The District of Eastern North America is proud to present the 2015 Distinguished Lasallian Educators
Each year The Brothers of the Christian Schools of the Lasallian Region of North America recognize Lasallian Educators for their outstanding work and dedication to the charism of Saint La Salle, with the Distinguished Lasallian Educator Award at the annual Huether Lasallian Conference. This year in Chicago, IL, with the focus on Lasallian Educational Community: Hands and Hearts Associated for Mission, these three educators will be honored for their dedication to the Lasallian family.
Ms. Beth Lemme Bixby
Chief Operating Officer
Tides Family Services, West Warwick, RI
Beth Bixby embodies the Lasallian mission that guides Tides Family Services and has been an inspiration to its staff in its shared Lasallian vocation. Tides Family Services works with children and families living in poverty in Rhode Island. The families it serves are not only financially impoverished but are also often denied the basic rights of human dignity and respect due to their socioeconomic status. Beth has an innate ability to look beyond a person’s superficial circumstances and to see the whole person as a unique individual with potential, dignity and worth, a person made in God’s image.
Her individual practice with families stems from these principles. She is able effortlessly to engage with the most distrusting of clients and families and create a positive relationship. She has been known to advocate tirelessly on behalf of clients who have been targeted within society. She assists them in navigating court, school, and child welfare systems, ensuring that their needs don’t fall through the cracks simply because they lack the resources or education required to advocate for themselves. A voice for the voiceless, Beth is willing to force difficult truths to be heard when a person or a system is not valuing someone as an individual.
Numerous “former” clients of Beth’s: children, adolescents, and parents, remain connected to her and reach out well after they have closed their formal services, both in times of need and in times of success. Beth is always there to celebrate the successes and remain available to assist for the ongoing needs because relationships never end. Those not familiar with Beth and Tides Family Services will often comment on how unusual it is to see a clinician give her time to a former client when there is no funding coming in for that time spent. Beth’s response to such comments is always the same, “We are Lasallian.”
Beth provides this same guidance and invitation to all Tides staff, Lasallian volunteers, youth, and families with whom she has worked. Colleagues come to recognize the mission of John Baptist de La Salle as something more encompassing than the mission of employment, but rather as a personal value system. Often referring to the Agency as a family in itself, Beth recognizes and responds to staff needs and has organized time for quiet reflection as well as time centered around having fun together. Beth has led by example, encouraging staff to practice self care, and above all to support each other in the difficult work that they are called to.
In 2007, Beth partnered with Tides Family Services staff, the Department of Children Youth and Families, and other service providers creatively to program community based services that allowed broken families to become whole again. Through these grass root efforts the Preserving Families Network was created and hundreds of marginalized youth and families have been assisted as a result. Beth has led efforts aimed at reintegrating these youth into their communities by forging positive ties. Beth worked to create a community garden at one of the Tides offices. The garden is an opportunity for these youth to learn the skills needed to plant, tend, and grow a garden, and more importantly, to be seen doing something positive within the community. The garden is an opportunity for these youth to develop themselves and perhaps be seen by their neighbors and their city as more than delinquents.
Beth fights for decision making that is tailored to the person and not a result of financial parameters. Beth constantly brings the conversation back to the client; to the strengths of the families and to the basic understanding of the people being discussed as human beings, refusing to look only at labels and history in making decisions.
adapted from letter of recommendation for the DLE award[divider scroll_text]
Br. Raymond Meagher, FSC
Asst. Professor, School of Education and Health
Manhattan College, Riverdale, NY
For over 50 years in apostolic ministry in elementary schools, secondary schools, children and family services, as well as his present ministry in higher education, Br. Raymond Meagher has exemplified the very essence of the Lasallian spirit in all that he does. He lives by the motto, “God, others, self.” He presently serves at Manhattan College as a teacher, mentor, and most importantly, a role model to all students who come in contact with him.
His lessons transcend the classroom and will guide you in navigating life as an ethical, loving, and moral person. His innovative and imaginative classroom activities invite inquiry and introspection at the deepest levels. When one thinks of Br. Ray in terms of coursework, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Community.” He is by far one of the best professors at establishing a warm and welcoming atmosphere in his classroom – and beyond. At the start of each semester, Brother Ray’s classes assemble on the Quadrangle to engage in one of his legendary community-building exercises. These events usually involve complicated physical activies employing beach balls or hulahoops. Seeing college students abandon for a moment every shred of their self-consciousness and defensiveness, as Brother Ray encourages them in these seriously silly activities, is a glimpse of grace in the midst of the everyday. Everyone is empowered and everyone’s voice is not only welcomed, but also celebrated. Br. Ray will propose the hard questions, the ethical dilemma to be considered, and the divergent schools of thought. This will be done in a smooth and caring way that will facilitate discourse that will lead to a greater level of understanding and true learning. Br. Ray is a great teacher who exudes wisdom and compassion while modeling Lasallian pedagogy throughout.
Br. Ray has been the moderator of the Alpha Eta chapter of Kappa Delta Pi for the past eight years. Under his leadership the International Honor Society in Education has received five consecutive Achieving Chapter Excellence, (ACE) Awards, signifying that the chapter is one of the top chapters in the nation. The students in this chapter have done a tremendous amount of community service such as the Safe Halloween Party, the Winter Wonderland, The Breast Cancer Relay for Life and the Autism Awareness Week activities.In Brother Ray’s updates, it is obvious that KDP is a labor of love through which he teaches his students how to be brothers and sisters both to one another and to the students who will be entrusted to their care as teachers.
