Educator of the Year - Bruce Benson
Sixteen years ago, Grand Island Central School Superintendent Paul Fields appointed Bruce Benson and challenged him to "take Grand Island Middle School into the next century." With forethought and meticulous planning, Benson met the task head on and accomplished exactly that.
During his tenure as principal, six new classrooms were added to the existing building, and it was renamed the "Veronica E. Connor Middle School." More significantly, however, Benson was instrumental in Connor Middle School's rating as one of the top 10 middle schools in Western New York.
Prior to his arrival on the Island, Benson served as the secondary principal at Forestville Central School in northern Chautauqua County, where his function as principal included the role of instructional leader in a building that housed grades 6-12. In that capacity, he created a "school within a school" and developed a middle school schedule as well as programs that were beneficial for those unique individuals known as "middle-schoolers." These inventive strides in education all occurred within the confines of a traditional secondary building. In addition, Benson instituted an innovative student behavior system that successfully operated through a student court system. To address the issues in grades 9-12, Benson took an active role in revising the high school curriculum to one composed entirely of Regents courses. These curricular changes initiated by Benson encouraged and promoted student achievement and, subsequently, increased the number of students who graduated with a Regents diploma in hand.
Moreover, for 13 years, Benson served as the director of the North Collins junior and senior high school bands. During this time, he lead numerous ensembles that participated in concert band, parade band, jazz ensemble and color guard band pageants in New York state as well as several other music contests in the northeast United States. The bands were comprised of 60 percent of the student population and frequently placed first or second in these respected music competitions. The numerous trophies are still on display, reminding the North Collins community that Benson left a lasting impression on their district.
However, Benson did not begin his teaching career in Forestville or North Collins, but rather his life as an educator originated when he served as the band director in fourth through 12th grades in West Valley. While teaching in West Valley, he also became involved in community activities, assisted in planning civic events, and directed their local church choir.
Benson graduated from high school in Williamsport, Pa., and then attended Mansfield University, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in music. While an undergraduate at Mansfield, he spent his summers enriching his study of tuba at Tanglewood, the summer home of the renowned Boston Symphony. His endeavors earned him a fellowship at Yale University, studying brass chamber music with the New York Brass Quintet. After graduating from Mansfield, Benson earned his Master of Music degree while studying at the University of Buffalo and his certificate of advanced study in school administration was awarded from SUNY Fredonia.
Benson and his wife, Jeanette, live in Hamburg, where Jeanette shares her own appreciation of music with her students as a music educator in the Hamburg schools. They have one son, Christopher, who resides in Washington, D.C., and is employed by the Federal Reserve.
Benson is anticipating the challenges and rewards of his next career as begins studies this fall to become an ordained United Methodist minister.
Grand Island Chamber of Commerce 2012 Citizen of the Year awardees
These citizens, organizations and businesses will be recognized at the Citizen of the Year awards ceremony on Thursday, April 26, at the Holiday Inn Grand Island.
Profiled this week:
•Business of the Year: Dick & Jenny's Bake & Brew
•Educator of the Year: Bruce Benson
•Community Service Person of the Year: Francine McMahon
•Organization of the Year: One Island, One Team, One Dream, To Be Drug Free
•Service to the Youth: Young Life, and Athletics Persons of the Year: Jeff and Gregg Richard