Perce named Milford’s top teacher; Breen, Krauss also honored

MILFORD — For Marisa Perce, it all started with an easel, some markers, and a collection of willing family members back when she was about 10 years old.

After receiving the items for her birthday, Perce took over her parents’ home office space, transforming it into her very first classroom and would ‘teach’ any number of passersby who were willing to stop in for a lesson - her mom, her dad, her sister, and the family dog.

Thus began her trek into the world of education and her meteoric rise in the profession that led to this week’s announcement as the district’s Teacher of the Year for 2022.

Perce, a fourth-grade teacher at Calf Pen Elementary, believes her work as a classroom leader is to build relationships and to create a safe, non-judgmental learning space for all.

“When positive relationships are created, students are more motivated to work and push themselves to their full potential,” Perce said. “My students are comfortable and confident in taking risks in their learning together - amongst themselves and with me. It is a wonderful environment.”

Perce - along with Marty Breen as top para-educator and Bridget Krauss as top parent - were formally recognized at the district’s annual End of the Year Celebration on Monday, May 23, at the Parsons Auditorium.

A strong leader in the area of high-quality instruction, Perce has supported her colleagues in this work, assisting with intentional planning and small group instruction. She also is often found collaborating and planning with fellow staff members about academics or social-emotional learning in the classroom.

Her strengths are felt far beyond adults in the school. A recent message from a former student, now at East Shore Middle School, confirms that Perce is exactly what we want in a teacher.

“Good morning, Ms. Perce. Today is Thankful Thursday at East Shore and we are writing to a staff member we are thankful for. I wanted to let you know that I am thankful for you, and I had so many great memories in your classroom, and you’re one of my favorite teachers I ever had.”

Breen named 2022 Para-Educator of the Year

There’s one thing Marty Breen can confidently say, based on her 19 years as a para-educator - “Working in today’s environment requires flexibility and creativity.”

It’s with that attitude Breen says she starts every day at Live Oaks Elementary, as she supports the educational team by providing much-needed engagement and reinforcement with students at the school.

Using the individual strengths, weaknesses, and needs of each student she works with, Breen says she will incorporate special tasks and activities that are connected to the lesson-at-hand to improve the student’s performance and understanding.

“I think the most important part of working with children is to make sure each one knows his or her value,” Breen said. “Relationships are crucial — and it is important for students to know there is always someone cheering them on.”

Breen found the time spent with students during the COVID-19 pandemic to be a brand new experience - not only for her students but for herself, as well.

And she found while she was facing the same challenges as her students as they all moved to a remote-learning environment in the early days of the pandemic, she could oftentimes be their biggest cheerleader.

“The shift to remote online learning was brand-new to me — and I really had to step outside my comfort zone,” Breen said. “Not only did this bring me confidence — but I was able to provide a new outlook on how to continue helping students — even if we weren’t physically together. It may have been difficult, but we all came out of it stronger.”

Bridget Krauss named 2022 Parent of the Year

If you’ve been a parent in Milford for a while, it’s more than likely that you’ve crossed paths with 2022 Parent of the Year Bridget Krauss. In a word, she’s “everywhere!” Not only does this multi-talented woman serve as a high school mathematics teacher in Bridgeport by day, but she is also often seen as a whirlwind of activity after school as the mom to her children.

Beyond that - she shares her talents with students of all ages, most notably in her work with the Parent Teacher Association.

Krauss has been a participant and volunteer at countless PTA activities over the years and has served as an active board member. She currently is the president of the Meadowside Elementary PTA.

As her children grew and moved up through the Milford Public School district, her involvement also intensified. Whether it was leading the parent community on projects or pulling weeds in the school’s flower beds - and everything in between, Krauss is an excellent example of parental involvement.

During the COVID pandemic, members of the PTA community needed to think about their involvement and impact according to a new set of rules, since visitors were not allowed in the buildings and the traditional family-type programs were essentially ‘shut down.’

Principal Gail Krois said while the COVID restrictions clearly impacted ‘life the way we knew it’ in our schools, Krauss made it her mission to find new ways to conduct beloved after-school and family events.

One example of this conscious shift was seen in the annual Fun Run, the school’s predominant fundraiser for PTA projects. Instead, Krauss transitioned the event to Cooper’s Reading Challenge where families were able to donate funding to support reading.

This year the PTA, in partnership with the school staff, has conducted Virtual Math Nights, Science Nights, Literacy Nights, Read Your HEART Out events, and the installation of a Little Library on the school grounds.

Additional projects included the school’s welcome signs, the World Tour, spring picnics, fifth grade send-off and more.

Meadowside’s motto is ‘a Great Place to Learn’ but Krois says Krauss makes Meadowside ‘an Even Greater Great Place to Learn’ thanks to her positive attitude and leadership.