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North Smithfield reading specialist named 2016 R.I. Teacher of the Year

In a surprise ceremony this morning (June 4, 2015) at the North Smithfield Elementary School, a reading specialist and literacy coach, Tracy L. Lafreniere, was named the 2016 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.

Mrs. Lafreniere, who has spent her entire teaching career of 17 years to date at the North Smithfield Elementary School, now becomes a candidate for the 2016 National Teacher of the Year.

 “I never so much aspired to become a teacher but rather I was born knowing I was going to be one,” Mrs. Lafreniere wrote in her Teacher of the Year application. “Teaching struggling readers is both my greatest challenge and my greatest accomplishment. Teaching a child to be a reader changes who they are, and that is an impact that lasts a lifetime.”

“As a mom, I know how important it is to get young kids off to a great start in school,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “Tracy has set countless Rhode Island children up for continued success by devoting her career to working with struggling readers in the early grades. I commend her for her service and for setting such a wonderful example for other teachers in Rhode Island.”

“Gina and I start each day by reading with our kids,” said First Gentleman Andy Moffit, who participated in today’s ceremony. “It’s so important for all kids to have family members and caring teachers like Tracy in their lives so that they have every opportunity to succeed. We are so grateful to Tracy and her fellow teachers for all they do for Rhode Island kids.”

“Tracy Lafreniere, our newest Rhode Island Teacher of the Year, inspires her students to love reading, helps them overcome their reading difficulties, and, importantly, enables each student to grow in confidence and self-esteem,” said Barbara Cottam, Chair of the Board of Education. “As Teacher of the Year, Tracy will share with teachers throughout the state her enthusiasm and creativity for building a strong reading foundation, and I’m certain she will inspire her follow teachers to do their best, as she does for her students.”

“Tracy Lafreniere is a teacher who by all accounts is completely devoted to her profession and to her students,” said Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Her colleagues respect her, and they turn to her for advice and for ideas. She is a champion of innovative teaching methods, such as the Tail Wagging Tutors service dogs who come to school to inspire reluctant readers. Tracy brings joy and a spirit of fun to the classroom, and I know she will represent Rhode Island well as our next Teacher of the Year.” 

“As an educator who works with beginning readers, Tracy Lafreniere knows the importance of early-childhood education,” said Mary Ann Snider, Chief of Educator Excellence and Instructional Effectiveness at RIDE. “She has said that as Teacher of the Year she would like to work to expand opportunities for our youngest learners so that all children enter first grade with a strong foundation. All of us at RIDE look forward to working with Tracy over the next year in our on-going efforts to enhance the teaching profession and to transform education.” 

Mrs. Lafreniere, who lives in Providence, holds a bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College and a master’s degree in education from Lesley University. 

In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Mrs. Lafreniere serves on the executive board of the Rhode Island Writing Project, she is one of the Common Core Ambassadors for the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE), she is the co-chair of the School Improvement Team at the North Smithfield Elementary School, and she is an adjunct professor in the Graduate Literacy Clinic at Providence College. 

As one of Mrs. Lafreniere’s colleagues wrote of her: “Tracy is a team player. She is respected by all staff members. She is calm, passionate, and confident. Tracy is passionate about reading and writing, and it is contagious. Her children always strive to do the best for her.” 

As Mrs. Lafreniere herself wrote about her work: “I could participate on thousands of committees, write curriculum, and deliver exciting professional development and still my greatest accomplishment would be teaching a child how to read.” 

A number of generous benefactors sponsor the Rhode Island Teacher of the Year program, including Alex & Ani, Amica Insurance, Bananagrams, Bank of America, The Carter Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation, Paul Choquette, Collette Vacations, Cornish Associates, Cox Communications, Dave’s Marketplace, GTECH, Ned Handy, Hasbro, iCopy, Inskip Warwick Automall, Johnson & Wales University, The McAdams Charitable Foundation, Smart Technology, Taco Inc., Textron Inc., and Thames & Kosmos.