This month’s National Renaissance Staffulty of the Month is Leigh Cattolico-Yago at Fountain Woods Elementary in Burlington, NJ. Nominator and Renaissance Hall of Fame educator Tina Dietrich writes (lightly edited):

“Leigh is a walking ray of sunshine! As most know, this has not been a typical year. Emotions are high, stress is high, and a lot have lost their ‘spark.’ Leigh has never skipped a beat and her spark is a full blown wild fire. She is constantly finding ways to try to lift the spirit of the staff in our school. She has left positive message cards on every single door, little valentine hearts with positive affirmations including each person’s name, and strives to spread kindness every day. You can tell these things matter, because some are from October and are still hanging on EVERY door. Her positive vibe is contagious and MUCH needed this year. Besides the school-wide kindness notes she has spread, if she knows you are having a bad day, it is very likely you will find an uplifting note with a little treat on your desk. She is a true Renaissance Star and deserving of being recognized for her desire to spread positivity and kindness.

How long have you been involved with Renaissance?

13 years.

What’s a favorite Renaissance moment for you?

Well, this is a tough one for sure. I have MANY favorite moments but I guess my favorite ones are at the rallies – seeing the students being recognized outside of academics light up because they are not expecting to hear their name. Seeing their faces light up with happiness and joy just makes my heart so happy. More favorite moments come when you see and connect with the families on a personal level at the Renaissance after-school events. During these events (Student of the Year Dinner, Family Rally, fundraising events) we get to spend time with the students and their families and we can celebrate their student with them and also meet important family members and share in these special moments that they will cherish forever.

How has Renaissance impacted your school’s culture?

Thanks to the Renaissance program, our school culture promotes such a positive and happy place to be each and every day! Our students want to come to school and our staffulty want to come to work because it is a place where everyone feels valued, important, and loved. Being in a positive environment where all learning abilities thrive is made possible because of Renaissance and all of the hard work. All of the activities that we have are celebrations of who the students and staffulty are, and connect everyone in such an inclusive way.

How has Renaissance affected you personally?

Being part of the Renaissance team has changed me in positive ways and inspired me to be a better teacher, colleague, and friend. It is all about positivity and it makes everyone feel valued and loved. Being able to attend the Renaissance National Conference several times has been a true inspiration. Spending those days with other staffulty and students who think like I do and value the same things is priceless.

What advice would you give to someone just starting with Renaissance?

I would definitely tell someone to start small, hold on tight, and be ready for the best ride of their life! The journey that awaits them with Renaissance will certainly change them forever. It is worth all of the work that you put into the program because what you will get out of it will forever change you. There is a lot of help out there and amazing Renaissance leaders to help inspire them. It is truly the BEST thing that can happen to any school.

Ms. Cattolico-Yago will receive a shirt and a lapel pin to recognize her achievement.

To nominate someone in your school for the National Renaissance Staffulty of the Month honor, click here


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