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#TeachersLeadRI – Celebrating the 2020/2021 Rhode Island Teachers & Educators of the Year!

Each year, in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), award-winning educators from across Rhode Island take part in WaterFire. The annual fall event ‘Celebrating Educational Excellence in Rhode Island’ is part of our #Art4Impact Community Heroes event series. 

Each District Teacher of the Year (DTOY) participates in leadership professional development, has the opportunity to collaborate with DTOYs from across the state, and to apply to represent all Rhode Island educators as the Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.

This year we are unable to gather together at WaterFire so we are using our online channels to give all of our RI Teachers and Educators of the Year the recognition they so richly deserve.

RIDE Teacher of the Year awardees at the 2019 Celebration of the Education Excellence. Photograph by Erin Cuddigan.
RIDE Teacher of the Year awardees at the 2019 Celebration of the Education Excellence. Photograph by Erin Cuddigan.

Congratulations to our 2020 Rhode Island Awardees!

You have made it the “Year of the Teacher”  through your embodiment of the Rhode Island Spirit of flexibility, patience, and kindness.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit our state, you and your teacher colleagues turned on a dime to ensure your students kept learning, no matter what. Some of you went to great lengths to ensure your students had access to technology, knew about the grab-and-go meal sites, or got a hard copy of all their assignments delivered to their door. You did what it took. None of us has ever experienced anything like this global pandemic, and you have stepped up to deliver for students no matter what. In the process, you have changed the conversation around education in Rhode Island. We are now viewed nationally as leaders, and you played a key role in making that happen. We are now viewed as a “can-do” state that puts students first while ensuring our schools remain safe.

I am so proud to work with you. No one deserves more credit than you for showing Rhode Island and the entire nation what we can do when we work together for a common goal.

Thank you for your inspiring service!

Angélica Infante-Green
Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education 

WaterFire and RI Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green on The Rhode Show

RI Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green speaking to Ted Nesi on WPRI Channel 12

WaterFire Providence’s Showcase Celebrating Educational Excellence in Rhode Island is made possible by the generous support of Fidelity Investments.

Fidelity Investments

Rhode Island 2021 Teacher of the Year – Ashley Adamson

The Teacher of the Year Award Program was initiated in 1952 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to bring recognition to the importance of teachers as nurturers of the “American Dream.”  His intention to honor all teachers by the selection of a representative teacher from each state would find completion in the yearly choice of a National Teacher of the Year.  Through an organized and varied selection process involving classroom teachers, school administrators, state officials, students, parents, and business representatives, each state and U. S. Protectorate nominates its own Teacher of the Year.

Rhode Island’s Teacher of the Year is selected from the previous school year’s District Teachers of the Year for our state.

Ashley Adamson
Hathaway Elementary
2021 State Teacher of the Year
3rd Grade

A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, Adamson has been a teacher for 14 years. She has taught in Portsmouth since 2010, and at Hathaway since 2015. Among other leadership activities, she has served as an instructor for the RICAS Ramp Up Program, a pilot teacher for new English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum, a presenter on social and emotional learning for fellow teachers, a robotics coach, and a coach for middle school softball, soccer and basketball teams.

“This pandemic has brought out the best in so many Rhode Islanders, but especially our amazing teachers. Ashley embodies the best of all our educators – she is focused on her kids’ learning and well-being, she is constantly working to improve her teaching, and she gives generously of her time outside the classroom. I’m thrilled that she will be representing our state as the 2021 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.”

– Governor Gina M. Raimondo.
Ashley Adamson

2020 District Teacher of the Year and Other Educator Recognition Awardees

Sue Adams
Glocester District Teacher of the Year

Linda Alicchio
State Street Elementary School
Westerly District Teacher of the Year
Grade 3

“Teaching is the greatest act of optimism.”

Karen Altieri
RIMTA Outstanding Teacher of the Year

Holly Andersen
Austin T. Levy School
Burrilville District Teacher of the Year
Special Education
Integrated Preschool

James Anderson
DCYF District Teacher of the Year

“Look for something positive in each day, even if some days you have to look a little harder.”

Christina Antonelli
Esek Hopkins Middle School
National Board
English as a Second Language
Grades 6-8

“By doing what you love, you inspire and awaken the hearts of others”

Eliza Bryant
Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts
School Counselor of the Year
Grades 7-12

“School counselors are in an ideal position to help break down of the systemic obstacles that students of color and students from low-income backgrounds face in the higher education system. Together we can make low-to-no debt postsecondary education more accessible to students in need of additional support.”

Beth Campanelli
Woonsocket Education Department
Speech-Language Pathologist of the Year
Speech & Language Department Chairperson/LEA

“Building strong communication skills begins with mutual respect, communication that inspires, encourages others to do their best.”

Kristin Cassarino
William M. Davies Jr. Career and Technical High School
State Teacher of the Year (Finalist)
Social Studies
Grade 9

“This award is dedicated to my educator colleagues at Davies and around the state of Rhode Island. This is for your relentless sacrifice, innovation, compassion, creativity, energy, advocacy, and unwavering commitment to our students. You inspire me every single year, but even more, than I ever thought possible in 2020. This is for all you do that is seen and unseen. This is because of, and for, you.”

