by Paula M. Riley
Nine Norwood-Fontbonne Academy staff members who have served the school for more than 25 years will be honored at a special ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, in the Rotunda at Chestnut Hill College.
The tenure of these honorees ranges from 26 to 44 years of service. Despite different backgrounds, various roles at NFA and unique expertise, the honorees are united by a deep passion for the academy and gratitude for the opportunity to touch the lives of so many children.
Saying “the students are the life of NFA,” junior-level Montessori teacher and honoree Sister Roseann Tribuiani, SSJ, said, “I have learned so much from the children about simplicity, honesty, forgiveness, generosity and tenacity – most importantly, I have learned how much they are a part of the threads of my life.”
Tribuiani has been teaching first, second and third-graders in the Montessori program for 29 years.
Christine Shields has worked as an aide in both the Montessori preschools and the creative interactive kindergarten. For 36 years, she has helped NFA’s 3, 4 and 5 year-olds develop a deep love of learning and exploration.
Shields described her three decades at NFA as a wonderful blend of experiences.
“(It’s) a collage depicting a life of service, personal satisfaction and friendships which I will cherish forever,” Shields said.
Charles “Chuck” Seaton’s NFA memories are as much in the classroom as on the field. He started teaching at the independent Catholic elementary school in 1969 and for the past 30 years, has regularly coached boys’ varsity football and basketball teams.
“He was probably the best coach I ever had,” said Jim Rockenbach, NFA alumnus (‘94) and current teacher who played football and basketball for NFA and later at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School.
Anna Marie Croney, currently a math and science teacher for seventh and eighth-grade NFA students, works tirelessly to foster a love of math and sciences. A NFA teacher since 1987, Croney has been instrumental in developing the NFA’s science program which today includes the Robotics Club, Lego League, the whale-watching trip, Wissahickon Watershed Testing, and other meaningful and engaging science opportunities for children.
Every day Franklin Owings Jr., known affectionately as “Mr. Chips,” transports 3, 4 and 5-year-olds around the academy’s 14-acre campus. These short rides are full of songs and giggling children. Owings is a NFA alum and has worked at the Academy for 32 years in the facilities department. He enjoys watching the preschoolers grow to become eighth graders.
“I like being part of their memories,” Owings said.
Overwhelmingly, the honorees’ comments on their experiences at NFA reflect a true love for the children, passion to teach and respect for peers.
“I never cease to get choked up when I see the outcomes – when the accomplishments of NFA alums who are graduating from high school are shared,” said Joanne Baillie, director of admissions and an honoree with 26 years of service. “I am forever in awe of their achievements.”
Prior to serving as director of admissions, Baillie taught fourth, fifth and sixth grade for 15 years. When asked to describe the three best aspects of NFA, she replied, “People, people, people.” Baillie credits a tremendous staff and supportive families to enhancing her experience.
Rosaria Hosmer has been teaching English Language Arts for two decades and created “The Procedure,” a copyrighted technique for teaching grammar.
“Teaching students in a faith-filled environment and working with my colleagues” she said were the favorite aspects of her role.
Joining this distinguished group of honorees is Sally Pavlick, NFA kindergarten teacher for 27 years and Anne Porter, physical education teacher and beloved coach of girls’ field hockey and basketball who has served as athletic director as well.
These honorees have witnessed the academy’s significant growth over the past few decades. Black chalkboards have been replaced by Smartboards, science lessons go well beyond the walls of the classroom, and everywhere 21st century learning is present. The physical plant has been completely renovated and updated but the core mission of the academy has not changed.
“NFA graduates go forth ready to embrace fully the life of secondary education as scholars, athletes, and leaders,” said Sister Mary Helen Beirne, NFA head of school. “Our amazing staff has created an environment and nurtured this success. We honor their service and dedication.”
All are welcome at the dinner-dance celebrating NFA and these extraordinary staff members. Contact Stephanie Belzer at 215-247-3811 or firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets or questions.