Inaugural Scholarship Recipients Motivated by Passion for Teaching, Contributing to Colleen’s Legacy


CR Sticker Opt 2The first recipients of a Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship have completed their third semester of college and, driven by a passion to be an inspiration to young learners, continue to pursue a degree in education so that they, like Colleen, can be an enthusiastic presence in the classroom. Many of the scholarship recipients have spent countless hours in classrooms observing various teachings styles and how to impart upon students a memorable learning experience.

Andrea Lang (Danvers), a sophomore elementary education major with a minor in math and Spanish at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, continues a strong interest in the field. That interest swayed Lang to spend the summer working at a Montessori School and as a DARE Camp counselor.

“I’m continuing to pursue a career in education because I am still passionate and excited about working with children and impacting their lives in a positive way,” shared Lang. “Through my experience with both groups of children this summer and seeing them grow and change as a result of my influence, I was reminded of the happiness that working with children brings me and was reassured that teaching is what I am passionate about. I am excited about the challenge of finding the most beneficial, relevant, and efficient way to help each individual student succeed, understand the material, and be excited about learning.”

Lang offers her gratitude to supporters of the scholarship fund for enabling her to pursue the dream of becoming a teacher.

“Thank you for helping and encouraging me to accomplish my career and educational goals and making it possible to do what makes me happy,” added Lang.

Also at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, Christine Aumais (Andover), has declared psychology and public health as her major which she will use to prepare for a career in school counseling or school psychology. She hopes to apply concepts learned in the classroom help students reach their full potential.

“My education classes are the classes that I am the most interested in, and most eager to go to class and do the readings for,” explained Aumais. “I’ve learned that there are so many different aspects of education that I wasn’t even aware of, but each one continues to pleasantly surprise and interest me. Even more so, I’ve learned and become more sure that working as part of an education system is what I truly want to do with my life.”

As Aumais pursues her degree, the scholarship continues to make a positive impact on her studies.

“The scholarship has continued to make a difference in my ability to pursue higher education opportunities because it helps relieve some of the financial burden of buying textbooks, and tuition and allows me to focus on my classes with access to all of the materials I need to succeed,” shared Aumais.

Aumais, too, shares her appreciation for those who have generously supported the scholarship fund.

“I would like to thank the supporters of the scholarship fund again, not only have they helped take some of the financial burden off of my college experience, this scholarship is a constant reminder of how to live my life,” shared Aumais. “I do my best to be kind to people, and follow Colleen’s legacy, as well as finding the good in everyday, which often times is just knowing that there are so many people supporting me.

Soon, Tess Dever (Andover) will formally apply to the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education where she will major in elementary education with a concentration on mathematics. If Dever had any doubts about her chosen career path, they were assuaged in her first two semesters at college.

“While taking the education courses so far at UConn, I have learned that this is my true passion,” shared Dever. “I enjoy these classes so much, and know that I am gaining tools now that I will use in my future. As I go through these courses, I know that this is what I am meant to do. I am happiest when I am in the classroom working with students, and I want to spend the rest of my life doing what makes me happiest”

Thanks to the Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship, Dever was able to travel outside of the country to experience learning in poorer areas of the world.

“It was because of this scholarship that I was able to do a four-week study abroad program in Cape Town, South Africa over the summer,” explained Dever. “In Cape Town I was able to intern at an elementary school, working with underprivileged children. The scholarship also continues to help me pursue my degree at UConn.”

“To the donors, I want to say thank you, because without this, I would not be able to pursue this degree and without this, I wouldn’t be able to reach my dream of becoming a teacher,” added Dever.

University of Massachusetts – Amherst student Courtney Comeau (Andover) is learning the importance of teachers and the lasting wisdom they share with their students.

“Teachers impact students every day and play a crucial role in their development,” Comeau shares. “My education classes are a constant reminder to me as to why I want to become a teacher.  I feel passionate about giving each student an equal opportunity to succeed.”

Pursuing a communications major with an early education minor, upon graduation, Comeau will fulfill the requirements to teach at the pre-school to second grade levels.

