Working Together for a Bright Future

Stephanie Staffieri named Starfish Award recipient

Stephanie Staffieri, social worker at Dallago Early Childhood Center, was the recipient of the Vineland Public Schools’ “Starfish” award on February 5, presented annually to recognize an outstanding counselor from within the Vineland family of counselors.

Also awarded was the Child Study Team Case Manager Award of Excellence, given to Natalie Cagno of Veterans Memorial Middle School.

The awards were presented individually this year, rather than during the annual staff development workshop for the district's counselors held in the spring. Both Memorial and Dallago invited staff members to a Covid-friendly breakfast where the recipients were awarded their plaques.

Teri Godlewski, Director of Special Education, shared praise of Cagno on Thursday during a virtual meeting with the counselors. She emphasized the importance of mental health and wellness during the last year, and how much of a role Cagno has played in assisting students in this area.

“The CST Award of Excellence is being presented to someone who has not been in the district for a long period of time, but came in ready to work and eager to learn,” said Godlewski. “In her nomination it was noted that she ‘is helpful, honest, patient, transparent, approachable, and more. Most importantly, she is motivated by her desire to provide for our students to the best of her ability. She is - and will continue to be - an excellent case manager who I look forward to working with the remainder of this school year and in academic years to come.’”

Melissa Hannagan-Painter, principal of Dallago Preschool, spoke to staff members who gathered at the breakfast Friday morning about Staffieri, whom she also worked with at D’Ippolito Elementary School.

She began by defining social work as “an academic discipline and practice-based profession that concerns itself with individuals, families, groups, communities and society as a whole in an effort to meet basic needs and enhance social functioning, self-determination, collective responsibility, and overall well-being.”

“Stephanie embodies this very definition,” Hannagan-Painter said. “There is a light that comes from deep inside her. It shines upon all of us lucky enough to be in her presence. Her light brings comfort to those in need, patience and understanding and the essential human connections. Stephanie is so generous that she shares her light with everyone around her, every day. She is equal parts empathy and tough love. And she knows exactly when to use each part.”

She continued, noting that Staffieri not only supports the students within the school, but also families and staff members.

“Stephanie is the first in line to deliver food, a subtle welfare check in and warm clothes and coats to our students and families,” Hannagan-Painter said. “Her social-emotional Google meeting times provide an avenue for families to seek help, support and guidance. Her social-emotional Google meeting times for staff create a safe place for our school family to share their concerns and worries. Stephanie is a constant support to our staff, thinking outside the box to provide emotional support, resources and a listening ear. We all benefit from her constant need to ensure our well being is taken care of.”

The Starfish Award refers to the allegory of a young man picking a starfish from among millions on the beach and returning it to the sea--thereby making a difference at least to the one he saves.

Those nominated for the Starfish award were expected to exemplify the following traits: a love of children, dedication to the profession of counseling, tireless work ethic on behalf of children, creativity, responsiveness to children’s needs above and beyond the call of duty, willingness to try new ideas and strategies, continuous interest in professional development, and a cooperative style of interaction.

Click on the following link for photos from the event: