The Stamford Public Education Foundation (SPEF) held their 2018 Excellence in Education Awards at the Stamford Sheraton Hotel. Community members first gathered in the atrium for a networking and cocktail reception featuring a silent auction and beer and wine tastings courtesy of Two Roads Brewing Company and Domaine Bousquet Winery. Following this, guests moved upstairs to the ballroom for the awards ceremony.

Stamford Public Schools Superintendent Earl Kim presented the SPEF Leadership Award to Nancy Freedman, for her exemplary dedication to enriching the lives of students in Stamford’s public schools, most notably producing the Stamford All-School Musical for ten years. Board of Education President David Mannis presented the SPEF Philanthropy Award to Near & Far Aid, for its tireless pursuit of eliminating poverty in Fairfield Country through finding and funding programs that seek to achieve lasting change and for its generosity in helping SPEF pursue its mission. The award was accepted by Near & Far Aid President Kim Meier.

Suspense built as the 19 nominees for the SPEF Educator Award heard their names announced—and the winner, revealed at the Awards Ceremony, was Rippowam Middle School Media Specialist Ellie Kousidis. She proudly took the stage to a standing ovation and accepted her award from SPEF CEO Matthew Quinones. In addition to the award, Kousidis received a $1,000 donation for her learning environment.

The night’s musical entertainment included cocktail hour music by Aaron Staniulis, a rendition of the National Anthem by Stamford High School ninth-grader Nina Giancola, and a stirring performance of “Lean on Me” by Hannah Cassara, all from Pop Music Academy.

Photographs by Kristen Tomkowid