First Recipients of Colleen Ritzer Scholarship Just Over One Year from Graduation

Now in their third year of college, the first recipients of a Colleen Ritzer Scholarship are spending as much time in their college classrooms as well as classrooms at elementary and high schools. All continue to major in education, or a specialized area of the discipline.

Christine Aumais, a junior at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, volunteered at a post-secondary school for individuals with disabilities and served as a substitute teacher in the Andover Public School District. Aumais was recently accepted into the Developmental Disabilities and Human Services Specialization Program at the University and has recently shared her intentions to pursue a master’s degree in school counseling.

“The knowledge I have gained the past few years has been incredible, and each day I become more and more sure that I am on the right path,” Aumais recently shared. “I would like the supporters of the Scholarship Fund to know how greatly I appreciate everything that this scholarship has given me.”

Also studying at UMass Amherst, following her work in specialty classes, Courtney Comeau has shifted her focus from teaching in the second grade to special education.

“I want to help impact students’ lives the best I can with my personal experiences and knowledge and, hopefully, get them to love learning the way I do,” said Comeau. “I want to help build their confidence so they will never doubt themselves.”

To the supporters of the Scholarship Fund, Comeau offers her gratitude and shares that she continues to draw inspiration from Colleen.

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dreams of becoming a teacher,” said Comeau. “I plan to carry on Colleen’s legacy and find the good in every day. It has meant so much to have the support of the Ritzer family and Colleen’s Scholarship donors to keep me going through the tough times.”

Tess Dever, studying at the University of Connecticut, is a member of the University’s Neag School of Education integrated bachelor’s and master’s program which has provided her an opportunity to intern in fourth grade classrooms.

“Every day I walk into the classroom, I am reminded how teaching is what I am meant to do,” said Dever. “There is nothing I enjoy more than working with students and helping them grow into people of our future.”

Endicott junior Emily Felter has plans to study in Italy in the spring following a year in which she completed her pre-practicum experience in a first grade classroom.

“The most important thing I have learned is how to create and implement lesson plans that are interesting and will keep first graders engaged for the full school day,” shared Felter. “My pre-practicum experience has been critical in reaffirming my interest in teaching. It is extremely rewarding when a lesson that I have put a lot of time and effort into is effective and the students walk away with new knowledge.”

Felter also expresses her appreciation to the donors of the Scholarship Fund.

“I want to ensure them [the Scholarship Fund supporters] that their donations are much appreciated and going to such a special cause,” Felter added. “We need to continue generating excellent teachers and this Scholarship is one step further in accomplishing this goal.”

Jessica Ferronetti has also completed her pre-practicum at a high school close to Assumption College, where she is a junior. At the high school, she engaged with students in Spanish 3 and 4 classes, reaffirming her decision to pursue middle/ secondary education as a major. Ferronetti is exploring the possibility of spending four weeks in Argentina this summer teaching English.

“Having this Scholarship has really pushed me to do my best in my education and Spanish classes, as I really want to be the best teacher I can be,” Ferronetti said.

At Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, Catie Lamoly is still pursuing a degree in secondary education and social studies while working with a tenth grade U.S. History class in a local high school.

“Working at this school has only further validated my desire to teach and work with this age group because I feel as though I easily connect with the students I work with and feel so strongly about helping them succeed,” said Lamoly.

Like many recipients, the Scholarship is a driving force in Lamoly’s pursuit of a degree.

“If there is anything I would like to say to the supporters of Ms. Ritzer’s Scholarship, it is that there are times when I feel so worn out and this Scholarship is the only thing that keeps me motivated,” she explained. “It helps me remember the student I was in high school and how I needed my teachers’ support to help push me through. This Scholarship reminds me that I must be that teacher for the students I will have in the near future.”

Andrea Lang spent the summer studying in Valencia, Spain. Upon her return to the University of North Carolina – Wilmington, she fulfilled her field experience requirements for her special education and English as a Second Language courses by volunteering more than 40 hours in a third grade classroom  observing, assisting, working with small groups and working one-on-one with English Language Learners.

Following extensive work in a local elementary school, in which she taught non-English speaking children English, Lang reflected, “Watching these children grow in confidence and their love of learning and realizing first hand that the true potential and intelligence of a child is lies far beyond their test scores reaffirmed my interest in teaching. I watched light bulbs go off and children following our example of kindness, encouragement, and praise for each other’s smart ideas and hard work. I also got to witness the powerful effects of making connections to a child’s native language.”

