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Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

For Immediate Release
Thursday, June 15, 2017
Contact:Jacqueline Reis, 781-338-3115

Baker-Polito Administration Honors Excellent Educators

BOSTON - State and local education officials today recognized the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and other recipients of the Commonwealth's top honors for educators.

"The teachers recognized today are among the very best the Commonwealth has to offer and a driving force for why Massachusetts leads the country in education," said Governor Charlie Baker. "Lieutenant Governor Polito and I are grateful for all they and their colleagues do on a daily basis to strengthen our schools and prepare our students for success."

The ceremony at the State House included remarks by Sydney Chaffee of Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester. Ms. Chaffee is the 2017 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and the 2017 National Teacher of the Year. Officials presented awards to Cara Pekarcik, a science teacher at North Quincy High School in Quincy who was selected as the 2018 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, as well as finalists and semifinalists for the state award. The 2017 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year and the Massachusetts finalists for the 2016 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching were also recognized.

The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Program recognizes excellence in teaching across the Commonwealth by selecting a teacher who exemplifies the dedication, commitment and positive contributions of educators statewide. The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year is automatically the state's candidate for National Teacher of the Year. While remaining in the classroom, Ms. Pekarcik will serve as ambassador to the teaching profession over the next year by making speeches and conducting workshops throughout the state.

"It's an honor to recognize the hard work of these teachers and their dedication to the students of the Commonwealth," Education Secretary James Peyser said. "I am grateful to each for the creativity and commitment they bring to their classrooms."

"The teachers we recognize today are impressive for their dedication to serving all students and for their commitment to learning and growing as educators," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "It's a pleasure to honor them and the many other teachers they represent."

Ms. Pekarcik, who grew up outside Pittsburgh, Pa. and lives in Weymouth, graduated from Southampton College of Long Island University and the University of Massachusetts Boston. She was part of the 2016 cohort of PolarTREC teachers who lived and worked aboard an icebreaker near the Western Antarctic Peninsula with researchers from several universities and research institutions.

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.

Kevin Dua, a teacher at Somerville High School in Somerville, was named the 2017 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year. The National History Teacher of the Year program is sponsored by the Gilder Lehman Institute of American History, the History Channel and Preserve America. Mr. Dua will represent Massachusetts as a candidate for the national award. The state History Teacher of the Year receives a $1,000 grant, and the recipient's school is presented with a collection of classroom resources donated in that teacher's name.

Mr. Dua graduated from The College of William and Mary with a bachelor's degree in history. He received a master's degree in secondary history from Boston College's Lynch School of Education. He has taught at Somerville High School since 2012.

The 2018 Teacher of the Year finalists honored today were:

  • Martha M. Boisselle, who teaches English language learners at Brighton High School in Boston;
  • Kathy Boisvert, a pre-kindergarten teacher at Millville Elementary School, part of the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District;
  • Sarah Foster, a special education teacher at Laura Lee Therapeutic Day School in Lowell;
  • Todd Paul Kefor, an English teacher at Norton High School; and
  • Brian A. Sheehan, a music teacher at Salemwood School in Malden.

The 2018 Teacher of the Year semifinalists honored today were:

  • Lisa Brown, a special education teacher at Nauset Regional High School in Eastham;
  • Jasmin DiRusso, a second grade teacher at the Martin E. Young School in Randolph; and
  • Calla Freeman, a kindergarten teacher at the William M. Trotter Innovation School in Boston.

In addition, officials recognized the Massachusetts finalists for the 2016 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science, who are:

  • Jennifer Lee Donais, a sixth grade teacher at the Dr. Paul Nettle Middle School in Haverhill;
  • Karen Walsh Fortin, a kindergarten teacher at Florence Sawyer Elementary School in Bolton, part of the Nashoba Regional School District;
  • Lorie Hammerstrom, a fourth grade teacher at Merrymount Elementary School in Quincy; and
  • Laura Richardson, a first grade teacher at the Edith C. Baker Elementary School in Brookline.

For more information on teacher recognition programs, please go to ESE's Educator Recognition Programs webpage.

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Last Updated: June 15, 2017
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