Tamaques Teacher Honored With Philhower Award
Eisen praised for work with special education students.
Being praised as a teacher who connects to her students and helps steer them to educational excellence, Tamaques School teacher Diane Eisen was honored last week with the Philhower Award.
Eisen, a longtime special education teacher in Westfield, received the award based on nominations from parents and colleagues. The Philhower Award, presented annually by the Rotary Club, is considered the most prestigious award that can be given to an elementary school teacher in Westfield.
“There are many great and deserving teachers in Westfield, Mrs. Eisen you are the crème de la crème,” Tamaques parent Margaret Chin said.
The ceremony, which took place during the regular Board of Education meeting, proceeded as a near episode of “This is Your Life,” with tributes from parents, students and administrators before a packed house. In keeping with Board of Education tradition, the meeting was moved from the board’s headquarters on Elm Street to Tamaques School.
“Mrs. Eisen has helped mold my son into the great young man he is today,” BOE President Julia Walker read from a letter nominating Eisen.
Walker said many of the letters nominating Eisen, who has taught in Westfield since 1992, praised her for helping her special education students grow as individuals.
Eisen has been at Tamaques since 2009, following stints as a special education teacher at Wilson School and Franklin School. Eisen teaches in a self-contained class, which encompasses students from third grade to fifth grade. Many of the students stay with Eisen for the entire three years, with many of her students being able to enter general education classes after graduating from Eisen’s class.
Kari Hanlin, whose son was a recent student in Eisen’s class, noted that her son is an example.
“Within a short period of time, Mrs. Eisen made a difference in his life,” she said. “He is now mainstreamed.”
Hanlin noted that Eisen maintains a positive and upbeat attitude in the classroom, which she said helps the students move forward in their education. She said Eisen has a team approach to education, being able to incorporate the parents as an integral part of the learning team.
Eisen took the podium to talk a bit about her career, noting that her first job out of college was as a teacher at the state reform school for boys. Talking about that time in her life, she said at times she would think about how she would not have to go to work if her car broke down during her morning commute.
Eisen said those experiences at the beginning of her career have led her to appreciate her time in Westfield. She said the school system works hard to provide support for the students and teachers in and out of the classroom.
During the event, a video was shown with Eisen’s students and aides paying tribute to her and Eisen’s students brought flowers to her following her speech, including receiving hugs from their teacher as they honored her.
She talked about how she had given thought to leaving teaching, including advancing her education to provide for career flexibility.
“But any other type of job would be missing the most important element, the day to day contact with the children. They are the heart and soul of the work I do. They bring the sunshine into each day. They share their joy and pride with me, so I to am joyful and proud every day.”