This is a letter of nomination for Maria DeStefanis as a very worthy candidate for the Branford Education Hall of Fame. I was a long time teacher at BIS/WIS and during that time got to know Maria. I knew her as a friend, dedicated, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable teacher of foreign language. Maria was very active and respected in the Connecticut State Language Association, known as COLT. She brought many of these progressive ideas back to Branford. For instance, she ran the foreign language poetry contest where students recited a poem in another language. Prizes were awarded and the best students moved on to the state competition. Many of the Walsh students took part in the poetry event. I well remember Maria telling me about how well our students did at the state level. (although I was not a team member Maria and I spoke often about what her students were doing). One student signed her poem, which made the team aware that sign language is a real language. She also had Walsh students participate in the COLT State Foreign Language poster contest. I also remember Maria telling me how well our students did in that contest. She was always advocating for her students to be involved and broaden their horizons by using their talents. She advocated for the value of (our students) to learn a foreign language so as to better understand the world. Maria ran a casual after school French club so that students could enjoy the fun of learning more about the language and customs. She organized foreign food fests for the team at lunch. Students brought in dishes from around the world to share. Maria often brought some of the left overs up to our lunch so we also got to taste some of their "creations". Her fluency in three languages was a big plus for Walsh. I was told she would welcome all the parents on Open House night in three languages: French, Spanish, and Italian. She was innovative in bringing digital learning of foreign language to Walsh. She was for a long time the Department Chair. and always a level headed, fair member of the Principals advisory team (a group composed of all department chairs). Maria was successful in teaching and reaching ALL students. She had a way with students that made them comfortable and ready to participate in her classes.
When I first started at WIS Maria Destefanis welcomed me into the WIS community. I soon learned that she taught both French and Spanish. As a counselor, I saw many students struggle during academics. Maria made her classroom a place for all students to learn. She used multiple ways to make sure her students were understanding what they were taught. She created with her classes a multicultural event where students celebrated their own cultures with bringing in food from home. It was shared among students. Together with her teammates, the students would then create a cookbook. She was always willing to collaborate with teachers and work with kids. She understood that when a student was struggling with home life and issues that her class was not the most important thing in their day. She also started the Italian Club at WIS which still goes on today. She was dedicated to the children of Branford and that's why I think she should be in the hall of fame.