WHS honors outstanding staff


Photo photo by Mary Ann McGann

Award recipients with Interim Principal Jim DeSarno: (left to right) Lara Rinaldi, Erin McKeon, Aimee Burgoyne-Black, Mario Arana photo by Mar

On May 9, four staff members received Awards of Excellence for their exceptional dedication to the WHS community. 

Lara Rinaldi

The PTSO Teacher of the Year award recognizes a teacher who is encouraging, motivating and a good role model. The nominee must show respect for coworkers, parents, and students. This year’s recipient is Special Education Teacher Lara Rinaldi, who has been teaching at WHS for 16 years.

I was completely shocked. I did not expect it, but I was very excited because I think it’s a huge honor,” said Rinaldi. Since the second grade, Rinaldi has dreamt of being a teacher. This award not only means a lot to her, but also to her family who has a background in teaching.

[My family] sees how hard I work,” said Rinaldi. “I was getting phone calls from my Uncle Joey saying ‘We’re so proud of you!’”

Rinaldi’s unique approach to teaching is what sets her apart. “I’m very positive about the way that I teach. I think anyone can learn anything, no matter what it is,” said Rinaldi. “The perception of something being difficult, I don’t ever want to hear that because I will make it relatable to you.”

It is evident that Rinaldi’s unconditional love for students makes it all worthwhile for her. “When [a student’s] mom texted me congratulating me on the award, I said ‘I’m only an outstanding teacher because I have outstanding students.’ I can only be as good as I am because [my students are] fantastic.”

Mario Arana

The Robert and Linda Foose Memorial Award, named after a former principal and teacher, was awarded to Custodian Mario Arana.

I felt surprised and grateful. I never thought my job would be recognized,” Arana said. “It means a lot to me.”

For Arana, winning this award encourages him to work harder every day, he said. He wants to continue learning about the students’ various backgrounds while making a difference in the school.

Before coming to WHS in 2013, Arana was a custodian for Washington Elementary School, and he wanted to continue serving students in the school system. Arana said, “I am so glad to be a part of this wonderful team.”

Erin McKeon

The Above and Beyond Award recognizes a teacher or counselor who has made a difference in the life of a struggling child. The 2019 recipient is English/Project ’79 Teacher Erin McKeon.

McKeon was astonished after hearing she won the award and felt, “very honored and humbled” to have been nominated in her fifth year teaching at WHS. Having 11 years of teaching experience, McKeon’s dream of becoming a teacher first started when she was in high school.

I think my experience as a student is what encouraged me to become a teacher,” said McKeon. “I was a little shy and sort of got lost in the shuffle; I can vividly remember sitting in my high school classes and thinking, ‘If I were a teacher this is what I would do to reach me.’ That has always been the underlying motive to become an educator–reaching the kids that need a little help tapping into their potential.”

McKeon enjoys her mission of creating an inclusive environment for each student every day.

Aimee Burgoyne-Black

The Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award was established to annually recognize a teacher who demonstrates both excellence in teaching and a commitment to intellectual pursuits beyond the classroom.

This teacher serves as a model and inspiration to the high school community and this year’s winner, nominated by the WHS community, is English Teacher Aimee Burgoyne-Black.

I was happy and surprised and knew that [the nomination] came from my students, which makes it meaningful. That’s why I’m here, to positively influence kids,” said Burgoyne-Black.

After teaching at WHS for almost two decades, Burgoyne-Black feels very honored to have received this award at this point in her career.

In the classroom, Burgoyne-Black considers the students as a whole, trying to make readings more relatable and applicable in their lives. “Sometimes I’m more or less successful with that. I try to take into consideration what else is going on in their lives,” said Burgoyne-Black.

Burgoyne-Black enjoys how she is able to take information that she has learned over her life and present it to her students for the first time. “When you get a little older and you work with young people, I think it’s really satisfying to be able to view other ideas or material or whatever you’re teaching through the lens of someone who hasn’t experienced them before.”

Hi’s Eye would like to thank all staff members for their efforts to make our school a better learning environment.