Two Teachers Honored as State's Top Educators- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
For Immediate Release
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Contact:Heidi Guarino 781-338-3106 or JC Considine 781-338-3112

Two Teachers Honored as State's Top Educators

Educators from Framingham and Wachusett Area Hailed for Dedication

BOSTON - A 5th grade teacher from Framingham and a 4th grade teacher from central Massachusetts were awarded the state's top two honors for educators at a Statehouse ceremony on Thursday.

Jae Goodwin, a 5th grade teacher at Framingham's Charlotte A. Dunning Elementary School was named the state's 2009-2010 Teacher of the Year, and Jennifer Leith, a 4th grade teacher at the Dr. Leroy E. Mayo Elementary School in Holden, was named the state's 2009 Preserve America History Teacher of the Year. Education officials and legislative leaders both hailed the two educators for their commitment to excellence and dedication to ensuring that all of their students achieve academic success.

"A teacher's positive contributions extend beyond a particular classroom or academic year, preparing our children for a lifetime of success in school, work, and life," said Governor Deval Patrick. "I congratulate Ms. Goodwin and Ms. Leith on attaining this high distinction and thank them both for their service to our students and our state."

"I'd like to congratulate this year's recipients of these coveted teacher awards," said House Speaker Robert DeLeo. "In a place like Massachusetts, where our rich history is also our country's earliest history, it's important to recognize those who show dedication and commitment to our past for the benefit of our future generations."

"Massachusetts has long been associated with excellence in education and the quality of our teachers has been critical to earning and maintaining that reputation," said Secretary Paul Reville. "Through their dedication and achievements, Ms. Goodwin and Ms. Leith embody the best of a profession that we rely upon daily to secure our collective future success and security."

Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester agreed.

"One of the most important factors leading to a child's academic success is the quality of the teacher at the head of the classroom," he said. "The two teachers we honor today exemplify the excellence, passion and drive necessary to ensure that all children are given the skills, time and attention they need to succeed."

"As a teacher myself, I recognize that when something good happens in education it's because something good has happened between a teacher and a student," said Sen. Robert O'Leary, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Education. "I want to congratulate both of these recipients and am glad to have this opportunity to recognize their accomplishments."

"A good education begins in the classroom, and cannot happen without dedicated, creative and engaged teachers," said Rep. Martha Walz, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Education. "These are two of the Commonwealth's finest, and I congratulate them on their accomplishments."

Goodwin, who lives in Framingham, started at the Charlotte A. Dunning School as a parent in 1990, before becoming a kindergarten aide, and then enrolling in master's program. She has taught 5th grade there since 1999. She believes that all students can and will learn, and relies on real life experiences to actively engage students. In an effort to ensure that her students become active learners, she uses technology to enhance her teaching. She has built her own classroom website, writes technology grants for the school, installs interactive whiteboard technology in classrooms, and participates in online projects alongside students across the globe.

"Jae is a dynamic and powerful educator who possesses the gift of being able to engage children in the classroom," wrote Cheryl Pennie, a 4th grade teacher at the Dunning School, in her letter of recommendation. "Jae brings classroom lessons to life with her interdisciplinary way of teaching, constantly integrating technology, problem solving, and multiple intelligences."

Leith, a Holden resident, has taught in the Wachusett Regional School District since 1975, and has taught 4th grade at Dr. Leroy E. Mayo Elementary School since 2000. Her passion for history prompted her to develop an annual Ellis Island simulation activity for the school's entire 4th grade class. Through her efforts, 4th graders now learn about the immigration process by first reading from a collection of historical literature, and then recreate history by taking on fictitious roles and creating diaries detailing their stories and experiences. At the end of the project, Leith transforms the school's cafeteria into a model Ellis Island check-in station. Students, parents, and community members participate in a real world experience where students pass through various stations to relive actual experiences that immigrants encountered, ranging from inspections, to character assessments, to appeals, to the swearing-in ceremony for U.S. citizenship.

Leith's commitment was hailed by her assistant principal and local legislators.

"Too often American history is taught purely through textbook reading, note-taking and tests," wrote Mayo School Assistant Principal Patricia A. Hurley in her letter of recommendation for Leith. "As Mrs. Leith's students re-enact all components of our history, one can be certain that they not only better understand but will never forget their experiences."

Local legislators Sen. Harriet Chandler and Rep. Lewis Evangelidis agreed.

"I am pleased to see all of these wonderful teachers honored for their service, and am particularly proud to see my constituent Jennifer Leith receive this much deserved recognition," said Sen. Chandler.

"We in the Wachusett Regional School District have known for many years how blessed we are to have such an extraordinary teacher as Mrs. Leith," said Rep. Evangelidis. "We are all very proud that she has been recognized by the State with such a well deserved and prestigious award."

The 2010 Teacher of the Year finalists were: Soondarie J. Barker of Tucker Elementary School in Milton; Samuel E. Cowell of King Philip Middle School in Norfolk; Thomas J. Howell of Belchertown High School; Marjorie L. Osherow of High School of Science and Technology in Springfield; and Lindsay C. Slabich of The Springfield Renaissance School in Springfield.

The Teacher of the Year semifinalists were: Diane D. Bazyk of Southwick-Tolland Regional High School; Katherine Haley Breen of Florence Sawyer School in Bolton; Judith M. Hebert of Selser Memorial School in Chicopee; Stephanie R. Joyce of Wildwood Elementary School in Amherst; Shalem Kaufer of Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton; Robin A. Steele of Halifax Elementary School; Kristin N. Szapowski of Sumner Avenue School in Springfield; and Denise S. Turner of Dr. Kevin M. Hurley Middle School in Seekonk.

The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year is automatically nominated as the state's candidate for National Teacher of the Year. While remaining in the classroom, Goodwin will serve as ambassador to the teaching profession over the next year by making speeches and conducting workshops throughout the state. She succeeds George Watson, who received the state's 2008-2009 Teacher of the Year award.

The Preserve America History Teacher of the Year is a White House initiative and is sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History. Leith will represent Massachusetts in the national program and is a candidate for the national award. She succeeds David B. Mitchell, the 2008 honoree.

Last Updated: June 18, 2009

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