At its June 5, 2023 board meeting, the Penn-Trafford School Board recognized retiring staff. Each of these staff members had a direct and positive impact on the lives of many students while making a tremendous contribution to the Penn-Trafford community.
Gil Brezler joined the Information Technology team at Penn-Trafford in 2006 and has worked mainly on the district’s network and internet access. Previously, he spent five years with the Quaker Valley School District. In his particular field of IT, it’s remarkable to reflect on the changes in technology that have taken place during his tenure. Gil can’t share his favorite memory… he has far too many of those to choose from. He commented that he feels truly blessed to have worked for Penn-Trafford.
Christine Chesky began her career working with at-risk youth, then decided to pursue a teaching certification in hopes of making a difference with students. She joined the Penn-Trafford staff in 1991 and taught at McCullough, Level Green, and Trafford elementary schools before becoming the elementary librarian and library media teacher. She attended both the University of Pittsburgh and Gannon University and holds certifications in Early Childhood and Elementary teaching and as a K-12 Library Media Specialist. Asked about her favorite PT moment, Chris recalls a first-grade student who wrote a poem about her favorite color, describing roses, fire trucks, the smell of BBQ sauce, and her own bright red hair. Chris states, “I loved looking through the eyes of my students and learned or appreciated something new every day!”
Carla Gialloreto became a full-time art teacher at Penn-Trafford in 1999 and has worked at the high school, Penn Middle, Harrison Park, McCullough, and Sunrise. She chose a teaching career as a way to share her love of art history and to provide creative opportunities for students. She attended both the University of Pittsburgh and Seton Hill University and is certified to teach art in grades K-12. She commented that it's such a delight to watch the kids discover how to build an art piece with clay and that it has been a joy to watch students develop their skills with each year's project.
Francis Hollis has been a Personal Care Assistant at Penn-Trafford since 2000 and has worked in every district school with the exception of Harrison Park. She has seen many positive changes over the years, and cites more access to special ed and new programs such as anti-bullying and the kindness program as being especially impactful. Her favorite memory is the 2021 state football championship.
Martin Olszewski became a teacher because he wanted to make an impact on children, just as his own teachers did for him. He attended Duquesne University for both undergraduate and graduate degrees and is certified in elementary education. Marty joined the Penn-Trafford staff in 2000 and has taught at Level Green, Sunrise, and Trafford. He feels that a big change in teaching over the years has been the increased rigor of the curriculum. His favorite thing about teaching has been seeing a child in his class finally grasp a topic.
Ed Overly joined Penn-Trafford’s maintenance team in 2008 after working as an electrician. From his perspective, the biggest adjustment during his years at PT has been the drastic change of technology. When asked to reflect on his time at Penn-Trafford, he commented that it’s been a very rewarding career and he wishes he had started sooner.
Andrew Rizzardi earned a Penn State degree in Accounting and spent eight years in that field before he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father and become a teacher. He added a math teaching certification from Pitt and joined the Penn-Trafford staff in 1994 where he has served as a high school math teacher for 29 years. He shared a funny story about a lesson on calculating tips at restaurants. A student was having difficulty with the concept and blurted, "Just do like my parents and throw two bucks on the table." Andy couldn't teach for a few minutes because he couldn’t stop laughing.
Cristy Rizzardi has been passionate about the French language since high school. She majored in French and Business with dreams of working for a French company. After tutoring students in college, she realized that she loved teaching and added a French Education certification. She attended IUP, Pitt, Seton Hill, and St. Vincent’s before becoming a full-time teacher at Penn-Trafford High School in 1993. She has so many great memories from PT that it was hard for her to pinpoint one favorite. She cherishes the relationships that she has built, saying that some of her students have become like family. She was especially touched last year when a student from her early years as a teacher stopped by to visit during open house with her freshman daughter in tow to meet Cristy.
Jeanne Rush joined the staff at Penn Middle School as a paraprofessional in 2004. She moved to the high school in 2006, where she has worked ever since. She has seen many changes in the district over her tenure but is quick to point out that a lot has stayed the same, such as students who are exceedingly kind and go above and beyond as well as students who push their teachers to their limit. Asked about her favorite Penn-Trafford moment, she said she can’t really pinpoint just one thing, and that “so many little moments made me proud to be part of PT!”
Betsy Sandala joined Penn-Trafford’s nursing team in 2007 at the urging of retired nurse Pat Blahovec. She has worked in all the school buildings, finishing on an eight-year run at Penn Middle School. She is proud to have served at PT and admires the family-centered philosophy of the school district. Betsy will always fondly remember the teacher parades through the school neighborhoods during the COVID-19 lockdown. Her favorite memory is when the students and parents came out of their homes to cheer and wave as the staff drove by yelling words of encouragement and waves of we miss you.
Some of the retirees were present at the June 5 board meeting; (left to right) Andy Rizzardi, Cristy Rizzardi, Ed Overly, Betsy Sandala, and Carla Gialloreto