“Ubuntu: I am because we are.” – Zulu Proverb

Tara Castro
Warwick District Teacher of the Year

Michelle Chamberlin
The Compass School
Compass District Teacher of the Year
Resource Teacher – ELA and Math
Grades 5 & 6

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
-William James

Michael Clancy
RINI District Teacher of the Year

David Clegg
Lincoln Middle School
Lincoln District Teacher of the Year
Social Studies & History
Grades 7 & 8

“Education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think.”
– Attributed to Albert Einstein

Melissa Cohen
Exeter – West Greenwich District Teacher of the Year

Kelly Cole
Little Compton District Teacher of the Year

Maria Collins
Archie R. Cole Middle School
NEARI ESP of the Year Gail Colburn Award
Resource paraprofessional
Grade 7

“Every student can learn just not on the same day in the same way!”

Marie Crecca Romero
Rhode Island Regional Adult Learning
Woonsocket, RI
Transition to College Prep
Adult Ed

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Mandela

Nicole Daniello
Bristol Warren District Teacher of the Year

Melinda DeCorte
M.V. Cunningham Elementary & Pawtucket Elementary
Grade MLLs
Special Needs grades 3, 4, 5, & 6

“The best professional development is the teacher down the hall.”

Kees de Groot
University of Rhode Island, School of Education Mathematics Teacher Education

“You teach who you are.”
– John Taylor Gatto

Amanda Donahue
Scituate District Teacher of the Year

Martha Dion
Chariho Regional High School
Anatomy, Physiology, and Introduction to Health Careers Grades 9-12

“More important than teaching our content, is meeting each individual student where they are and teaching them to be a good self-advocate and a hard worker.”

Jessica Donato
Woonsocket District Teacher of the Year
Instructional Coach Across All Content Areas
Coaching Grades Pre-K-12

“Alone we can do so little.
Together we can do so much.”
– Helen Keller

Eleanor Dove Harris
The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center
MET District Teacher of the Year
Social Studies
Grades 9-12

“Education is a universal human right, essential to bridging gaps in human well-being, equity, and opportunity.”
– Gina Cosentino
(Indigenous Peoples Advisory Consultant)

Elizabeth Eastman
AF District Teacher of the Year

Ruqayya El-Asmar
BVP District Teacher of the Year

James Erinakes
Superintendent of the Year

Natalie Fleming
Providence Public Schools & Asa Messer Elementary School
School Psychologist
District Teams & Pre-K- 5

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”
– Wayne Dyer

Debbie Fletcher
Rhode Island School for the Deaf
Special Education
All Subjects
Grades 6-8

“The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration, our growth is limited to our own perspective.”
– Robert John Meehan

Deborah Fletcher
RISD District Teacher of the Year

Lisa Garcia
North Kingstown High School
Grades 9-12

“Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.”
– Theon to Hypatia

Toby Gibbons
Assistant Principal of the Year

Brian Gilmore
Birchwood Middle School
First Year Principal of the Year
Grades 6-8

“To me, there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think, and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”
– Jim Valvano

Kristina Hogan
Foster Glocester District Teacher of the Year

Corey Johnson
Rogers High School
Computers & Music
Grades 9-12

“I never thought in terms of being a leader. I thought very simply in terms of helping people.”
– John Hume

Kerry Johnson
National Board

Kathleen Kelly
Johnston District Teacher of the Year

Katelin Kingman
National Board

Christopher Lapointe
Winman Middle School
Outstanding Teacher of the year
Grade 7

“…We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”
– Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Megan Macfarlane
Fort Barton School
Tiverton District Teacher of the Year
English & Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies
Grade 3

“Mrs. Macfarlane is one of the most kind and caring teachers I know. She has pushed me to be a better version of myself and she challenged me to always do my best. She understood that with all the challenges going on in life that she had to make herself a constant. If she hadn’t been my teacher, I would have lost my mind. I am so thankful for Mrs. Macfarlane’s work and all that she has done for me and Fort Barton School.”
– Abigail G. Grade 4

Craig Mackenzie
Secondary Principal of the Year

Kristine Macleod
East Greenwich District Teacher of the Year

Paula MacMillin
JJM Cumberland Hill Elementary School
Cumberland District Teacher of the Year
All CORE areas
Grade 3

“I’m only this far and only tomorrow leads the way.” -Dave Matthews Band

Frances Marshall
Stephen Olney Elementary School
N. Providence District Teacher of the Year
Grade 3

“Keep learning with your children and always get to know them!”

