Cortina teacher’s kindness initiative recognized locally - AZEdNews
Sections    Tuesday March 28th, 2023

Cortina teacher’s kindness initiative recognized locally

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  • Michelle Reese/ Higley Unified School District


Cortina Elementary School’s Cheryl Bodnar’s kindness initiative spreads care and service throughout the halls of Higley Unified’s one elementary school in Queen Creek.

For students, that means recognizing small acts of kindness, participating in Operation Christmas Child, making blankets for residents in assisted living homes and serving at Feed My Starving Children.

Bodnar’s actions sparked one parent to write a letter to ABC15 and nominate Cheryl for Nick’s Heroes recognition.

The program allows Nick Ciletti, one of the station’s on-air personalities, to honor people from across the Valley who demonstrate, “Acts of Kindness. Selfless gestures. Big hearts.”

“(My son) was lucky enough to have Mrs. Bodnar in second and third grade. Her influence on him and our entire family has extended far beyond the classroom. I volunteered frequently in her classroom and witnessed her compassion and love for her students and community,” the parent, Elizabeth Rhodes, wrote.

The result was a visit by a cameraman and a segment that aired on ABC15.

“I was very surprised,” Bodnar said. “The parent that nominated me had a student in my second-grade class, and he looped up with me to third grade six years ago. I only see them once a year now at Feed My Starving Children, so I was completely shocked and overwhelmed that she felt I have made that much of an impact on her family. I certainly do not consider myself a hero. I just do what I enjoy doing.”

Bodnar said the school comes together in a number of ways to share kindness, all with the help of the school’s Kindness Committee.

Last year, Bodnar created a “Kindness Challenge,” which encourages students to do “one thoughtful thing a day,” such as complimenting another person or leaving a thank you note or treat for the school custodian, Principal Kelly Papke said. Students also took time last year to write messages of kindness during February (printed on little hearts, of course) and during a schoolwide ice cream social.

Papke refers to Bodnar as “Cortina’s Kindness Ambassador.”

“Cheryl’s kind spirit permeates throughout our school in so many ways through projects like these and as her students carry on things that they learned from being in her class,” she said. “We are so fortunate to call Cheryl a member of the Cortina Family!”