Indiana County Chamber of Commerce Excellence in Education

The Excellence in Education Awards concluded its first year on May 8 with a banquet and car giveaways.  The partnership between the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce, Indiana County school districts, and the Colonial family of dealerships was a new business-education initiative that occurred during the 2022-2023 school year and sought to recognize outstanding achievement by students and teachers in Indiana County. 

The banquet, held at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex, saw Andrew Beer, a senior from Purchase Line High School chosen as the Indiana County student of the year and the recipient of a brand-new Mitsubishi Mirage from Colonial Motor Mart.  In addition, Kristy Hopper, a teacher in the Marion Center School District, was chosen as the Indiana County Teacher of the Year and the recipient of a brand-new Toyota Corolla from Colonial Toyota.

Over 520 people attended the banquet which featured an address by State Representative Jim Struzzi as well as a video greeting from Governor Josh Shapiro.  The 57 students and 8 teachers were greeted with a red-carpet interview that was streamed on Facebook Live, and entered into the arena accompanied by a live DJ. 

The Excellence in Education program was a year-long program recognizing excellence in the Indiana County schools.  Throughout the school year, senior students from each district as well as Indiana County Technology Center had the ability to be nominated by teachers or administration if they stood out based on a set of criteria.  The teachers and administrators were looking for students that displayed excellence in the areas of academics, school/community involvement, essential skills, and growth/maturity.  Each month a committee within each district chose one student from all of the nominees to be the student of the month.  An independent committee made up of individuals from the fields of education and human resources as well as community leaders then reviewed all of the nomination forms and chose one finalist from each school district as well as an overall winner of the award.

As part of the annual program, teachers were also recognized.  School districts had asked students and parents, as well as fellow teachers and administrators, to nominate teachers in grades pre-K through 12 who were doing innovative, inspiring, and motivating work in and out of the classroom.  An independent group in each school district then reviewed all nominations and chose one representative to be the teacher of the year from that district.  A separate committee made up of individuals in the education field both within and outside of Indiana County then reviewed the finalists and chose an overall winner of the teacher of the year award. 

Mark Hilliard, President of the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce, said that the inaugural year of the program was a tremendous success and could set the table for bigger things to come.

“We are so very proud of the work our students and educators are doing in this county, and we are grateful for CJ Spadafora and the Colonial dealerships to truly help us recognize them all,” Hilliard stated.  “We hope that this will continue to motivate and inspire underclassman as well as other teachers so that they have an opportunity to be recognized in the years ahead.”

A number of businesses helped to sponsor the event including First Commonwealth Bank, Indiana Regional Medical Center, The Reschini Group, S&T Bank, Reliant Holdings, Good & Associates, Hutton Blews Insurance, Delaney Auto Group, and YMCA of Indiana County.  Hilliard said that because of the generous partnership with these and other businesses, they were able to not only provide complimentary tickets to the students and their families, but also pay for the taxes, title, and first year of insurance for each winner’s vehicle.  Hilliard said that he and Spadafora, owner of the Colonial family of dealerships, are planning to continue the event every year and hope to make it even bigger and better.