Ritzer Family Announces 2015 Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Recipients

Scholarship Recipients Have Declared Education as their College Major


Last Year’s Recipients to Receive Second-Year Award

(ANDOVER, Massachusetts)-Tom, Peggie, Dan and Laura Ritzer announced the 2015 recipients of a Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship, awarded to graduating high school seniors who will pursue education as a major in college to carry on Colleen’s legacy as a caring and compassionate teacher. This year, the family will award a total of $30,000 in scholarships, including $12,000, second-year scholarships to last year’s recipients, the first to receive a Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship.

Andover RecipientsThe 2015 scholarship recipients from Andover include: Casey Flanigan, Meghan Johnson, Katherine Rex and Sarah Rothmann. Scholarship recipients from Danvers include: William Carleton Jr., Rebecca Hardenstine, Haley O’Shea and Jenna Romano. The family also awarded a scholarship to graduating Nashoba Regional High School senior, Clara Greszczuk, awarded in memory of Michelle Farnsworth, a Nashoba High student who lost her battle with cancer in 2015. Colleen taught at Hale Middle School in Stow after college; the students she taught there are now in the high school.

The scholarship fund is supported by individual donations that were made in the wake of Colleen’s passing in October 2013 as well as the Step Up for Colleen Ritzer 5K and other tribute events held to honor Colleen’s memory.dan2015 The scholarship fund is a permanent tribute to Colleen and builds upon her legacy by helping future teachers obtain a college degree so that they too can share their passion for teaching with future students.

“Our family continues to be touched and strengthened by the many stories friends and strangers have shared about the difference Colleen made in their lives, and the lives of her students,” said the Ritzer Family. “This scholarship fund enables Colleen’s spirit to continue to make a difference as a new generation of teachers is provided financial assistance so that they, too, can pursue their passion for teaching. We are grateful to the many individuals and organizations who continue to support the scholarship fund as they provide critical resources to help form a new generation of caring and compassionate teachers who will be dedicated to their students’ personal and academic success.”

Applicants were required to complete an application that requested information such as extra-curricular activities, awards and recognitions and plans for college.  They were also asked to submit a 500-word essay describing why they plan to pursue a degree in education and what or who has inspired them. The last piece of the application encouraged applicants to reflect on words shared by Colleen in her college essay in which she wrote:

            “Teachers have been an inspiration to me ever since I was just a young girl. Starting in pre-school, I knew I loved helping the teachers and would one day want to be just like them. My dream is to become a teacher, one who shapes the minds and lives of children. My goal has always been to become a teacher that will impact students’ lives.”

William Carleton Jr. will attend the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. this fall where he will major in music with career aspirations to teach that subject. Carleton participated in a number of extra-curricular activities during his high school years including: cast and crew member for school musicals; Boy Scout troop guide; music director for the school’s A Capella group; and was a member of the football, swim, golf and math teams. He also served as a bass singer in the MMEA Northeast Senior District Choir.

“Math may not be everyone’s favorite subject, but I found it as an entertaining puzzle,” Carleton wrote in his essay. “When I had Ms. Ritzer, she would always find a theme for every chapter’s title slide. For example, chapter one would be puppies and chapter two could be autumn trees. It was something that made the classroom relaxing, and easier to concentrate in.”

Carleton has earned a number of impressive recognitions, some of which include: All-State Choir Recommendations; Eagle Scout, Honors Student; Up and Coming for Choir Award and the Swimming Determination Award.

“…I met up with her (Ms. Ritzer) and told her that I was looking to pursue a teaching career in music,” Carleton added. “Impressed and excited, she offered me the chance to come by during one of her freshmen classes and teach simple algebraic equations, such as the Distributive Property or the Pythagorean Theorem.  She was truly a teacher dedicated to every student’s success; she is a teacher I want to be like.”

Casey Flanigan will attend Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire where she will pursue a degree in secondary education with a concentration in math. During all four years of high school, she was a member of Phoenix Swimming and the Andover High School swim and dive team. Those organizations which Flanigan volunteered her time include Birthday Wishes; Boys & Girls Club of the Lower Merrimack Valley; Frost School; and Special Olympics.

