, look no further than this year’s recipients of the Citadel Heart of Learning Awards.
For the first time since its inception in 2001, a teacher from the Kennett Consolidated School District and one from the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District won in the same year.
Philip Reggio from Kennett won for the middle schools category while Grace Frunzi from Unionville-Chadds Ford won for elementary schools.
“We really represented the southern part of the county that day,” Frunzi said. “That to me spoke volumes. Two from the same part of the county is great.”
Reggio, a gifted resources and social studies teacher and honor’s program coordinator at Kennett Middle School, was shocked upon seeing his name as a finalist because he had been nominated before in 2009 and was unaware it could happen again.
This time around, he was able to sit at the banquet held May 13 and made it to the very top.
“It’s hard to explain because being recognized is not something you get into teaching for,” Reggio said. “When you are recognized, you’re really appreciative of the people you are able to make a difference for in their lives.”
Frunzi, a learning supports teacher at Pocopson Elementary School, had no idea she was even nominated until a school assembly featured a video presentation about her with teachers and former students praising her work.
“I’m still trying to process the whole thing,” she said. “I was not expecting it at all. I was standing there (in the assembly) and kind of listening. They said my name and I almost went down. I was really just knocked off my feet.”
With the end of the school year quickly approaching and the days seeming to drag on longer than usual, both teachers feel a bit of rejuvenation to get them through the remaining weeks.
“It puts a lot of extra fuel in the tank,” Reggion said. “It gets you even more excited to go to school every day. That’s how I take that positive energy.”
Citadel, who received 2,400 entries for the program, narrowed the list down to 15 finalists – one public school teacher from each of the 13 districts in Chester County, one from the Chester County Intermediate Unit and one from the non-public schools.
“Everybody is there (at the banquet),” Reggio said. “They did a presentation on each person who was nominated and then announced the winners. You go in not having any idea (if you won).”
Those 15 finalists received $500 for use in their classrooms and attended the banquet where the three winners are announced and who will receive an additional $1,500.
Teaching isn’t the glamorous type of profession, as any teacher will be quick to tell you. It’s filled with long days, hard work and sometimes, recognition for that falls by the wayside.
But for Reggio and Frunzi, winning this award is justification for everything they have done to this point.
“When you look at your students, sometimes their progress is slow and steady,” Frunzi said. “It doesn’t always come easy or fast for everybody. As a teacher, you feel like it falls upon you. What is it you need to do better than you’re doing right now? You may not always hear ‘thanks for trying.’
“Not only do you hear a thank you (with the award), but you hear praise and accolades. That’s amazing. Every teacher needs to hear that because it affirms for you that you chose this profession for a reason and this is it right here.”