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For Immediate Release
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Contact:Jacqueline Reis, 781-338-3115

Commissioner Announces 2018 Teacher of the Year

North Quincy High School science teacher Cara Pekarcik receives state's top educator award

QUINCY - Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester today announced that Cara Pekarcik, a science teacher at North Quincy High School in Quincy, is the 2018 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Program is the state's top award for educators and annually recognizes excellence in teaching across the Commonwealth by selecting a teacher who exemplifies the dedication, commitment and positive contributions of educators statewide.

State education officials used the occasion of Tuesday's National Teacher Day to make the announcement. Ms. Pekarcik, who lives in Weymouth, is the state's 56th recipient of this award and automatically becomes the state's candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Program.

Massachusetts' 2017 Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee, was recently named the 2017 National Teacher of the Year. Ms. Pekarcik will be in the running for 2018 National Teacher of the Year.

"Teachers like Ms. Pekarcik are what make our schools and communities such a great place to live, work and learn," said Governor Charlie Baker. "We congratulate Ms. Pekarcik on this incredible achievement and look forward to her continued success teaching Massachusetts students for years to come."

"Massachusetts cities, towns and students are fortunate to have teachers of Ms. Pekarcik's caliber working in our schools," said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. "It's a pleasure to recognize her commitment to continually improving her own teaching skills and her dedication to North Quincy High School students."

In September 2015, Ms. Pekarcik was chosen to become part of the 2016 cohort of PolarTREC teachers and live and work aboard an icebreaker near the Western Antarctic Peninsula with researchers from several universities and research institutions. While there, she kept a journal that was accessible to her colleagues and students and continued to communicate with them as she researched diatoms, a type of algae.

In class, she uses topics like genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as starting points for students' research and debates. The GMO lesson teaches students "not only about food and genetic engineering, but most importantly, how to gather facts and make informed decisions," Ms. Pekarcik said.

"Ms. Pekarcik engages students in scientific discoveries and discussions that are relevant to their lives," Education Secretary James Peyser said. "Her students are on a path to becoming strong 21st century citizens, learners and scientists."

"I have met wonderful, devoted, creative teachers across the Commonwealth, and Ms. Pekarcik represents the best among them," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "She has worked hard to make learning in her classroom an interactive and inclusive process, and her enthusiasm and lifelong learning is a model for her students."

The selection process for the 2017-18 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year began last fall with a call for nominations from administrators, teachers, students, parents and others. An initial review of each nominated teacher's written application led to the selection of semifinalists, who then submitted additional supporting material. Six finalists were selected and interviewed by an independent review panel of experts, including past recipients of the recognition. That panel then recommended one finalist to be named Massachusetts Teacher of the Year by Commissioner Chester.

The other five Teacher of the Year finalists for this year's award were:

  • Martha Boisselle, an English-as-a-second-language teacher at Brighton High School in Boston;
  • Kathy Boisvert, a prekindergarten teacher at Millville Elementary School in the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District;
  • Sarah Foster, a special education teacher at the Laura Lee Therapeutic Day School, which is part of the Lowell Public Schools;
  • Todd Kefor, an English teacher at Norton High School in Norton; and
  • Brian Sheehan, a music teacher at Salemwood School in Malden.

Ms. Pekarcik will join other outstanding educators, including the Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year, the finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Teacher of the Year finalists and semifinalists, for an awards ceremony at the State House on June 15, 2017.

"It is with pride that I congratulate Ms. Pekarcik on this recognition," said Quincy Mayor Thomas P. Koch. "She represents the best of what Quincy schools can offer."

"We are thrilled to have innovative teachers like Ms. Pekarcik work in Quincy," said Quincy Superintendent Richard DeCristofaro. "Her outstanding work has continued beyond the classroom and includes community service, working on system and site teams with her peers and advising North Quincy's National Honor Society."

"Ms. Pekarcik has spent 11 years at North Quincy High School, and she continues to adjust and improve her teaching every year," said North Quincy High School Principal Robert J. Shaw. "It's a pleasure to see her recognized with this honor."

About Cara M. Pekarcik

Cara M. Pekarcik grew up in a rural area outside of Pittsburgh, Pa. She holds a bachelor's degree from Southampton College of Long Island University and a master's degree in secondary education (biology) from the University of Massachusetts Boston. She has taught science at North Quincy High School since 2006. Prior to that, she worked at the Whale Center of New England in Gloucester.

Ms. Pekarcik's students are more diverse than the classmates she grew up with in Pennsylvania, and she values that diversity as an educator, she said.

"The opportunity to welcome language and cultural differences is an opportunity for both my students and me to broaden our understanding and acceptance of all members of the community," she said. "It is an opportunity to demonstrate kindness, patience and acceptance. These qualities are indicative of valued citizens in our world."

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Last Updated: May 9, 2017
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