Lang was able to pursue these opportunities thanks to, in part, the Scholarship Fund.

“I strongly appreciate the continued support of the perpetuation of the legacy of such an inspirational woman and the encouragement it provides to aspiring teachers on their path to their future and their impact on the future of children,” Lang shared. “I am incredibly honored to be a recipient of this Scholarship and grateful for the opportunities it gives me and the doors it continues to open for me to take risks in my field, grow my knowledge, and spend more time doing what I love.”

Wagner College junior Mary Leahy spent the semester abroad in “The Renaissance City,” Florence, Italy. While Leahy’s classes focused on non-education subjects, the semester abroad was an opportunity to recommit to her pursuit of an education degree.

“One of the things I missed most this semester was not completing the hours I typically spend in the classroom back at Wagner College,” explained Leahy. “I feel like this semester has reconfirmed my desire to have a career in education. I miss the classroom so much and helping the students. I am looking forward to my next semester, where I will complete my last three education classes prior to student teaching.”

Leahy also reflects on the honor of being named one of the first recipients of a Colleen Ritzer Memorial Scholarship.

“I would like to thank the supporters of the Scholarship once again for aiding me in reaching my goal of becoming a teacher,” Leahy shares “I have been to places I never thought I would ever travel to. So thank you all for the continued support over the past three years. I know the aid you have provided me to pursue my education and the aid you have provided other passionate education students will help to carry on Ms. Ritzer’s wonderful legacy; and for that I am truly grateful.”

Closer to home, Sarah Mountain began to fulfill her student-teaching requirements at Salem State University learning effective classroom teaching strategies and approaches. For three hours a week, Mountain volunteered in a second grade class reading to children and asking them questions to gauge comprehension, work thoroughly enjoyed.

“I have realized how having patience with these kids is very important because it helps show them that I want to help them and be there for them,” Mountain explains. “Going to student teach every week reaffirms my interest in teaching because while I am there I feel like I am making an impact helping these kids. When I hear, them say ‘Bye Ms. Mountain! Thank you for helping us,’ when I am leaving makes me smile. This reminds me why I want to be a teacher.”

Mountain also expresses her gratitude to the donors of the Scholarship Fund.

“I would like to say thank you to all the supporters of the Colleen Ritzer Memorial Scholarship,” said Mountain. “Thanks to your help I can follow my dream to becoming a teacher and helping me make an impact in the lives of students. There is not a day that goes by where I do not think about the generosity of this Scholarship and how it supports me in reaching my goals.

This past semester, Assumption College junior Carly Sakellarios, double majoring in elementary education and English with a concentration in STEM Education, spent more than 45 hours observing and assisting in Worcester elementary schools where she was placed in a second grade classroom for her pre-practicum, a third grade inclusion classroom for her Teaching Students with Special Needs course, and a first grade classroom for her Teaching English Language Learners course. However, it was her work in the inclusion classroom that left a memorable impression upon her.

“This classroom was extremely eye-opening; I was lucky to be placed in an extremely talented teacher’s classroom, and I learned valuable strategies for how to meet the needs of each student in your classroom,” shared Sakellarios. “It is incredible how being included in the general education classroom can change the learning experience for a child who sometimes feels un-included or stigmatized by their surroundings. I am extremely thankful that I had the opportunity to spend so many hours in local classrooms so that I could further enhance my learning on how to be an effective elementary school teacher who differentiates her teaching so that the needs of all of the students in her classroom are met.”

The Scholarship has enabled Sakellarios to focus full-time on her heavy course load.

“[The Scholarship] has allowed me to better focus on my course load and student teaching experiences instead of having to limit my time in real-life classrooms due to having to work during the school year,” said Sakellarios. “Because of this Scholarship, I have been able to focus on learning to be a teacher during the academic year without having to worry about having a job on campus in addition to being a substitute teacher while on break. Thank you so much!”

Spending much of her time with math teachers at Revere High School, Salem State University junior Samantha Walters was placed with three different math teachers who provided invaluable advice to this future teacher.

“They’re smart, kind and interested in their subjects,” shared Walters. “My experience started out as observing and has now moved on to assisting students. It’s been great to see the students grow and learn more every week. It feels very rewarding when a student asks for help, and when I explain something to them, they say ‘oh thank you, I get it now!’”