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2014 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Brochure

October 2, 2013

Dear Friends,

Teaching is both an art and science; the most difficult, most rewarding and most important of careers. While all classroom teachers should be recognized on a daily basis, the National Teacher of the Year Program is the oldest and most prestigious awards program that focuses public attention annually on excellence in teaching. Since 1952, the national program has recognized and honored the contributions of classroom teachers by granting one outstanding teacher a year's paid sabbatical. During that year, the teacher travels the nation and meets with a wide variety of audiences to address educational issues. The National Teacher of the Year Program, sponsored by ING, is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Program is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Each year the program honors a Massachusetts teacher who exemplifies fine teaching in the Commonwealth. The purpose of the program is to select a teacher who is worthy of speaking for and energizing the teaching profession, and representing the positive contributions of all teachers statewide. The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year automatically becomes the state's candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Program.

The selection process for the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year began in the late Fall, with a call for nominations. An independent panel of experts, including past Teachers of the Year, reviewed written applications, interviewed four finalists, and recommended a candidate for my consideration for this year's honor.

I wish to thank the following corporations and organizations for supporting the 2013 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Program: Massachusetts Teachers Association; SMART Technologies; and the Teacher Leadership Academy.

I am proud to present the 2014 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, Anne Marie Bettencourt, Central High School in Springfield.

We wish her much energy and happiness in the year ahead.
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D.
Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education

Meet the 2014 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

Anne Marie Bettencourt Osheyack
English Teacher
Central High School

When her students ask her how she became a teacher, Anne Marie Bettencourt replies with a grin, "By accident". Her original plan was to study screenwriting at Syracuse University and make it big in New York City or L.A. By her second semester however, she realized that it wasn't her true passion, and wasn't sure what was at that point. At the same time, she was doing mentoring work down at Wilson Park, the local youth center for urban kids in Syracuse, hidden from the University by a set of highways and train tracks. In her Public Policy class, they were studying issues in American Education, and she was intrigued. During the summers, she loved working at summer camps as a counselor, and others noticed how the kids were drawn to her energy and enthusiasm. Someone suggested a potential career in teaching. She did some work teaching urban youth in Providence for two summers, and promptly enrolled in the graduate M.Ed program at Springfield College. And so it began...

As a team facilitator, it's Ms. Bettencourt's job to help her students acclimate to the new demands of high school, and decrease the drop-out rate of inner-city students in the ninth grade. She tries to instill the belief in her team that their single most difficult mission is to build relationships with students in order to instill confidence in them to take risks and overcome obstacles. During team meetings student strengths are highlighted and students are brought in for pep talks as well as academic concerns. On Anne Marie's team, grandparents, aunts and uncles are invited in to team meetings under her philosophy that "it takes a village to raise a child".

In the classroom she becomes "Miss B." and works hard to find the balance between being firm and being kind. Students read, write, and discuss something every day. During discussions, a stuffed monkey flies around the room to the hands that go up. Collaboration is the norm as students sit in a U-shaped pattern around the room. As the year progresses, students begin to jump in and help each other on conclusions, embedding quotes, and understanding a text. The expectations are high - work earning less than a C must be redone and a missed homework assignment doesn't earn a zero - it earns a mandatory after-school session and the expectation that the work will get done. Anne Marie attempts to marry old texts and new technologies. Students create Twitter feeds for Romeo and Juliet and she teaches allusions using rap lyrics and the cover of Twilight.

Anne Marie credits the Western Massachusetts Writing Project with much of her growth as a teacher. During her first summer institute, she learned how to view teaching not just as a career, but as a profession. She learned the joy of collaborating with other teachers in other schools, and forming inquiry groups to research ideas in education. She went on to present with a group of teachers from her school at the National Urban Sites Conference in Boston, MA in 2011, and from there began to co-teach courses for other teachers in the areas of content literacy and persuasive writing. The Writing Project has become her professional home, and without it, she's positive she wouldn't be the critically reflective practitioner that she's become.

Wanting to teach her students to think globally and act locally, she spent a summer team teaching in Uganda, Africa in 2011. She taught classes with African teachers, and then came home and had her students write letters to them so that the Ugandan students and her own students could practice their writing skills with an authentic audience.

Outside of the classroom, Ms. B is also a coach for the girls' tennis team, advisor for the school's Gay/ Straight Alliance (GSA), and an assistant director during the annual Fall Festival of Shakespeare. This allows her to see her students in different lights, and for them to see her in different settings and roles as well. It's not enough for her to teach the students how to be skilled readers and writers; she wants to teach them how to be members of a community as well. As a result, the GSA worked with five other area high schools to create a banner uniting them as one community for this year's Northampton Pride Parade.

In an attempt to grow the profession, Ms. Bettencourt also mentors student teachers from Springfield College, Westfield State College, and UMass Amherst. Realizing that she is not even close to realizing her potential as a teacher, she is also a member of NEATE, NCTE, and various online communities of teachers who learn, tweet, blog, and pose questions to one another. She has her own blog, "Ms. B-ster, Urban Teacher" and has co-authored a book about student teaching, "Teaching in the Real World: Strategies to Survive and Thrive" published by Pearson.

Anne Marie lives in Hatfield with her fiancé Abe, and their adventurous dog Truman.

Contact Information:
Anne Marie Bettencourt Osheyack

Last Updated: October 2, 2013
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