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Russillo Selected as Rhode Island Teacher of the Year

Governor, Deputy Commissioner Make Surprise Announcement at Smithfield High School

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – At a surprise ceremony today, Governor Raimondo and Education Deputy Commissioner Mary Ann Snider announced the selection of Elizabeth Russillo as the 2020 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year. Russillo is a chemistry teacher and chair of the science department at Smithfield High School.

“Innovation and excellence are key to success in life, and that all starts in the classroom. Elizabeth Russillo embodies both of these characteristics in all she does, and that shines through in her students,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “I want to congratulate Liz and the entire community at Smithfield High School for their shared commitment to providing an outstanding education.”

“Teachers are the heart and soul of our schools, and Elizabeth Russillo sets an example of creativity and engagement that all teachers can admire,” said Angélica Infante-Green, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Liz will be an incredible asset to RIDE over the coming school year as we focus on engaging students through rigorous coursework and real world experiences. I am excited to work with her.”

Russillo has been teaching at Smithfield High School since 2002, and has chaired the Science Department since 2010. In this role, she led the school’s efforts to fully implement the Next Generation Science Standards. She has developed a list of innovative programs to bring science to life for her students, including a trip to Fenway Park so they could meet NASA astronauts. She planned a community Rube-Golberg machine night to help unlock the physical properties of the elaborate designs.

Her efforts reach well beyond the classroom. She has served as a mentor to other teachers, advisor to the student council, and tennis coach. She writes regularly on the teaching profession and served as a FUSE fellow and instructional coach with the Highlander Institute.

“Elizabeth is crucial to the fabric of our school,” wrote Smithfield Principal Dan Kelley in nominating Russillo. “One cannot walk through her classroom without seeing the unique and innovative experiential learning activities, coupled with an expansive knowledge of current best practices. Elizabeth shines in her capacity as a leader of education.”

In evaluating their teacher, Smithfield students praised Russillo’s energy and engagement with them.

  • “Mrs. Russillo is always smiling and excited. Her attitude is infectious, and the whole class learns and is excited.”
  • “She uses a perfect mix of independent and group work to go along with the curriculum. Plus there is always something new and different to do, it never really gets repetitive.”
  • “Mrs. Russillo made such an impact and helped me understand chemistry so well that I am deciding to major in chemistry once I begin my college career.”

Parents praise her teaching as well, with one writing that, “Mrs. Russillo believed in my daughter. She has grown so confident in herself by having Mrs. Russillo guide her and support her.”

As Teacher of the Year, Russillo will work with the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) throughout the 2019-2020 school year to support education statewide, including a special focus on educator recognition initiatives. She is also eligible to represent Rhode Island as the National Teacher of the Year.