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For Immediate Release
Friday, June 11, 2010
Contact:Heidi Guarino 781-338-3106 or JC Considine 781-338-3112

Governor and Education Officials Award Top Honors to Educators

Teacher of the Year and History Teacher of the Year Named; Others Recognized

BOSTON - Governor Deval Patrick joined education officials to celebrate an Amherst teacher who works with English language learners (ELL) and an Easthampton social studies teacher who were awarded the state's two top honors for educators at a State House ceremony on Friday.

Amherst Regional Middle School teacher Floris Wilma Ortiz-Marrero was named the 2011 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, and is the first ELL teacher to win the state's teacher of the year award this decade. Easthampton High School social studies teacher Kelley R. Brown was named the state's 2010 Preserve America History Teacher of the Year. The two educators were among a group of teachers honored by Secretary of Education Paul Reville, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell D. Chester, legislative leaders, and other state and local officials.

"Teachers are our most valuable resource in preparing children for success," said Governor Patrick. "I congratulate Mrs. Ortiz and Ms. Brown on their accomplishment and extend our deepest gratitude to them and to their peers for their outstanding service to students across the Commonwealth."

"Massachusetts is proud of the thousands of quality teachers in our classrooms across the state," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "Congratulations to Mrs. Ortiz and Ms. Brown, two exemplary teachers who have displayed the epitome of hard work and dedication to providing a brighter future for students."

"The classroom teacher is the single biggest factor in the success of students," said Secretary Reville. "Massachusetts is a leader in education reform and performance because of the hard work of our teachers. I'm thankful for the efforts of these exemplary teachers we celebrate today and all of their colleagues statewide."

"Massachusetts is lucky to have many fine educators, and these two individuals exemplify the commitment to high standards and high expectations that we hold for all children," said Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "To build on our successes of the past, it is critical that we continue to recruit and build a world-class teaching corps who share the skills, training, and passion of the educators we are honoring today."

Ortiz, of Amherst, has been an ELL teacher at Amherst Regional Middle School since 1993. When she and her husband arrived in the United States from Puerto Rico in 1985, she learned just how difficult it was to be an English language learner. Even though she had studied English since grade 2 and had a bachelor's degree in education, Ortiz enrolled in ESL classes to become more proficient in English to become a teacher. Students in her class use their language for pre-writing and writing to learn activities as part of the thinking process, and use technology for communication, inquiry and to participate in a global world. Ortiz has said that for students to be invested in school, they need to feel loved, accepted, confident and see themselves as partners in learning.

"Wilma is one of the most dedicated teachers I have had the pleasure to work with," wrote Amherst-Pelham Middle School Principal Michael Hayes in his letter of recommendation. "She constantly questions her own practice and those of the school. The central question for Wilma is always, 'What is best for the kids?' In Wilma's classroom you will find a nurturing environment that is also filled with high expectations for the students."

Brown, a resident of Montgomery, has taught social studies at Easthampton High School since 2001. She sees her U.S. History class as an "adventure" that allows students to reach outside their comfort zone and really think. Her classes are based on five core principals: authentic application, critical thinking, rigor and writing, innovation, and student-centered exploration. Her 10th graders annually participate in a project called A Local Lens: Histories of Easthampton, where students make their own original contribution to history by producing a 15-page research paper that is archived in the local historical society. Brown is a former Disney Teacher of the Year (2006), an award given to teachers across the nation for creativity and innovation in teaching.

The 2011 Teacher of the Year finalists were: Kelly E. Langan of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School in Cambridge; Jenée Palmer Ramos of Brookline High School in Brookline; Jonathan M. Roy of Oak Hill Middle School in Newton; Benjamin G. McGraw of Oak Hill Middle School in Newton; and Rachel T. Stadelmann of Alden Elementary School in Duxbury.

The Teacher of the Year semifinalists were: Cheryl J. Christo of Arlington High School in Arlington; Shana A. Grogan of Brookside Elementary School in Milford; Anne Morrow Grosky of Ralph C. Mahar Regional High School in Orange; Maureen O. Parker of Cyril D. Locke Middle School in Billerica; and Joshua G. Rice II of Springfield Central High School in Springfield.

The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year is automatically the state's candidate for National Teacher of the Year. While remaining in the classroom, Mrs. Ortiz will serve as ambassador to the teaching profession over the next year by making speeches and conducting workshops throughout the state. She succeeds Jae Goodwin, who received the Teacher of the Year award last 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. Brown will represent Massachusetts in the national program and is a candidate for the national award. She succeeds Jennifer Leith, the 2009 honoree.

Also recognized on Friday were 2009 Milken Family Foundation Award winner Rebecca Duda and the National Educator and the 2009 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching finalists. Duda, a grade 8 social studies teacher at Lakeview Junior High School in Dracut, was one of 53 recipients nationwide in 2009-2010, joining more than 2,400 other national educators who have received the award. Known as the "Oscars of Teaching," the Milken awards were established to provide public recognition and individual rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary teachers, principals, and specialists who are furthering excellence in education.

The 2009 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching finalists were: Mathematics: Sharon Hessney from the John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Boston; Nancy Johnson from Hopedale Junior Senior High School in Hopedale; and Lynn Smith from King Philip Middle School in Norfolk; Science: Charles Duggan from Watertown High School in Watertown; Mark Greenman from Marblehead High School in Marblehead; and Rosemary Rak from Taunton High School in Taunton.



Last Updated: June 11, 2010
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