“I want to make a difference in as many children’s lives as possible,” Comeau shares. “I want to be a positive role model in children’s lives. I want to encourage them. I want them to look up to me and feel worthy because of something I said to them that made a difference in their life. I feel that with pursuing a career in education, I can make a difference in future generations both in and out of the school environment.”

While only in her second year of undergraduate studies, Comeau is already looking ahead to potential graduate school opportunities.

Comeau is honored for being named one of the first recipients of a scholarship in Colleen’s name.

“I think the Colleen Ritzer Scholarship is a nice way to help students find greatness and empowerment in themselves and live up to Colleen’s idea of what a great teacher is,” said Comeau. “I will always be proud to be a recipient of this powerful scholarship and I am reminded of it every year and continue to feel more proud each year.”

At Endicott College, elementary education major Emily Felter (Andover) also spent considerable time observing teachers in classrooms where she is learning how education impacts all children, regardless of financial means.

“I am very passionate about making sure all students are given fair and equal opportunities to learn,” said Felter. “This means all children are treated with respect and love, and I will instill a sense of confidence. I want children to have the confidence to believe they can succeed if they want to.”

In those classrooms, Felter witnessed how a teacher can make a significant difference in the life of a child.

“Last winter I spent a few weeks in a third grade classroom as an intern,” said Felter. “In this class I had many wonderful experiences interacting and teaching the class. This internship proved to me that this is what I want to be doing.”

Felter, also, expresses her thanks to the thousands of individuals and organizations that have generously given in support of the Colleen E. Ritzer Scholarship Fund.

“College is expensive and there are so many things to worry about and balance,” said Felter. “To receive help in paying for college is extraordinarily helpful. I would like to thank all of the supporters of the scholarship fund. It means so much to me that our community can come together to support our future teachers.”

At Assumption College, Jessica Ferronetti (Andover) has blended her interest in the Spanish culture with her passion for education as she pursues a dual major in Spanish and education. As a second year college student pursuing an education degree, Ferronetti has already engaged with students in a classroom.

“I was given the opportunity to plan and teach a lesson for my class this semester and I had so much fun doing it,” shared Ferronetti. “This showed me that I really do want to teach Spanish, and I have really enjoyed learning how to convey my love of Spanish to my students.”

Her interest in teaching is nurtured by this and other experiences where Ferronetti works with students.

“This past summer, I was able to experience teaching campers the leadership skills they need to have in order to be counselors at the summer camp I work at, and I looked forward to working with these amazing kids every day,” said Ferronetti. “They were middle and high school aged kids, right around the age that I want to teach. My experiences with these different groups of kids over the summer really solidified my choice to pursue a career in education.”

Ferronetti remains thankful for the honor of being selected to receive a Colleen E. Ritzer Scholarship for the legacy to which she is contributing.

“I am so grateful to have received the Colleen Ritzer scholarship,” shared Ferronetti. “It has allowed me to have less of a financial burden so that I can focus more on my studies. I am also grateful to be following in Colleen’s legacy. It has really made a difference in my life, and it is an amazing way for Colleen’s legacy to live on– to inspire students to pursue what they love, and to teach others to have this love.”

Also at Assumption, her pursuit of an education degree not only excites, but is a driving force for sophomore Carly Sakallarios (Andover).

“You know that you’re on the right path when you are excited to wake up and go to class every day because you know that what you are going to learn is going to help you do what you have always wanted to do,” shared Sakallarios.

Driven by her dream of becoming a teacher, the scholarship has provided necessary resources to enable Sakallarios to pursue her career goals.

“The scholarship helps a great deal in paying for tuition, so instead of worrying about having a job on campus, I am able to further focus on my studies,” Sakallarios explains.

In addition to her classes, Sakallarios has also joined an on-campus community service club, the Reach Out Center (ROC). This past semester, through the ROC, she has volunteered in a kindergarten classroom applying what she has learned in a College classroom in an elementary school environment.

Catherine Lamoly (Danvers), a second year student at Roger Williams University who will double major in secondary education and history, is learning about the type of teacher she hopes to be upon graduation.

“Taking education classes has taught … that things are going to get challenging at times, and that’s a good thing,” said Lamoly. “Through the education program at my school, I was given the opportunity to frequently sit in on a high school history class and observe, as well as speak with and help out the students. Going to the school gets me so excited about what the future holds for me.”

