Position: Special Education Teacher
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School: P.S. 150 Charles James Fox
School District: NYC Department of Education Department 12
City, State: Bronx, NY
Theresa Stellacci was nominated by a family member, Diane Stellacci.
Ms. Stellacci has been a teacher for 10 years and has touched the lives of hundreds of students. Even during some of the most difficult days, her performance is always exceptional. She has created a classroom environment that is rich with reading centers, classroom pets, and engaging activities. Ms. Stellacci has provided food, clothing, and a nurturing environment to students in need.
During her first year, Ms. Stellacci had her hands full with a classroom of students with challenges. She provided them with guidance, friendship, nourishment, and an education. She still keeps in touch with many of those students and their parents. Ms. Stellacci has even attended some of their middle school graduations, and has promised to stay with them throughout their educational career.
She is very involved with her students and enjoys creating a safe and welcoming atmosphere for all. One year, she brought Santa to the classroom, and gave out gifts to her students that she purchased out-of-pocket. She raised chickens for a science project, and won first place in the Science Fair that year. She has also set up libraries and reading areas in the classroom.
Ms. Stellacci helped a student get involved with martial arts as a way to manage their anger and behavioral issues. Not only has she helped a student with Cerebral Palsy receive the care they need, but she also purchased a basket full of goodies for a former student who was diagnosed with cancer. She loves to help out in any way she can. She is an artistically talented educator who loves to decorate the classrooms and hallways with beauty.
Ms. Stellacci recognized that one of her students had a disability called Selective Mutism, which is a complex anxiety disorder found in children. She spent the year devising strategies to help the student feel more comfortable, and by Christmas, the student was able to speak to Santa when he visited the classroom. Another student entered Ms. Stellacci's classroom with no ability to read. With the help of her assistant, they managed to have the student reading by the end of that year.
She is always making sure that students have clothes on their back and food in their stomachs. Ms. Stellacci's school has benefited from her generosity, spirit, intelligence, and total devotion to the students who are lucky enough to have her in their lives. She has a philosophy that every child deserves a hug, and she does that every day.
"Theresa does all of this in an urban environment, where outside influences can be dangerous to students who are at risk on a daily basis," Diane Stellacci said. "Most of all, she does it with an open heart and a passion for teaching that is rare."
I originally wrote in about Theresa but on the topic of school spirit, I must add Theresa loves to draw! Theresa has decorated her doorway for the past three years in a theme of the students' choosing. Theresa's artistry has become a point of interest for her fellow team members and so they have asked Theresa and she has agreed to draw themes for their doors. Theresa gets her students involved in the creation, This has created a sense of accomplishment, has tweaked the imagination of her students, and even encouraged them to try their hand at a skill. All the while, this has fostered a feeling of pride in their classroom, hallway and school for all involved.
Theresa also hatches chickens using this as a science project; Theresa purchases the eggs and all the equipment needed, involves the students in daily observations, tracks the progress as they grow and ultimately the students learn lessons about life ( and sometimes loss) then enter this project into the school science fair. The students not only learn throughout the project, but learn about responsibility and teamwork. This is truly the definition of school spirit - fostering pride in classroom, school building and community.
There are so many words that describes Ms. Stellacci, but to sum it all in one word, I would have to say it is impossible. Ms. Stellacci is talented, compassionate, always loving, fun, ecstatic, humble, sympathetic, beautiful inside and out, I could go on forever, but I will have to stop myself because she is all that and much, much , more.
I was introduced to Theresa the student at the school that I work at. Her mother also worked at the same school. Theresa would come into her mother's office with a smile on her face, always brightening up the room. The love she has for her parents, sister, and the dogs would show how she loves life to the fullest. Her dream to become a teacher has shown that same love and more. Children adore her even if they don't know her. Her personality makes any person young or old want to always be in her presence. Ms. Stellacci goes beyond the call of duty with her students. If there is a child that is in need of anything she opens up her heart and wallet to make sure that student has everything to stay focused in learning. The love she has for people does not stop there. Many, many, many animals have come into her life, not counting the dogs that she grew up with, but becoming the parent to the baby chicks, that was hatched in her classroom, the fish that would be named Hector Martinez, the rabbits, guinea pigs, and even the hedge hog. Even the animals all have a love for her. She is a very rare and unique teacher. Children that didn't speak before they met her, are now speaking. Her arms are always open wide for the difficult children that she comes in contact with, Those same children, come back to visit her, and to say thank you for caring.
So to sum it all up, it is impossible to describe Ms. Stellacci in just one word. She is truly blessed.
Wonderful girl from a wonderful family. You'd be hard pressed to find a more dedicated teacher.
Theresa treats her classroom as a home for the students and the students treat it like a family. She encompasses all the traits to be a life changing teacher. She helps students feel safe, has a contagious passion for what she does, is a model of patience, knows when to provide tough love, believes in her students and more importantly, makes them believe in themselves; she loves and cares each of them for their uniqueness. Theresa has always gone above and beyond the prescribed curriculum to help her students learn and excel in their education, life skills, and in their future. She has gone as far as providing food and clothes for students who need them, spending her own funds to do so. Theresa has bought gifts for each student so they each have something to open for the holidays. In addition, she has always kept pets in the classroom to help the students learn compassion and responsibility. Theresa’s passion for teaching and love for her students has created a lifelong bond with her student’s year after year; students from her first year still come back to visit, sharing their accomplishments. She has even taken personal time to go and see their graduations after they leave.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Theresa since she was a student in my class and have watched her grow into the person and teacher she is today. Teaching is Theresa's calling and she puts her heart and soul into all she does. Her classroom is one of mutual respect and growth. Her dedication, compassion and enthusiasm is evident in all she does and makes her a perfect nominee for Lifechanger of the Year.