“I expect that after spending four years in college, I will be well-prepared to take the next step and become a teacher,” said Flanigan in her scholarship essay. “I want to be able to look back on college and know that it helped me become the best version of myself. I also hope that I can learn things in college that will help me be a good mentor and role model for future students. I have always looked up to my teachers, and hope that I will learn those skills necessary to do so in the next four years.”

Flanigan was recognized with the Coach’s Award from Phoenix Swimming.

This year’s first scholarship was awarded to Clara M. Greszczuk, who will attend the University of Delaware in the fall where she will major in education and study English and psychology. Her post-undergraduate plans include pursuit of a Master’s in Education with a desire to teach, like Colleen, at the high school level. Greszczuk participated in a number of extra-curricular activities while a student at Nashoba Regional High. These include: field hockey team, peer tutoring, stage manager for theatrical performances, ReACT Theatre Camp, ski team, student ambassador and student advisory council. She also helped to organize blood drives and served as a counselor at Camp Sunshine, a camp in Maine that provides respite for children with life-threatening illnesses.

“I would like to infect students with my enthusiasm for reading and the English language and inspire students to write well in the way that my teachers did for me,” wrote Greszczuk in her application. “Another goal I have for college and beyond is to continue doing community service work, whether that be peer tutoring or helping out at a food pantry. This will help me become part of the community and meet amazing people.”

Greszczuk also amassed an impressive number of awards and recognitions as a student: Achievement in Latin Award, Justice in Law Award and the Pre-Calculus Award. During her junior and senior years, she was a member of the National Honor Society, a recognition of her academic achievements.

Rebecca Hardenstine will attend Providence College in Providence, R.I. where she will pursue a dual elementary/ special education degree to prepare herself to “help all of my students to the best of my ability.” Hardenstine’s lengthy list of community engagement includes CCD teacher; Danvers Library page; Girl Scout; Homework Club volunteer; Global Activism vice-president; and Tomorrow’s Teachers volunteer. She is a member of the Danvers Marching Band and held leadership positions in the National English Honor Society, National Honor Society and World Language Honor Society. She also leads Bible Study for Courage.

“I do not believe I can become the best teacher I can be by just reading books and being in classrooms,” Hardenstine shared in her application essay. “In order for me to be the dynamic teacher I want to become, it is important for me to have a meaningful life. And having a meaningful life means growing spiritually, making a difference in my community, and having a career that I love.”

Her volunteer and academic accomplishments have been recognized with the College Board AP Scholar Award; Danvers High School Outstanding Student Award; Dartmouth College Book Award; Girls Scouts’ Gold Award; and was recognized with a Certificate of Academic Excellence by the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. Hardenstine was also a member of the President’s Education Award Program.

In preparation for her future classroom, Hardenstine has already begun to gather a “collection of supplies, posters and books…given to me by retiring teachers who wanted to pass on the legacy.”

Meghan Johnson will attend Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts where she will pursue a dual degree in education and math. During high school, she was a volunteer, or intern, for Andover High School Sustainable Garden Project; Camp Runels; Girl Scouts; and New Horizons for Youth. She was also a member of the Girls Varsity Ice Hockey and Ultimate Frisbee teams.      

“Someday, I hope to be a great teacher like Colleen and become a leader in education reform to make school a more positive and enriching place for students,” said Johnson in her scholarship application. “Because of Smith’s open curriculum, I have to take half of my classes outside of my majors, math and education. These outside classes will prepare me to promote a positive learning environment for my students, as I will be able to have intelligent conversations across subject lines with my students in and out of the classroom.”

Johnson was recognized with the following awards: Excellence in Math 4; High Honor Roll; K-12 Gold Award and Most Athletic and Fun to Work With.

Haley O’Shea will enroll at Boston College as a member of the class of 2019 where she will study to become a high school English teacher. O’Shea’s high school involvement includes National Honor Society; National English Honor Society; school committee; school council; Senior Center Volunteer; Student Bible Study; Tomorrow’s Teacher’s, World Language Honor Society; Yearbook; and member of the softball team.

