Teacher Education Department honors regional educators

Honorees were recognized at a reception on campus.
Honorees were recognized at a reception on campus.

The Misericordia University Teacher Education Department recently honored educators from Wyoming Area, Dallas, Lake Lehman and Wyoming Valley West school districts, the Wyoming Area Catholic School and Growing Years Child Care Center for excellence in education at a reception on campus that was held to celebrate American Education Week.

Four teachers were presented Excellence in Teaching awards and recognized for their inspirational work in the classroom. Those honored include Amy Stitzer-Yerke, a third grade teacher at the State Street Elementary School in the Wyoming Valley West School District, Kingston, Pa.; Gerald Renfer, a physical education teacher at Wyoming Area Catholic School, Wyoming, Pa.; Melinda Gaus, a special education teacher at the Lake Noxen School in the Lake Lehman School District, Noxen, Pa.; and Christine Rutledge, a secondary education teacher at Wyoming Area High School, Wyoming, Pa.
In addition, Joy Mowery, a preschool teacher at the Growing Years Child Care Center in Conyngham, Pa., was presented with the Outstanding Early Childhood Educator Award for her excellence in early childhood education.
Paul Reinert, principal of the Wycallis Elementary School in the Dallas School District, was recognized for educational leadership. The Wychallis School was named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2013, one of only 15 schools in Pennsylvania and the first in Luzerne County to receive the coveted U.S. Department of Education recognition for excellence.
Janet Serino, a Misericordia University teacher education graduate, was also recognized for educational leadership. She recently was appointed as the first female superintendent of schools of the Wyoming Area School District. A member of the staff at Wyoming Area since 2001, Serino served as an elementary principal, the district elementary principal, the district principal of curriculum, and assistant superintendent before being named superintendent in September 2013.
An eighth award, the Guardian Angel Award, was given to Tracey Halowich, director of Curriculum Instruction and Assessment at Lake Lehman School District. She was recognized for her assistance to Misericordia University student teachers on assignment in the district.
Misericordia University student Brittany Smetana from West Wyoming, Pa., nominated Rutledge for her award. In her remarks, she thanked Rutledge for being a high school teacher who supported and fostered her dream of becoming a teacher and one who made learning fun.
In her nomination, Misericordia student Erica Yenchick, an early and special education major from Nuremberg, Pa., highlighted Mowrey’s ability to relate to children with disabilities “She sees each student as a child first, not their disability,” Yenchick said. “She expands upon the basic lesson to allow children application and understanding. She works with them as a whole class, small group, and as individuals.”
Misericordia early and special education student Nicole Hunsinger of Kingston, Pa., was so inspired by her fifth grade teacher Amy Stitzer-Yerke that she decided to become a teacher. “She is a compassionate teacher who truly cares about each individual student,” Hunsinger said. “Mrs. Stitzer-Yerke is a great role model for students aspiring to be teachers. She was one of the best teachers I ever had and she still inspires me today.”
In her nomination of Renfer, Misericordia student Olivia Blandina, a secondary and history education major from Exeter, Pa., called him the most influential teacher in her life. “He is a phenomenal teacher and person. He was teaching history when I had him in school. He definitely inspired me to want to become a teacher,” Blandina said.
Patricia McCann, RSM, Ed.D., associate professor of teacher education at Misericordia University, served as coordinator of the event.
The Misericordia University Teacher Education Program is one of 105 teacher preparation programs in the country and one of only seven in Pennsylvania named to the Honor Roll in the 2013 National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) ratings released by U.S. News & World Report on June 18.  Misericordia University’s undergraduate secondary education program received three out of four stars in the national report, “Teacher Prep Review: A Review of the Nation’s Teacher Preparation Programs 2013.” The three-star designation means the Misericordia University Teacher Education Program “provides strong preparation,” according to the report.
The Misericordia Teacher Education Department sponsors undergraduate majors in three areas of specialization. The early childhood/special education program leads to two state certifications in pre-kindergarten to fourth grade and special education. A middle level education program prepares students for teaching fourth through eighth grades with a selection of five content concentrations including math/science, math/English, math/social studies, science/English, and science/social studies. MU also offers five areas of secondary education preparation for teaching seventh through 12th grades, including biology, chemistry, English, history (citizenship), and mathematics. All of the university’s teacher education programs are approved by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
For more information about the teacher education program at Misericordia University, please log on to or call (570) 674-6400. Founded and Sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy in 1924, Misericordia University is Luzerne County’s first four-year college and offers 36 academic programs on the graduate and undergraduate levels in full and part-time formats.
The Misericordia University Teacher Education Department honored eight regional educators for excellence in education at a reception during American Education Week. Shown at the awards presentation, front row, from left, are Amy Stitzer-Yerke, Wyoming Valley West School District; Nicole Hunsinger of Kingston, Pa.; Tracy Halowich, Lake Lehman School District; Melinda Gaus, Lake Lehman School District; Michele Brague, M.Ed., director of student teaching and field experience, Misericordia University; Olivia Blandina of Exeter, Pa.; and Patricia McCann, RSM, Ed.D., associate professor of teacher education, Misericordia University. Standing: Gerald Renfer, Wyoming Area Catholic School; Brittany Smetana, West Wyoming, Pa.; Christine Rutledge, Wyoming Area School District; Thomas J. Botzman, Ph.D., president, Misericordia University; Erica Yenchick of Nuremberg, Pa.; Joy Mowery, Growing Years Child Care Center; Janet Serino, Wyoming Area School District; and Paul Reinert, Wycallis Elementary School.