Bethlehem Educational Scholastic Trust Award Recipients


The Lehigh Valley Community Foundation will present the Bethlehem Educational Scholastic Trust (BEST) awards to three (3) Bethlehem Area School District teachers at Convocation on Wednesday, August 22, 2018, at Liberty High School in the Auditorium beginning at 8:00 a.m.

The Bethlehem Educational Scholastic Trust fund is a component fund of the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation. The idea for the BEST Awards began in the year 2000, when a group of community leaders met to discuss ways in which the importance of teaching could be underscored and superior teachers honored for their work.

The BEST Committee received nominations from parents, teachers, students, BASD employees, and residents of the community. These nominations reflected professionalism and a passion for teaching. The Committee worked diligently to select three (3) award winners from among so worthy a group of nominees. The 2018 BEST Award Recipients are as follows:

  • Jacquelynn Venable, KDG teacher at Calypso Elementary School, received The Seymour and Sophie Haber Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Elementary Level.
  • Tammy McDonald, Gifted Teacher at East Hills Middle School received the Bernie Cohen Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Middle School Level.
  • Amber Chiafulio, Science Teacher at Freedom High School received The Anthony Ruggiero Award for Excellence in Teaching at the High School Level.

Each recipient will receive a certificate and monetary award. In addition, their school will also receive a certificate to display in their building.

Jacquelynn Venable

Kindergarten Teacher at Calypso Elementary School

I have been a teacher in the Bethlehem Area School District for the last 20 years. During that time I’ve had the pleasure of working a Farmersville Elementary School, Asa Packer Elementary School and James Buchanan Elementary School. Currently I teach Kindergarten at Calypso Elementary School, where I have been for the last 14 years. I received my Associates Degree from Northampton Community College in Early Childhood Education. I continued at East Stroudsburg University, where I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Early Childhood. Following that, I attended Wilkes University where I earned a Master’s Degree in Education. I truly enjoy learning and growing as an educator. As such, I am currently pursuing a second Master’s Degree from East Stroudsburg University. I believe that learning is a lifelong journey and I try to instill a love of learning in all of my students. I absolutely love what I do! Being a teacher brings me so much joy.

My mother loves to tell the story of how, as a child, I would line up my stuffed animals and give them all books while I pretended to be their teacher. I wonder how Fuzzy the Bear and Raggedy Ann would do in my class today? As I look back over my career, one might think that I would remember the tests and report cards, but in reality, I remember most the shoes I’ve tied, the tears I’ve wiped and the smiles and laughter I’ve shared with my students. They have taught me so much about the joy in life and how to embrace each other for our own individual special gifts. Being a teacher isn’t about the scores or the state test. It’s about how I can empower my students and how they can keep my passion for teaching alive every day! As I receive this award I find myself thinking about all the educators that have stood on the stage before me. I am humbled to be joining this distinguished group of educators. I am a representative of all of the amazing staff at Calypso Elementary School. They are not just an amazing faculty, but an amazing family as well. I am truly honored to be this year’s Elementary
B.E.S.T Award recipient.

Tammy McDonald

Gifted Teacher at East Hills Middle School

Tammy McDonald has served as a teacher in the Bethlehem Area School District for the past twenty-six years. Her career began as a sixth grade Reading/Language Arts teacher at Nitschmann Middle School after graduating from Muhlenberg College. Two years later she began teaching at East Hills Middle School and has continued as a part of this staff in several teaching roles. For her first five years she taught sixth and seventh grade Reading, Language Arts and Social Studies. She also earned her first Master’s Degree in Education from Kutztown University.

In 1999, Tammy began teaching Computer Technology and Gifted Seminar. It was in these two areas where she truly found her passion for teaching. She enjoyed challenging students to expand their critical, creative, and problem solving skills. She earned a second Master’s Degree from Wilkes University in Educational Technology and began co-advising the National History Day competition students. The East Hills team has successfully gone to the national level of the competition seven times with Mrs. McDonald. She has also served as an intramural coach, lead technology teacher, team leader, school treasurer, webmaster, and union representative.

Most recently, Tammy has been a full time Gifted Seminar teacher. She completed her Gifted Endorsement certificate with Millersville University and is currently working on her PhD in Human Development with an emphasis on Educational Leadership at Marywood University. Two years ago she began a chapter of the National Junior Honors Society at East Hills and has been very proud of the accomplishments of the students involved with this organization.

Promoting not only scholarship, the National Junior Honors Society also emphasizes leadership, character, service and citizenship. She is amazed at the global awareness of the students with which she advises and looks forward to helping the organization grow.

Amber Chiafulio

Science Teacher at Freedom High School 

Amber Chiafulio has been teaching science at Freedom High School since 2006. Currently she teaches honors biology, AP biology, and biotechnology. 

She graduated from Cedar Crest College in 2004 and 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master’s in Education. Amber is expected to graduate from Lehigh University in 2020 with a Master’s in Instruction Technology. 

Amber lives in Bethlehem with her wife Kristen, 2 kids – Spencer age 5 (attending Governor Wolf this year), and Emelyn age 2. 

In her spare time (haha!) Amber enjoys going to the Bethlehem Area Public Library or Lehigh Valley Zoo with her family. 

Her current obsessions include sampling the Lehigh Valley’s best tacos and learning about tiny house construction. 

Amber Chiafulio is currently 1 of 12 finalists for the PA State Teacher of the Year (NSTOY-PA) – grand winner announced in December. 

At BASD she currently serves in several extracurricular roles that include Schoology coach, Student Council advisor, and Professional Learning Committee member. 

Amber is passionate about student-centered practices and innovative teaching methods to inspire the next generation of lifelong learners.

Information and images provided to TVL by:
Arlene Vargas
Executive Assistant to Dr. Joseph J. Roy
Superintendent of Schools
Bethlehem Area School District
1516 Sycamore Street
Bethlehem, PA 18017