“At an early age, my love for learning and my desire to help others caused me to decide that someday I would want to help children discover who they want to be, just as my teachers have helped me,” O’Shea wrote in her application essay. “Ms. Ritzer has taught me that ‘being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind’ and has reminded me to be kind to all whom I meet. My teachers have shaped me into the person I am today – a kind, courageous individual. They are the reason that I, too, wish to become a teacher someday. I want to be a teacher to inspire others to stand up for what they believe in.”

O’Shea was awarded the Danvers Girls’ Softball Sportsmanship Award; Danvers High School AP European History and Biology Award; the Book Award from Smith College; and named an AP Scholar Award by the College Board.

Katherine Rex will attend the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire where she has declared majors in elementary and special education with aspirations to become a kindergarten teacher. Rex’s lengthy list of volunteer service includes cheerleading coach; church mission trip; Lazarus House; peer mentor; St. Augustine School; and Warrior Way.

“Making a difference in the lives of others has always been important to me,” said Rex in her scholarship essay. “I always knew I wanted to do something to make a difference in the world. I am so excited to see what the next four years brings me. Becoming a teacher has always been my dream and now is that chance to begin that dream.”

In addition to babysitting her cousins at no charge for many days after school, Rex was recognized with the Deidre Ann Didio Memorial Spirit Award; High Honor Roll; and Excellence in Biology Award.

Jenna Romano will attend Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. this fall where she will major in elementary education. Romano’s impressive community service engagement includes: organizer for the Alzheimer’s Association; coach, Danvers Youth Cheerleaders; member of S.A.D.D.; Freshman Mentor; member, Student Council; and volunteer for Tomorrow’s Teachers. She was a varsity Hockey Cheerleader and balanced a part-time job.

“Becoming a teacher has always been a lifetime goal of mine,” explained Romano in her essay. “Ms. Ritzer left a wonderful legacy behind which was ‘be good to people’ and that will forever live on. I will always remember the things she stood for. I hope that one day when I am a teacher, I will be able to touch the lives of my students and inspire them to be the best that they can be just like my teachers did for me.”

Romano’s academic recognitions include member of the National English and World Language Honor Societies.

Sarah Rothmann will attend Bates College in Lewiston, Maine this fall where she will pursue a degree in education. At Andover High, Rothmann was a star athlete of the cross country and indoor and outdoor track teams. Her volunteer endeavors include service with the EXCEL Program, Healthy Kids Running Organization, student-resident mentor, Religious Education teacher and Warrior Way leader.

“I am inspired by Colleen’s dream to become a teacher ‘one who shapes the minds and lives of children’ and will use these words as my motivation to enlighten the lives of my siblings and all students around me,” said Rothmann, the second oldest of seven children, in her scholarship application.  “Wherever I may end up, whether I am teaching abroad in a foreign country or teaching at the local elementary school across the street, my goal will be to serve as both a role model and mentor to my students and help them become driven and hardworking individuals who strive to accomplish their lifelong goals and endeavors.”

Rothmann received a number of recognitions for her academic pursuits. These include: Bates Scholarship; Excellence in English, Excellence in French I, II and V; Excellence in Masterpieces of British Literature; Excellence in Modern American Literature; High Honor Roll; and National Honor Society.

Eligible applicants must be Andover or Danvers High School seniors who plan to pursue a degree in the field of education at an accredited four-year college or university. Guidance counselors encouraged well-rounded students who plan to major in education or a specific subject (i.e. math, science, etc.) with a concentration in education to apply for a competitive scholarship.

Applications that met eligibility requirements were reviewed by a selection committee comprised of family members and educators including: Tom Ritzer, Colleen’s Dad; Peggie Ritzer, Colleen’s Mom; Susan Craig, Colleen’s Aunt; Todd Butterworth and Sarah Giaquinta, Danvers High School Math Teachers; Kimberly Bergey, Andover High School Guidance Counselor; and Kimberly Rocha, Nashoba Regional High School English Teacher.

The Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Fund is held at the Essex County Community Foundation.