Trish Martins
Lifespan School Solutions, Inc/Bradley Schools
Special Education Administrator of the Year
Special Education Administration
Grades K-12

“When people ask ‘What do you do?’ Answer: ‘Whatever it takes'”

Robert Mayne
PAEMST Mathematics

Leila McCarthy
State Teacher of the Year (Finalist)

Marlene Medeiros
Highlander Charter School
Highlander District Teacher of the Year
Elementary Subjects

“Literacy could be the ladder out of poverty.”
– Morgan Freeman

The Very Hungry Caterpillar story is about hope. You, like the little caterpillar, will grow up, unfold your wings and fly off into the future”
– Eric Carle

Stephanie Mills
Park View Middle School
RI School Librarian of the Year
Library Media Specialist
Grades 6-8

“At PVMS, every reader has a book, every book has a reader!”

Jane Mitchell
Jamestown Melrose School
Jamestown District Teacher of the Year
All Core Subjects

“Lessons on kindness are just as important as academic ones.”

Courtney Monterecy
Mary E. Fogarty Elementary
Elementary School Principal of the Year
Grades K-5

“It’s people, not programs, who will transform the quality of a school.”
– Todd Whitaker

“Never give up… great things take time. #FogartyPride”

Ryan Muir
South Kingstown High School
S. Kingstown District Teacher of the Year
Music and Theater
Grades 9-12

“Children are apt to live up to what you believe of them”

Heather Neil
Woonsocket Education Department
Woonsocket District Teacher of the Year
Blended Coach
Teachers K-12

“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
– Steve Jobs

Natalie O’Brien
North Smithfield High School
North Smithfield District Teacher of the Year
Honors We the People, U.S. History, A.P. U.S. Government and Politics
Grades 9, 11 and 12

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Mead

Katie O’Kane
National Board
Primrose Hill School
Library Media
Grades PK-3

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
– Anne of Greene Gables

Ekaete Okon
Carl Lauro Elementary School
Providence District Teacher of the Year
All Subjects
First Grade

“Be the change you wish to see in the World”

Susan Pagliaro
2020 Amadeo DeRobbio Award

Jennifer Paolantonio
Ponaganset High School
2020 Milken Award
Special Education
Grades 9-12

“Be open-minded, listen with both your ears and your heart! Surround yourself with people who inspire you to be better and motivate you to make a difference! As teachers, we have the opportunity to model and encourage our students to be agents of change who will foster a world of empathy and compassion. Continue to build relationships with your students and create an environment that fosters a sense of belonging for all, when this happens, the impact is powerful!”

Brittany Papineau
North Smithfield Middle School
Mathematics Rookie Teacher of the Year
6th grade

“I’m thankful every day I followed my dream of becoming a teacher and am able to impact children in the same town that shaped who I am as a person today.”

Michele Percival
The Green School District Teacher of the Year

Donna Powell
Melville Elementary School
School Counselor

“Be the reason someone smiles today!”

Jennifer Pushee
Smithfield District Teacher of the Year

Doug Rademacher
The Met High School
Computer Science Education Leader
Computer Science
Grades 9-12

“Give a teacher a (socially-distanced) hug. And to a student. They need it!”

Jane Ramos
PAEMST Science

Kristin Re
State Teacher of the Year (Finalist)

Kirt Rebello
2020 CTE Instructor of the Year

Elisa Rivera
2020 RITELL MLL Teacher of the Year

John Rosenbaum
Seque District Teacher of the Year

Caroline Roth
Charette District Teacher of the Year

Melanie Roy
Barrington District Teacher of the Year

Jen Ruthven
Orlo Avenue Elementary School
East Providence District Teacher of the Year
All Elementary Subjects
2nd Grade

“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.”
– Brad Henry

Cheryl Saucier
Coventry District Teacher of the Year

Kara Scanlon
National Board

Akash Shah
William M. Davies Career & Technical High School
Grades 10 & 11

“Students can do anything!”

Michela Shalvoy

Michael Shunney
West Warwick High School
West Warwick District Teacher of the Year
Industrial Technology
Grades 9-12

“Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.”

Christopher Smith
2020 School Social Worker of the Year

Jen Stafford
Primrose Hill
Instructional Coach
Grades K-3

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Mandela

Aréema Sweeney-Ashby
Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts
8th Grade

“To love all children, we must struggle together to create the schools we are taught to believe are impossible: Schools built on justice, love, joy, and anti-racism.”
– Bettina Love

Melissa Trevitt
Central FallsDistrict Teacher of the Year

Judy Valentine
2020 CTE Principal of the Year

Kathryn Weiner
West Bay Collaborative District Teacher of the Year

Amanda Wild
Kingston Hill Academy
Special Education
Grades 3-5

“Every child is a different kind of flower and all together make this world a beautiful garden.”

Rebecca Willner
Beacon Charter High School for the Arts
Beacon District Teacher of the Year
Grades 9 & 12

“I celebrate teaching that enables transgressions – a movement against and beyond boundaries. It is that movement which makes education the practice of freedom”
– Bell Hooks

About the author

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I've worked at WaterFire Providence since 2003. For the first 9 years of my career, I worked in the Production Shop learning all of the details that go into the physical production of the event. In 2012 transitioned to the role of managing WaterFire's social media and web presence. I now head up WaterFire Providence's digital projects including, web, social, databases, and our physical IT infrastructure.

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