AtlantiCare recognized Spirit of Women® and Healthy Educator award winners during a dinner in their honor Thursday, May 23 at the Atlantic City Country Club. Winners will be eligible for the National Spirit of Women Award.
AtlantiCare Women’s Health & Wellness presented its 2013 Mary Ann Coyle Community Hero AtlantiCare Spirit of Women Award to Susan Polk of Devonshire.
The AtlantiCare Foundation presented Healthy Educator awards to Fern Hedrick, of Northfield; Devon Kallen, of Northfield, Mimi Lynch, of Egg Harbor Township; and Cheryl Mendez, of Egg Harbor Township. The award recognizes educators’ outstanding efforts to promote wellness, healthy living, good nutrition, and the importance of physical activity with his or her students and colleagues. AtlantiCare awarded each winner a cash prize. AtlantiCare will also make a donation in the same amount in each winner’s name to his or her school’s wellness programming. Finalists recognized at the event include Ann Marie DiCicco, of Cape May Court House; Brad Jackson, of Northfield; Julie Land, of Mays Landing; and Lorie Walsh, of Mullica Township. Christine Aretz, of Milmay; Kathy Carr, of Northfield; Bernie Fackler, of Galloway; Pat Stella, of Millville; and Leslie Rutkowski, of Somers Point, were given honorable mention.
About AtlantiCare’s Spirit of Women Awards
AtlantiCare Spirit of Women, a membership program of AtlantiCare Women’s Health & Wellness, offers programs, education and discounts for special events to women for a one-time membership fee of $10. AtlantiCare seeks nominations each year as part of the National Spirit of Women® Awards Program to recognize and celebrate the women who dedicate themselves to bettering their communities. Polk will be recognized at the Spirit of Women National Awards Celebration Breakfast on July 18, 2013 at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Nevada. She will also be eligible for the national award.
About Healthy Educator Awards
The AtlantiCare Healthy Educator Award recognizes educators’ outstanding efforts to promote wellness, healthy living, good nutrition, and the importance of physical activity with his or her students and colleagues. AtlantiCare selected winners based on nominations from their colleagues. Through its partnership with schools in Atlantic, Cape May and Southern Ocean counties, AtlantiCare’s Healthy Schools, Healthy Children Program assists schools and districts with the implementation of fitness and nutrition policies and makes resources available to students, their families and school staff.
Susan Polk, of Devonshire, is president of Sustainable Mullica, a local initiative which promotes green, healthy, and cost-effective practices of sustainable living. Founded in 2010, Sustainable Mullica launched the Mullica Township Schoolyard Garden in 2011, which, under Polk’s guidance, serves pre-K through 8th grade. Integrated into the curriculum, the garden teaches students about organic gardening and environmental preservation, food preparation, and healthy eating and lifestyle practices. Polk often gardens with students, and continually seeks ways to improve the methodology and outcomes of Sustainable Mullica, which won an AtlantiCare Healthy Schools Initiative grant in 2012 to supply rain barrels to the school. A peer’s nomination described Polk as an “eternal educator.” She founded a Professional Learning Community in Mullica focused on enhancing awareness about sustainable healthy living.
Fern Hedrick, of Northfield, is a physical education and health teacher at the Atlantic County Special Services High School. She inspires students with her compassion and enthusiasm, and empowers them to integrate their physical well-being into their overall health. Offering after-school fitness activities for staff and students, Hedrick has initiated The Biggest Loser contest throughout the school. She has also raised funds to equip the school’s fitness room with treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical machines, and a rock climbing wall. At home, she cultivates an organic garden, and shares recipes for healthy meals with students and colleagues. Hedrick volunteers with Hoops For All and with Special Olympics.
Devon Kallen, of Northfield, teaches health and physical education at the Jordan Road School, Somers Point. She touts the importance of physical health and its relationship to emotional health. Nominated by her peers as a strong role model - particularly for female students - Kallen founded DIVA (Developing Individuals with Victorious Attitudes), a life enrichment program for middle school girls that focuses on physical and emotional health, in 2012. She is a co-coordinator of the school’s Dinner and a Movie program, a monthly educational dinner and movie series open to the public. A teacher leader, she works with colleagues across the curriculum to help teachers involve physical movement into the classroom setting. She coaches the Jordan Road School’s Cross-Country and Track teams, and actively joins her students in their training.
Mimi Lynch, of Egg Harbor Township, teaches family and consumer science at the Jordan Road School in Somers Point. She focuses on preventing diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity through health education and dietary planning. She uses vegan and whole grain recipes in the classroom. She co-hosted Jordan Road School’s Second Annual Fall Harvest Dinner in 2012 with a colleague, and coordinates the school’s Dinner and a Movie program alongside Kallen. Lynch is a Weight Watchers® leader, and has recently taken up running, participating in a 10k with her daughter.
Cheryl Mendez, of Egg Harbor Township, teaches health and physical education and is the health coordinator at Atlantic City High School. Her efforts to increase physical activity and healthy eating have included ongoing classes on food preparation, available to students and their families in Atlantic City. She offers after-school fitness classes that are open to students and staff, and initiated Staff Wellness Day, which offers health screenings and fitness information throughout the Atlantic City School District.