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Equitable Access

Ensuring all Rhode Island students are taught and supported by excellent educators.

“As we work to improve teaching and learning in every school and classroom, we recognize from data we have collected that our highest-poverty school districts face special challenges in recruiting and retaining excellent educators. The Rhode Island Equity Plan aims to take on this issue directly by improving data collection on teacher quality, developing statewide strategies for sharing best practices, and providing targeted support for teachers working in our highest-poverty schools.” - Education Commissioner Ken Wagner

The Importance of Teacher Recognition

Posted by: Lauren Matlach on 12/19/2016
Nikos Giannopoulos
2017 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year

Many say that teaching is a thankless job. I think anyone who has ever taught knows that that’s simply not true. Students and families appreciate when teachers go above and beyond expectations and they are often generous with praise and appreciation. These school/family partnerships are what make teaching such a truly fulfilling and special career.

On the other hand, schools are lively institutions with many individuals working toward a common goal. Sometimes, hardworking teachers may feel that their work goes unnoticed by administration, fellow educators, or the communities in which they serve. In order to support our innovative educators, we must foster an environment that nurtures their best characteristics and recognizes exceptional work. We must all continue—as parents, community members, fellow educators, and leaders—to find opportunities to recognize our state’s exceptional educators.

In my role as Rhode Island Teacher of the Year, much of the most rewarding work I’ve done has been supporting educator recognition efforts. The NBC 10 Golden Apple Awards are a local institution - almost every student, teacher, and parent has seen these brilliant educators publically recognized on prime time television. This year, I have been privileged to read the nomination letters and visit the classrooms of these distinguished teachers. Though they come from schools all over the state and teach a variety of subjects, the one thing they all have in common is that they lead classrooms that are innovative, rigorous, supportive, and joyful. I am consistently struck by how much of an impact an individual educator can have on a school, their students, and their community. Highlighting those who have pushed themselves to be the best they can be for their students, the Golden Apple Awards are an affirmation that everyone benefits from high quality teaching.

On September 24, 2016 Waterfire Providence and the Rhode Island Department of Education co-hosted the annual Salute to Rhode Island Educators. This gathering serves as an annual awards ceremony for the State Teacher of the Year, the District Teachers of the Year, Milken Educators of the Year, Presidential Award winners and many, many others. Beyond the awards, the night is meant to celebrate all Rhode Island educators. On this night, I was honored to be able to address my peers, my colleagues, and all Rhode Island educators. My message was one of gratitude. As a special education inclusion teacher, my work is dependent upon collaborating with other talented educators. We are all important members of the same team, striving for the same goal. When we recognize greatness in education, we elevate and strengthen the entire profession.

In one of the more unique moments of the evening, Barnaby Evans, the creator of Waterfire, brought over a container full of glowing blue objects.  He called these creations “dream orbs”. We were told to think about our dreams for a brighter future and gently toss them into the basin of Waterplace Park. As I prepared to toss mine in, I kept in mind the incredible educators that I’ve met from around the state. I thought about the students, young and old, from diverse backgrounds and communities who came out to support their teachers. I thought about how in one year’s time, one of the teachers standing with me would be the next Rhode Island Teacher of the Year and how their school community would rally behind them and support them through the journey ahead. I smiled, knowing how fortunate I am to live in this beautiful state, full of talented educators, and a community that values their efforts. Feeling overwhelming positivity about the future of education in our special little state, I released the glowing orb into the water and looked forward to celebrating again next year!

For more information about the Rhode Island Teacher of the Year program and how you can help, please click here.


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