Teacher, staff of the year recognized

May 1, 2019

Spring means lots of student recognition, awards and scholarships. But what about the teachers and staff who support them every step of the way? They deserve kudos too.

Teton County School District recognized Wilson Elementary School music teacher Sheena Dhamsania as its 2019 teacher of the year and Jackson Hole Middle School secretary Joyce Sawczuk as its staff of the year at a ceremony Tuesday night.

“This is a highlight every single year,” superintendent Gillian Chapman told the group of nominees, family and friends.

She called those nominated “superstars” who go “above and beyond” to make the school district better. Winners are nominated by their colleagues for supporting both students and colleagues.

All the nominees were recognized for various personal attributes like enthusiasm, energy and a love for the teaching profession. They show up early, stay late and according to their coworkers, the schools wouldn’t be the same without them.

Dhamsania has taught in the district for the last six years and rotates between Kelly, Moran and Wilson. A notable accomplishment includes starting a rock band for her students, who now sing Led Zeppelin in the hallways. In a video produced for the award, her peers called her “the real thing” and “a rock star in more ways than one.”

Principal Kathy Milburn said that Dhamsania has made music a “major centerpiece of the school” and “to talk with Sheena is to have your spirit uplifted and your day made better.”

The other nominees for teacher of the year included Seth Fetters, Meredith Huggins, Jennifer Kelley, Julie Lindstrom and Libby Woods.

Sawczuk, a beloved face at the entry to the middle school, is retiring at the end of this school year after 15 years with the district.

“We’re so sorry to see her go,” principal Matt Hoelscher said.

Chapman joked she considered not signing the retirement paperwork when it came across her desk this spring. All that know Sawczuk said she’s a welcoming face in the school who treats everyone with kindness.

“When you think of who runs the middle school, I think of Joyce,” Hoelscher said.

The staff category includes people who work everywhere from the transportation department and the business office to secretaries and custodians. Other nominees included Visenta Dallas, Jeannette Fairbanks, Ian Fowden, Lell Kristen, Martin Murphy and Mary Tisi.

Look for a full story on the women in the May 8 Valley section of the News&Guide.