The Buzz: 14 Teachers Recognized at State House
On June 15, Secretary James Peyser, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, Education Committee Co-Chairs Sonia Chang-Díaz and Alice H. Peisch, Senior Associate Commissioner Heather Peske, and many state legislators recognized 14 notable teachers at the State House. The honorees were:
- 2018 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Cara M. Pekarcik, a science teacher at North Quincy High School;
- 2018 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year Kevin Dua of Somerville High School (For an example of his work, go to the Commonwealth Museum's website to see a video his class made called "Reclaiming Black Faces").
- Massachusetts Teacher of the Year finalists 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;
- Massachusetts Teacher of the Year semifinalists 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; and
- Finalists for the 2016 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching: 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.
Speakers included 2017 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and 2017 National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee and North Quincy High School Student Vivian Tran, one of Ms. Pekarcik's students. Congratulations to all!
Teacher Reflection: Engaging Families for Student Success.
Jessica Lander, a social studies teacher and teacher of English language learners at Lowell High School and a member of ESE's Teacher Advisory Cabinet, describes a new book she co-authored with Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Karen Mapp and longtime Boston Public School teacher Ilene Carver. Their book - out this July and published by Scholastic Press - details concrete steps for building powerful partnerships with students' families.
For years we have read about the importance of engaging families in our school and classroom communities. The research is resounding - creating meaningful partnerships with parents will help our students succeed both academically and socially. When we successfully partner with families, research shows that our student's grades increase; so, too, does their attendance; students are more likely to enroll in higher-level programs; and they are also more likely to graduate high school and go on to college.
The benefits to us as teachers are extensive as well - while it might initially seem like just another task to add to our long list of responsibilities, ultimately, teachers who have strong family partnerships find that their workload decreases, and they report finding their job more enjoyable and fulfilling.
But how do we actually go about building strong partnerships with our students' families, and what do such successful partnerships look like? We know family engagement is important to our practice, but too often we are given little guidance, time, or support on how to effectively engage.
In our new book, "Powerful Partnerships: A Teacher's Guide to Engaging Families for Student Success", we set out to explore and document concrete steps we can take to best connect with families, from building those initial relationships through phone calls and home visits in August and September, to how to grow and deepen connections through family open house nights, family-teacher conferences, IEP meetings, and other events and initiatives throughout the year. We talked with teachers and other educators from across the country, learning about strategies and best practices.
What we found is that having an asset-based mindset is central to this work. Being willing to examine our assumptions and appreciating and respecting families' many strengths and skills, forms the starting place for building strong partnerships.
Mapping out a school year, we have tried to detail how to foster true partnerships. Wherever we can, we have shared templates, tools and additional resources and organizations that are doing this work effectively across the country.
We hope our new book can be a helpful resource for teachers of all grade levels.