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District Teacher of the Year

Each year, teachers from across Rhode Island represent their individual LEAs as District Teachers of the Year.

Each District Teacher of the Year (DTOY) has the opportunity to take part in WaterFire: A Salute to Rhode Island Educators, to participate in leadership professional development, to collaborate with DTOYs from across the state, and to apply to represent all Rhode Island educators as the 2016 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.  In 2014-2015, Rhode Island had 31 District Teachers of the Year.

Application


Deadline Friday, May 26, 2017

2017-18 District Teacher of the Year Profile Sheet [PDF, 245 KB]

If you have any questions regarding the District Teacher of the Year program, please contact Mary Keenan, at mary.keenan@ride.ri.gov or 401-222-8497.

History of the Award

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.

District Teachers of the Year Blog

Stay tuned for regular posts from our District Teachers of the Year.

Posted by: Kamlyn Keith on 11/22/2017 | [PRC_COMMENTCOUNT] Comments

Kim Rawson, 2016 North Smithfield District Teacher of the Year,
2016 Finalist for Rhode Island Teacher of the Year,
North Smithfield High School

An educator’s greatest responsibility is to prepare students to be critical thinkers and productive members of society who can investigate, interpret, and identify bias.

As a ninth-grade American government teacher, every day offers an opportunity to truly show the students real world connections. Election years offer even more excitement, as students engage in the electoral process. Last year’s polarizing election posed many teachable moments that transcended the classroom. Students researched the presidential candidate of their choice, created a campaign and engaged in debates about the qualifications and policies of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Throughout the process, we constantly discussed the importance of being an active, engaged and informed citizen. The informed part always proves difficult and last year, in particular, students struggled to truly assess the candidates. They were constantly confronting the impact of social media and the 24-hour news cycle that looks to entertain rather than inform. The election itself proved easier to navigate than the actual ascension of President Donald Trump.

After the President issued the executive order instituting a travel ban, I was reading and watching the news, and thought about my own consumption of media. I challenged myself to read sources outside of my political ideology and was shocked by what I found. Identifying bias in the media and forcing yourself to read and assess sources that do not reflect your political beliefs is challenging. I immediately started strategizing about how to expose my students to media bias.

First, I compiled a list of different types of media bias to serve as a guide for students. Next, I created a Blendspace activity that allowed students to explore different sources such as newspapers, news programs, and online news outlets. Students compared a broadcast about the travel ban on Fox News with one on CNN from the same night. Students then needed to consider what types of bias existed in the reporting. Next, students compared two editorials, one from the New York Times that criticized President Trump’s travel ban and one from the Wall Street Journal that supported the ban. Students needed to compare the message and reflect on how they should assess the sources. Then students compared the homepages of Fox News, CNN, CBS, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal on the same day. The purpose of this activity was to compare headlines, photos, and story placement to try to identify bias. Students worked individually on this part of the project. The Blendspace format allows students to choose the tasks they would like to pursue, arrange the order of those tasks, and set their own pace in the process. Students were engaged in the activity from the first moment. Hands were up the entire class. Students were not looking for help, but rather wanted to share their observations with me. I noticed how interested students were in sharing their thoughts and decided it was best to allow students to peer up so they could better question and develop their ideas by bouncing them off someone else. When the bell rang, students did not leave the classroom. They hung around to discuss their findings with myself and their peers. This is the sign of a great lesson - when it transcends the classroom.

“One student ... found it hard to access information that was supportive of Donald Trump during the election so he was reading sources that he knew were very extreme. He reflected on how sometimes it is difficult to just find information without any slant or spin.”

The next day, students participated in a whole group discussion to share their findings. Students who do not normally volunteer had their hands up. Students were responding to each other, reflecting active listening. Our guiding question for the discussion was, "How can you be an informed citizen?" Students discussed the difficulty in finding facts. Students also discussed the difficulty in knowing what a fact is. Students shared experiences they had during the election itself. One student brought up that he found it hard to access information that was supportive of Donald Trump during the election so he was reading sources that he knew were very extreme. He reflected on how sometimes it is difficult to just find information without any slant or spin. Other students brought up concerns about his experience and how it leads to distrust among the citizenry.

“This lesson was not originally part of my unit plan. … However, it was by far one of the most important lessons I will teach this year.”

This lesson was not originally part of my unit plan. I developed it to address the current political atmosphere and the topic of “fake news” and “media bias.” However, it was by far one of the most important lessons I will teach this year. Students could identify the relevance of the lesson and make personalized connections to the experience. They practiced skills such as analysis, listening, formulating arguments, and verbally communicating ideas. It reminded me that sometimes you need to veer from your plan to address the present, share with students your views, and to help them develop as learners.

 

An Educated Citizenry - Teaching Students to Navigate Media Bias

Kim Rawson, 2016 North Smithfield District Teacher of the Year,
2016 Finalist for Rhode Island Teacher of the Year,
North Smithfield High School

An educator’s greatest responsibility is to prepare students to be critical thinkers and productive members of society who can investigate, interpret, and identify bias.

As a ninth-grade American government teacher, every day offers an opportunity to truly show the students real world connections. Election years offer even more excitement, as students engage in the electoral process. Last year’s polarizing election posed many teachable moments that transcended the classroom. Students researched the presidential candidate of their choice, created a campaign and engaged in debates about the qualifications and policies of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Throughout the process, we constantly discussed the importance of being an active, engaged and informed citizen. The informed part always proves difficult and last year, in particular, students struggled to truly assess the candidates. They were constantly confronting the impact of social media and the 24-hour news cycle that looks to entertain rather than inform. The election itself proved easier to navigate than the actual ascension of President Donald Trump. ...

November 22, 2017

Finding Common Ground in a Divided Society

Kristin Hayes-Leite, 2018 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year,
Social Studies Teacher,
Narragansett High School

The fact that the nation is divided is no secret to anyone, but what we don’t yet know is the full impact on our students. With all of the heated rhetoric and political bullying taking place at the national level, the youngest members of our society might be tempted to tune it all out, become cynical, disengage, or worse, lose faith in our democracy. As a social studies teacher, I feel a real urgency to ensure that students can exercise their freedom of speech in my classroom. Students need to be able to respectfully voice their opinions and discuss current issues in the classroom without feeling fear or reluctance. ...

October 27, 2017

Increasing Engagement through Student Choice

October 19, 2016