Kellie Peck, an emotional support teacher in the special education department at Avon Grove High School, was named the 2014 Citadel Heart of Learning award finalist for the school district.  

The award was developed by Citadel and the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) 13 years ago to recognize, reward, and thank outstanding teachers.

A total of 22 Avon Grove School District teachers were nominated by parents, students, and community members this year, and nearly 2,400 nominations were submitted county-wide.

A committee made up of community leaders selected 15 finalists overall, one from each of the 13 public school districts in the county, one from the CCIU, and one from a Chester County nonpublic school.

Gwen Smoker, market manager for Citadel, presented Peck with the crystal Heart of Learning award at a surprise event April 9 at Avon Grove High School.

Peck’s family attended, including her husband James and their four sons. Avon Grove faculty also attended, along with school and district administrators.  

Each of the 15 finalists will also receive a $500 award in May at the Citadel Heart of Learning Award banquet, which they can use to purchase supplies and other items needed for the classroom.

Three overall winners -- one elementary teacher, one middle school teacher, and one high school teacher -- will be announced at the banquet. The overall winners will receive a prize package and an additional $1,500 award.

Peck, who has worked as an emotional support teacher in Avon Grove for seven years, earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. She also received a master’s equivalency from the Pennsylvania Department of Education in 2011 for earning 36 credits beyond her bachelor’s degree.

Prior to joining Avon Grove, Peck was an emotional support teacher for the Rochester City School District for four years.

Several letters were submitted nominating Peck for the Heart of Learning award.

One student wrote: “This teacher consistently instills confidence that her students will succeed. This teacher has had a direct impact on me and has helped me improve my self esteem and has motivated me to try my very hardest to earn the grades I needed to get into college. She helped me learn to set goals and achieve them, and also to feel pride in my accomplishments.” 

A second nomination read, in part: “This teacher has a precious working combination of warmth with assertiveness, gentleness with strength, and flexibility with order. It’s more than obvious that she does not just see her job as a teacher as a job, but as a visionary to shape the present life of her students with the hope of success toward (their) future.” 

Another noted: “This teacher is a role model. She is what I aspire to be in life – a successful, happy and well-rounded woman. I cannot think of anyone better to receive this award.”