And during those challenging times, Lamoly reflects upon the scholarship and its namesake.

“The scholarship makes all the difference,” explains Lamoly. “When things get really difficult in school, Ms. Ritzer’s scholarship is what motivates me to keep going. I’m so thankful that I was able to receive this scholarship and that it motivates me to become an influential teacher every day. It made me so happy to see members of the class of 2015 receive the scholarship and I look forward to see more students carry on Ms. Ritzer’s legacy as time goes on.”

Wagner College sophomore Mary Leahy (Danvers) is often reassured of her decision to major in education.

“I have found my calling in life,” shares Leahy. “Every education class that I have taken thus far has reconfirmed my love for teaching and my desire to have my own classroom one day. “

Like many scholarship recipients, Leahy has taken an interest in a particular discipline in education.

“My favorite class this semester is an education class called, Learning Environment for Students with Exceptionalities,” explained Leahy. “It is a special education based class where I learn the different special education categories under the Americans with Disability Act and what all of the Individual Educational Plans (IEP) would look like. As my final project, I made an IEP for a student that was assigned to me at random. I had to ensure all of her needs were accounted for based on test results and teacher observations. I loved this class because my ultimate goal is to be a special education teacher and this class taught me so much about the field and most importantly taught me how to write an IEP.”

Thanks to the scholarship, Leahy, a psychology and childhood general and special education double major, is empowered to pursue her interests which includes more than 100 hours of teacher observation in actual classrooms.

“This scholarship provides financial relief so that I can go to school without the burden of a student loan weighing on my shoulders,” explained Leahy. “This scholarship allows me to focus on my studies and not have to worry about working to pay for school.”

For Leahy, the scholarship is much more than a financial award, rather a great responsibility.

“I would just like to say thank you to everyone who supports the scholarship for not only aiding me in living out my lifelong dream of becoming a teacher but also for helping to keep Ms. Ritzer’s legacy alive.”

Each day generates newfound excitement and enthusiasm for Sarah Mountain (Danvers), an elementary education and American studies double major also at Salem State.

“The scholarship has absolutely made a difference in helping me receive my education,” said Mountain. “The scholarship has not only just given me financial help, it has given me confidence in myself. Whenever I am having a rough day and everything seems too much I remember all the things that have helped me get to where I am now. I think of these things and remember how thankful I am for them. The scholarship is definitely one of the things I remember that I am thankful for.”

Mountain pursues a teaching career not simply to impart knowledge upon students, but, like Colleen, to influence their lives in a memorable way whether it be working at an after-school program or learning in the classroom.

“I choose a career path in education not only because I love school but because I love helping people by making a difference in their lives,” said Mountain. “The teachers in my life always made a huge impact on me and I would love to be able to do the same for others. A teacher can change a student’s life; I would love to be able to make an impact on others in the future.”

To the supporters of the scholarship fund, Mountain is grateful.

“I want to thank everyone who has supported the scholarship fund, because of their contributions I am one step closer to reaching my dream to become a teacher,” shared Mountain. “The scholarship fund can help recipients like myself make a difference for others. Their act of kindness in supporting the scholarship can help many more accomplish their goals of teaching. “

At Salem State University, Samantha Walters (Danvers) thoroughly immersed herself in, and enjoyed, a class titled Contemporary Secondary Schools.

“We learned about how middle & high schools have changed and adapted over the years, and all the different techniques put into teaching all the different subjects,” shared Walters. “At the end, we had a final group project where we had to create a presentation on the effectiveness of teaching our major subject(s), as well as how the techniques have developed. This was the last time our professor would teach this class, because he was retiring, and I’m very thankful I got to have him because I learned a lot from him, and his experiences that he shared with us. He is also actually very involved in the Danvers community, as he has grandchildren in the schools. We spoke about Colleen and some of my other high school teachers sometimes.”

Walters looks forward to sharing that same type of inspiring moment with her future students.

“Teachers make a big difference in students’ experiences in high school, and it’s so nice to think that someday you could have a great impact on even just one student,” explained Walters. It’s a rewarding experience I can’t wait to have on my own. I will be forever grateful to the supporters of the scholarship, and of course the Ritzer family.”