As a special education teacher in the Bronx, New York, Theresa is an integral part of her students' lives and is very much aware of their individual needs, environment and circumstances.She is already changing lives one day at a time in her classroom. She sees the total child and works diligently to help each student succeed. Theresa develops instruction that meets standards while at the same time is individualized and develops life skills, always building on strengths to make progress. Being a life long learner herself, Theresa is continually finding new ways to motivate her students and have them be active participants in their learning.
Reading classics, incubating eggs, utilizing animal therapy and working with local artists and community members are just a few of the learning experiences she has brought to the classroom. In addition, Theresa has interfaced with a corporate company that has adopted her class, providing them with resources and cultural experiences that they would not have had.
Theresa's support and dedication extends beyond the walls of her safe, nurturing and welcoming classroom. The welfare and growth of her students, educationally, emotionally, physically and socially is paramount to her. Using her own resources and finances, she has made sure that her students have the basic necessities of food and clothing, as well as school supplies, birthday gifts, holiday festivities and so much more. She leaves no stone unturned in trying to find ways to benefit her students and would be a wonderful choice for Lifechanger of the Year.
I have been Theresa's pastor and priest for 14 years and have always admired her spirit of service, swiftness to volunteer, and tremendous compassion. With a particular love of persons with challenges, she taught and prepared young students for great moments in their lives like their confession and First Holy Communion for more than a decade.
She was a born teacher, even at a young age, I couldn't say enough great things about this wonderful young woman. I highly and enthusiastically nominate her for this award.
Theresa has always exhibited a God given gift for interacting with children. From her young teenage years, she endeared herself to children and their families through babysitting. Theresa is someone who meets a stranger and within a small amount of time changes that stranger to a lifelong friend. When she decided to go into teaching it was no surprise to anyone. She not only decided to become a teacher but to use her education and skills to become a special education teacher. After a few years of student teaching, she landed her first full-time position at her current school in the Hunt’s Point market area of the South Bronx. This area has always been a “dicey” place and remains the same today.
Theresa paid her dues and became a tenured teacher. Her babies, as she calls them, become her life and her goal is make their lives better. These children come to school with all sorts of personal baggage but none of it deters Theresa from getting through to each and every one of them on a personal level. She has not only made lifelong friends of these children but has become friends with their families. Her first “babies” from the first year in her school are now in high school and still come back to see her, brag about their good grades and seek her guidance and approval. They are never disappointed by her reactions. As you may have guessed by now, Theresa is my daughter and I could not be more proud of who she is. She believes in the ripple effect. Her dream is one day see where the ripples she started with these young people takes them.
Theresa never gives up on any child. In addition to her fulltime position, she volunteered for several years at our local church because they had a few special need children in their religious education program who needed her special love and attention to get them through their classes and get them ready to receive their sacraments. Some of these children were runners, had touch issues or sensitivities to taste and smell. Theresa worked with the local priests and the parents to come up with strategies to make it work. She received her reward in the smiles and love from those parents who watched their children receive their sacraments just like everyone else.
When Theresa has a child that she struggles to connect with or some subject matter that she cannot get across to them, she moves heaven and earth to find the answers. To date she has always managed to succeed. A few years ago, she had a little girl who was a selective mute and no one could get her to speak in school. My daughter taught her to sign so that they could communicate and before long, this little girl spoke to her. The following year this same child, now in another class, got in trouble because she would not be quite in class. Maybe, Theresa did too good of a job. It brought a smile to everyone’s face.
This comment is for Life Changers. If anyone can be called a Life Changer, it is my daughter Theresa. Life will one day prove this out when one of these “special” need children accomplish their goals in life because of what they learned from Theresa.
I met Theresa 10 years ago when she was chosen, and we were lucky to have her, as my child's aide in Kindergarten. I did not know then what I have come to realize over these years. Theresa is a treasure. She has a gift for teaching. She created learning strategies for my child back when she was a student teacher. She understood how my child learns and figured out how to specialize instruction. She is personally invested in her students and is determined to see them learn concepts, understand theories and create new knowledge. Theresa has reserved her special talents for those students most challenged, special needs children. She mixes teaching with compassion. She teaches the whole child. I am so very proud to know her. I highly recommend Theresa Stellacci as a Life Changer nominee.
Theresa has always been one to go in all the way, in every thing she sets her mind to. As an educator she is no different. To coin the phrase "To go the extra mile", Theresa takes that statement to its furthest limits. She not only educates, she cares! Her day does not end at a specific time, her weekends are not all for herself. Theresa takes to heart each and everyone of her students and their specific needs and formulates different strategies to improve every aspect of their lives. Whether it be dressing up in a funny costume to bring a smile to her students or to take the time, effort and expense to bring home a mascot from school that the students have raised, or to identify the incubation period of a recently laid egg and watch life explode into a little chick, Theresa is smack in the middle. Theresa exemplifies what a teacher is meant to be. An open heart who seriously cares about the well being of each and every student. She has followed them through the grades and gets regular visits from those she has touched throughout the years. I am honored to be able to nominate her for LifeChanger.
Theresa Stellacci is one of the most dedicated teachers I know. She always goes the extra mile for her students. She really gets to know her children and their individual needs. She makes sure they have something to eat and clothes to wear. She is determined to make school and the whole learning process a wonderful experience for her children.
Theresa is someone who goes above and beyond what is required of a teacher giving more than 100%. She is an inspiration to us all that we all should aspire to be. Her unconditional love for everyone who enters her life has been a blessing to me and my family. It is an honor and privilege to know her and learn from her!