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For Immediate Release
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Contact:Heidi Guarino 781-338-3106 or JC Considine 781-338-3112

Two Teachers Receive Top Honors For Excellence in the Classroom

BOSTON - A Spanish teacher from Walpole and a History/Social Studies teacher from the North Shore have been awarded the state's top two honors for educators.

Walpole High School Spanish teacher George Watson was named the 2008-2009 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and Masconomet Regional High School History teacher David B. Mitchell was named the state's 2008 Preserve America History Teacher of the Year. The two educators were honored at a State House ceremony and luncheon on Thursday.

Legislators and the state's top leaders in education hailed the two for their accomplishments.

"I congratulate this year's Teacher of the Year and all of the finalists for their continued contributions in expanding the horizons for children across the state," said Senator Robert A. Antonioni (D-Leominster), Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Education. "I remember all of my teachers and the great impact they had on me. I have no doubt that this year's winners - and every teacher across the Commonwealth - have made a lasting impact in lives of their students as well."

"An educator's ability to impact a student is one that can last a lifetime," said Representative Patricia Haddad, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. "The educators we are honoring here today deserve the highest accolades for their dedication to their field, but more importantly, to their students."

Education Secretary-designate Paul Reville and Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester both agreed.

"These two teachers stand out among the thousands across the Commonwealth in this important profession because of their enthusiasm for learning, and dedication and commitment to their students," Reville said. "They serve as two excellent examples of the outstanding teachers we have in our public schools."

"We can't have great schools without excellent teachers and these two exemplify the excellence we look for in all of our educators," Chester said. "Being a teacher is one of the hardest and most rewarding professions out there, and George and David should be proud of their accomplishments."

Watson, who lives in Mansfield, has been Department Head of Foreign Languages in Walpole since 1980. Over the course of his teaching career, Watson has committed himself to proficiency based instruction in language, and believes that what is important is what his students can do with language in terms of listening, speaking, reading and writing. He infuses his classes with Latin music to enhance and advance the curriculum, and has established successful exchange programs with Spain and Costa Rica, the country where his parents were born.

Watson "establishes a relationship of mutual respect with each of his students, works tirelessly to develop and improve curriculum in his classroom and in the Foreign Language Department, and involves himself in numerous professional development activities," wrote fellow teacher Lisa Osborne in a letter of recommendation. "George is sincere and compassionate with every teacher and student he comes in contact with."

Mitchell, a resident of Wakefield, has taught History/Social Studies at Masconomet Regional High School since 1995. He began his career with the Teach for America Program at an elementary school in Los Angeles. He is known for his emphasis on the use of primary source documents to "throw students into the confusion of the historical moment" and allow them to feel the pulse of history. Mitchell believes that generating thoughtful questions is as important to students as getting the right answers.

"David's passion for the use of primary source documents in teaching American History is evident," wrote Social Studies Department Chair Patricia Puglisi in her letter of recommendation. "To be able to watch David in action as he introduces students to the documents and guides them through their understanding of historical events is even more inspiring."

The 2009 Teacher of the Year finalists were: Nancy G. Barile of Revere High School; Linda O'Donnell of South Elementary School in Andover; Sylvia Pabreza of Fannie E. Proctor Elementary School in Northborough; Chris Louis Sardella of Marian E. Zeh Elementary School in Northborough; and Susan W. Teece of William E. Norris Elementary School in Southampton.

The Teacher of the Year semifinalists were: John W. Denison, Jr. of Stoughton High School; Susan Nichols of Douglas Intermediate Elementary School; John N. Papadonis of Burlington Science Center; Rosemary C. Rak of Taunton High School; and Katie Neill Sewell of Holbrook Junior Senior High School.

The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year is automatically the state's candidate for National Teacher of the Year. While remaining in the classroom, Watson will serve as ambassador to the teaching profession over the next year by making speeches and conducting workshops throughout the state. He succeeds Michael Flynn who was last year's Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.

The Preserve America History Teacher of the Year is a White House initiative and is sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History. Mitchell will represent Massachusetts in the national program and is a candidate for the national award. He succeeds Ann O'Halloran, the 2007 honoree.

Last Updated: June 19, 2008
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