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Surprise Squad honors Ludlow kindergarten teacher

A local teacher has overcome difficult odds and continues to positively impact her students daily.
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 5:30 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 20, 2022 at 8:11 PM EDT
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LUDLOW, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - A local teacher has overcome difficult odds and continues to positively impact her students daily.

Ms. Kristen Ortyl, a kindergarten teacher at East Street School in Ludlow, has been serving students for over a decade and has struggled with health issues. Donna Queiros, who nominated Ortyl, discussed her commitment to her students.

“She works hard at what she does. She has some personal battles and she comes in every day for the kids and the staff always with a smile on her face,” Queiros explained.

Learning of Ortyl’s dedication, the Western Mass. Hyundai Dealers and Western Mass News teamed up with her fellow teachers, school staff, and teachers to give her the surprise of a lifetime and one she was clearly not expecting.

She clearly loves her profession and described teaching kindergarten as her world.

“You can have a horrible day and you come into work and you see their little faces. Someone is going to make you laugh, someone is going to build you up. They always have a hug for me. It’s the best place to be,” Ortyl said.

Carla Cosenzi, president of Country Hyundai, added, “On behalf of Western Mass News and Western Mass. Hyundai Dealers, we want to present you with a $400 gift card to use wherever you want - a day with your friends, a day at the spa, anything that helps you as our way of saying we thank you for the impact you make on all the children.”

The gifts didn’t stop there.

“Here is check for $500 to buy whatever supplies you choose,” said Timothy Ferreira, general manager of Gary Rome Hyundai.

However, the best gift of all for Ortyl is her students.

“Our teacher is great. She always takes care of us,” said Violet, a kindergarten student at the school.

Ortyl added, “I’ve always said I am not one to get awards or anything like that and so this is just shocking.”

Brian Houser, general manager Balise Hyundai, told Western Mass News that Ortyl certainly leads by example.

“These kids have bad days, but if you are their leader, you can’t have bad days. You have to show up every day and give a 100-percent and you can tell she definitely does that,” Houser explained.

Ferreira said, “I don’t know who was more surprised - her or the kids - and that’s a testament to her heart and it shows.”

Queiros said it takes a special person to do what Ortyl does.

“They love her. You saw how she is with the kids. That’s why they come to school is for her,” Queiros noted.

[Reporter: what do you like most about kindergarten?]

“My teacher,” said Julian, a kindergarten student at the school.