Staff Spotlight Honorees: Kerney & Marek

Posted On: Tuesday, November 2, 2021


kerneyHarding Middle School teacher Stephen Kerney’s job is to teach math to sixth graders. But his mission, as he sees it, is to create memories and provide a sense of belonging for every student in his classroom.

“They won’t remember everything I teach them, but they will remember the experiences I provide and how I make them feel,” says Stephen, who joined the District in 2013.

Stephen approaches his craft with a caring heart and a creative mind. He seeks out unique ways to show his students that math is part of the world around them, such as having students act out a math novel or conducting a baking session to highlight math’s integral role in cooking. While developing engaging projects for his students was always in Stephens’ tool bag, some recent training in Project Based Learning provided more fuel for his passion for PBL and its benefits for students.

The recent Math in Business Symposium at Harding was the culmination of Stephen’s months-long dedication to creating a multidisciplinary project that connected students with Lakewood businesses. The six-week project gave students the opportunity to discover the important role math plays in sustaining a successful business through on-site interviews with local entrepreneurs. 

Stephen’s fellow math team members, such as his nominator Teresa Rhinehalt, praise his dedication to his profession and students: “Stephen Kerney truly loves teaching and he goes above and beyond to make math interesting for his students.”



MarekHayes Elementary secretary Arlene Marek is that person whose house is where everyone wants to hang out because it’s just so welcoming and fun. And that’s the vibe she has helped successfully create during her eight years behind the reception desk at Hayes as well. 

“All the kids love her,” said Principal Eric Fortuna. “She makes things fun.”

Whether it is playing rock, paper, scissors with students or organizing the weekly staff takeout lunches, Arlene is always looking for ways to create a positive, happy environment for both staff and students. She is a regular at all of the special school and PTO events as well.  Arlene’s nominator, media assistant Michelle Coleman O’Neill, calls Arlene the face of Hayes, always greeting everyone with a smile and helpful to all, including staff who often come to her for her wise advice and problem solving skills.

Arlene, who joined the District in 2009, finds being an elementary school secretary rewarding because she is able to watch the students grow from tiny kindergarteners to young people on the verge of teendom.

“They all are like my adopted children….or grandchildren at this point,” says Arlene with a smile. 


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