Pennsylvania

Judith Lucas-Odom

Position: Environmental Science Teacher

School: Chester High School

School District: Chester Upland School District

City, State: Chester, Pennsylvania

About the Nominee: Judith Lucas-Odom was nominated by Delores Wright. Ms. Lucas-Odom is very dedicated to her students, and getting the best from them is important to her. Even though some of her students have circumstances at home that aren't always the best, she helps them turn things around. She tries different techniques to get her students excited, not only about learning science, but also about applying what they know to science and STEM careers.

Ms. Lucas-Odom has dedicated her teaching career to helping students with disabilities and disadvantages become successful in science and STEM by increasing their comfort levels through the use of inquiry and hands-on instruction. She continues to give her students a high quality education, which includes some summer time involvement and experiences with organizations like NASA and universities like Penn State.

She spends her money and time on helping others learn outside of the classroom, such as teaching about how drones can be used to navigate and record climate change, as well as testing creek water and tap water for contamination. Ms. Lucas-Odom gets her students excited while engaging them with the material. These are just a few of the things she does to help her students learn and become successful later in life.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="realpraiser@hotmail.com"]

Bobbie Freeman

Position: Special Education Teacher

School: Clarion-Limestone Elementary School

School District: Clarion-Limestone Area School District

City, State: Strattanville, Pennsylvania

About the Nominee: Bobbie Freeman was nominated by her superintendent, Mike Stimac. Mr. Stimac has had the privilege of working with Ms. Freeman for the past two years. Each and every day, she brings an infectious, energetic, loving attitude to work. As a result, her students feel comfortable, safe and above all, loved. She serves a group of special education students with critical needs, and she advocates for them fiercely. For example, Ms. Freeman independently researches technology-related tools that have the potential to transform her students' learning and understanding of content; as a result of her studies, she proposed to Mr. Stimac that the school should purchase iPads and a reading app that helps level the playing field for some of the school's most challenged readers.

What is most astounding about Ms. Freeman, though, is that she understands there is more to teaching than simply curriculum, instruction and assessment. The most important thing to Ms. Freeman and the Clarion-Limestone Area School District is loving students. Before students learn in Ms. Freeman's classroom, they are shown love. They are hugged, shown respect and given positive reinforcement and the freedom to express themselves. She certainly holds her students accountable when they make mistakes, but she teaches them how to own one's mistake and grow from the learning experience. Mr. Stimac states that he is honored to work with her and can confidently say that she is a LifeChanger!

[nominee_videos nominee_email="bfreeman@clasd.net"]

Melanie Baccari

Position: Kindergarten Teacher

School: Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary School

School District: Pennsbury School District

City, State: Morrisville, Pennsylvania

About the Nominee: Melanie Baccari was nominated by Jodi Becker, the parent of two students. Mrs. Baccari goes above and beyond for her students and school on a daily basis. Her loving, nurturing and enthusiastic nature is just one of the characteristics that parents and students admire about her. She is a mother of three that treats her students as if they are her own children. Mrs. Baccari makes each child feel as if they are the best they can be, no matter what their needs are. When you look into her classroom, young students are eagerly engaged in an array of different learning activities. She differentiates her lessons so each and every child is challenged based on their abilities and interests, all while having fun. Being a part of her class closely resembles that of a family. Her students are taught the importance of values and respecting one another.

Mrs. Baccari is one of those teachers that your child will never forget. Both of Ms. Becker's children had the opportunity to have her as their kindergarten teacher. Ms. Becker applauds Mrs. Baccari for instilling the love of school in her students. Building that foundation in kindergarten is not an easy task, but Mrs. Baccari seems to succeed each and every year. Her former students and parents stay in contact with her for many years after they have left her classroom. She instills life long memories in all of her Eleanor Roosevelt families!

[nominee_videos nominee_email="mbaccari@pennsburysd.org"]

Brenda Scheffey

Position: Physical Education Teacher School: Tamanend Middle School

School District: Central Bucks School District

City, State: Warrington, Pennsylvania

About the Nominee: Brenda Scheffey was nominated by her principal, Cheryl Leatherbarrow.

In the many years that Brenda Scheffey has served Tamanend Middle School, she has been a coach, a dean and the athletic director. In all of her roles, and for all of the students whose lives she has touched, her most profound, life-changing moments have been in her role as leader and facilitator of the school's "Friends." Ms. Scheffey's Friends are a select group of students who befriend Tamanend's students with autism. Together, the Friends enjoy activities in and out school and have established a culture of acceptance and kindness at Tamanend. The students with autism experience a life-changing, positive, age-alike relationship with peers. The Friends' lives are also changed as evidenced in the detailed thank you notes received by Ms. Scheffey. Overall, the Friends' most common reflection and realization is that it's the little things in life that are most important. Tamanend's entire Friends group has become a living model of compassion, service, and leadership to the rest of students, staff and community as they go out together on field trips. Each year, Ms. Scheffey has more and more students who want to be in the Friends group. She has made it "cool to be kind," and even cooler to be a friend during some of the toughest social years of everyone's lives. Ms. Scheffey has changed many lives, and the ripple effect of the Friends Program at pep rallies, the talent show and dances is immeasurable!

[nominee_videos nominee_email="bscheffey@cbsd.org"]

Lisa Drentkiewicz

Position: Fifth Grade Special Education Teacher School: Sto-Rox Elementary School

School District: Sto-Rox School District

City, State: McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania

About the Nominee: It is hard to put into words just exactly why Lisa Drentkiewicz is a LifeChanger. The easy answer, of course, is because she is a teacher. That is the simple explanation. However, her role is so much deeper than that. She fulfills all of the typical "teacher" duties every single day; she never misses a day of work and has compassion and empathy for her students, but that is not saying enough. "Ms. D," as she is known, makes a concerted effort to get to know her students. She spends hours of her time, on a volunteer basis, coordinating after school programs and weekend community initiatives. Because of her dedication, she has been able to establish a real sense of trust with her students and their parents. They know that they can always count on Ms. D to advocate for them and to go above and beyond to help. Her colleagues say that they aren't quite sure how she does everything that she does. Her fifth grade team relies on her to keep data and coordinate grade level activities. The school community at large relies on her to be a resource for some of their most challenging students, and the parents rely on her to be a voice in their neighborhoods. She is a dynamic and passionate educator and LifeChanger!

[nominee_videos nominee_email="ldrentkiewicz@srsd.k12.pa.us"]