Tompkins County Teachers Honored

Tompkins Trust Company and the Legacy Foundation of Tompkins County honored five local educators with a 2010 Raymond Van Houtte Teacher Award for improving education in Tompkins County. 

Recognized in individual ceremonies were Melissa Tesoriero, Ladeen Case, Nancy Thompson, Judy Cogan, and Kristin Black.

In 1990, the Tompkins Trust Company donated $25,000 to the Tompkins County Foundation (now known as the Legacy Foundation of Tompkins County) to honor the late Raymond Van Houtte, bank president and chief executive officer from 1974-1989.  Mr. Van Houtte had a strong interest in improving education for our young people, and it is in that spirit that the donation was made to the Foundation.  Since 1991, the bank has recognized 58 teachers or programs with awards totaling over $36,000. 

The joint Awards Selection Committee divided $2,000 from this endowment among the honorees.  A capsule of each winner follows:

diane hallett melissa tesoriero fran karen powersMelissa Tesoriero, Northeast Elementary, teaches children to be aware of others’ misfortunes.  She plays an important role with the Family Reading Partnership’s Bright Red Bookshelf, organized the “Mitch and Martha” storytellers for Beauty and the Beast, organizes a math camp at Northeast/BOCES, and organized many projects for the children outside of school, like Pennies for Peace.

Pictured: Northeast Elementary School’s Melissa Tesoriero’s and her co-workers celebrate:  (L to R) Diane Hallett, recipient Tesoriero, Fran Benedict, representing the Board of Directors of Tompkins Trust Company; and Karen Powers.

diana oravec and ladeen caseLadeen Case has been on the staff of Immaculate Conception since 1989.  She mentors fellow teachers and advocates for students with special needs.  Ladeen is the yearbook advisor and coordinates the “Big Red Readers” where Cornell football and lacrosse players come to Immaculate Conception to read to students.  She is also in charge of her school’s Christmas Pageant and the Summer Camp Program.

Pictured: Immaculate Conception’s principal Diana Oravec congratulates recipient, Ladeen Case.


sheridan thomas and nancy thompsonNancy Thompson, Belle Sherman Elementary School, is a dedicated second grade teacher. She assisted in coordinating an after-school literacy workshop that continued throughout the summer.  Thompson is the primary “investigator” of the E-pals Language and Literacy Project.  She has guided and supported the children of Karen-Burmese refugees to help them adapt to our community. 

Pictured: Belle Sherman Elementary Principal Sloan Sheridan-Thomas congratulates recipient Nancy Thompson.

judy cogan and carol spence nominatorJudy Cogan has been a leader at Ithaca High School for 21 years. Her LINK crew initiative — which is all about students making and maintaining connections --- positively impacts the school’s climate and culture.  Cogan’s  grant-writing has expanded the art department’s resources.  She created the Poetry Club and serves as its advisor.  Judy’s boundless energy helps make school events, like freshman orientation and “Cocoa and Cram” exam preparations, successful.

Pictured: Ithaca High School winner Judy Cogan (L) celebrates with the teacher who nominated her, Carol Spence.

paul ravas melissa addy winner kristin black jennifer bakerKristin Black, has been on the staff of Newfield Elementary for 16 years.  As a special education teacher, she nurtures her students and mentors fellow teachers.  A key member of the Instructional Support Team for over 8 years, Black offers a unique perspective on learning or behavioral disabilities in children of all ages. She also sits on the Committee for Special Education and co-chairs the annual Early Childhood Symposium.

Pictured: Newfield Elementary School’s Kristin Black celebrates with the co-workers who nominated her (L to R), Paul Ravas, Melissa Addy, recipient Black, and Jennifer Baker.

Annually, Tompkins Trust Company invites principals and district superintendents to nominate worthy educators, support staff, or paraprofessionals who have shown exceptional ability, effort and quantifiable results in improving primary or secondary education in Tompkins County.

Nominations may be sent to Awards Selection Committee in care of Sue Lason at Tompkins Trust Company, Box 460, Ithaca, N.Y. 14851.