As he writes in his letter to colleagues and friends on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee:
“I have been blessed as a teacher… It is a sacred privilege to encourage students to be the persons that God wants them to be and to help them develop their God-given talents. I love teaching here at Manhattan College because there is such a high level of caring and support between and among the students, teacher, staff, and administrators.”
That “high level of caring and support” is fostered to a great extent by the work and the presence of Brother Ray himself, who labors ceaselessly to lift all of us up in our shared work as Lasallians.
adapted from letters of recommendation for the DLE award[divider scroll_text]
Ms. Elissa Pensa Cerros
Fine Arts Teacher
La Salle Academy, Providence, RI
Elissa Cerros has ministered at La Salle Academy since 2000 as a Theater, Film and Video Production teacher, as Resident Scenic and Lighting Designer/Technical Director for the La Salle Players, and, for a number of those years, as Director of Arts Alive!
Elissa is a wonderful role model for La Salle Academy students, particularly its young women. As wife and mother of a young daughter, she has found a way to balance her personal and her professional life. One of her former students has written: “Her commitment to both her family and her students is admirable, and she made the balancing of home and work life look effortless.”
With both a B.A. and M.A. from New York University in Theater and Media, she is passionate about the arts. However, she has another passion, that of service. One of her former students remarked: “Her way [of serving others] is not your stereotypical idea of service. She reaches people through the arts. Theater is her passion, and she uses her passion to help others.” Another student affirmed that: “Her use of the arts to reach out to communities and help bring them together showed me that arts and service do not have to be separated, and shouldn’t be. Because of her example, my goals now include learning how to use theater to help bridge the gaps between people in different walks of life.”
Elissa’s faith is also evident to her students: “Mrs. Cerros is a woman of great faith and, it is clear to me that without her influence in my life these past years my faith would not be what it is today.” Many of her former students, both male and female, have testified to her long-lasting role in their lives: ” Her advice and words of wisdom will always be close to my heart …. I would not be who I am today without Mrs. Cerros’ influence.” Elissa certainly is a woman who has interiorized Gospel values and fosters them in others. Her personal faith and integrity are evident in her personal life, her family life, and her life as a Lasallian educator.
Elissa is an extraordinary teacher as well. A former administrator has written of her: “Truly she has embraced the values of what it means to be a Catholic and Lasallian educator …. [they] are at the heart of her involvement with her students and colleagues and what animates her on a daily basis. She is an incredible presence in the lives of her students. While always guiding them in the right direction with clear expectations of accountability and yet being there as a support when they need understanding and special care.” A former student has testified to her impact as a teacher: “Ms. Cerros is one of those rare teachers who engages with you by treating you as an equal. She empowers all of the students in her classroom not only to learn from her but from each other, which creates a positive and unique environment in which to learn. You look forward to going to her class every day. Ms. Cerros’ mentorship goes beyond the classroom. She develops personal connections with her students, and is genuinely interested in their success throughout their time at La Salle and beyond.”
As classroom teacher, director of stage productions, leader of multiple service trips to New Orleans, director of Arts Alive! (a Saturday program to provide arts classes to middle-school aged students from under served communities and schools), and director of the La Salle Summer Touring Children’s Theater troupe (a group of current and former students who perform for various daycares, camps, and special Summer programs for poor children in the Rhode Island area), Elissa Cerros is seen as hardworking and diligent. Caring, demanding of accountability, empowering, creating community; committed to the task as well as to the person; a consummate professional. This is why one of her former students has written of her: “There are certain teachers who influence a student’s heart and mind for the rest of their lives. Mrs. Cerros is one of those teachers for me.”
As a Lasallian, Elissa Cerros has demonstrated her commitment to the Lasallian educational community and to the Lasallian Mission through her witness of extending hands and hearts associated for Mission. Elissa is one of those Lasallians who sees, understands, and lives the Lasallian mission beyond her local ministry. Her passion for mission has been witnessed at the Regional level. She was a key contributor to the successful VEGA program at Christian Brothers University in Memphis in 2009. She ably served on the Region’s Young Lasallian Committee. While serving as chair of the committee, she represented RELAN on the International Council of Young Lasallians in Rome. Elissa is serious about her Lasallian formation. She participated in the fourth cohort of the Lasallian Leadership Institute, Huether Conferences, and RELAN’s Lasallian Women’s Symposium. An active member of the Rhode Island Lasallian Association Group (RILAG), Elissa is a fine example of those women and men who channel Lasallian information and knowledge from the head to the heart; from knowing about the heritage to living the charism. Our Lasallian mission is enriched by women like Elissa!
adapted from letters of recommendation for the DLE award
Congratulations to all of the nominees for Distinguished Lasallian Educators Award throughout DENA!
Ms. Lisa Agnew
La Salle College High School – Wyndmoor, PA
Mr. Marcus Deveso
Spanish Language Teacher
St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute – Buffalo, NY
Mr. Brian Ecton
Band Director/Chair of the Fine Arts Department
Calvert Hall College High School – Towson, MD
Br. Robert Kinzler, FSC
Director, University Ministry and Service
La Salle University – Philadelphia, PA
Ms. AnnMarie Michol
De La Salle Collegiate High School – Warren, MI
Mr. Anthony McAllen
Social Studies Teacher
St. Peter’s Boys’ High School – Staten Island, NY
Mrs. Margaret Perkins
Christian Brothers Academy – Syracuse, NY
Ms. Sara Rodgers
St. John’s College High School – Washington, DC