Since 1960 the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year program has honored a Massachusetts teacher who exemplifies excellent teaching. Now in its 50th year, the program’s purpose is to identify a teacher who is worthy of publicly presenting the importance of the teaching profession, and representing the positive contributions of all teachers in the Commonwealth. When one considers that there are more than 69,000 teachers in Massachusetts it is apparent that finding the single person to hold the title “Teacher of the Year” is no easy task.
All too often you will read articles in the newspaper about principals who unveil new programs in their schools, superintendents who make valid arguments for more funding for education, the donations of wealthy people to the schools, and school facility upgrades (if and when they happen). All of these things are good, but when it comes to schools the most important and relevant articles that should be written everyday are not. These are the articles that pertain to the miracles that happen in each and every school, public or private, in every town in America every single day.
An article a day could be written about teachers who make differences in the lives of their students. These differences come by way of instruction, conversation, feedback, reward, and redirection. Accountability standards and state regulations aside, teachers work incredibly hard and our communities need to know that. So let this article serve as a thank-you to all teachers as I write about one who I have come to know quite well. After my first observation of her in her classroom three years ago, I told her that I was not comfortable evaluating her. Rather, in my time spent in her classroom observing like a good little administrator should – I was witnessing and learning about teaching at its very finest.
Anne Grosky is a teacher in the Ralph C. Mahar Regional Middle School. She works with eleven students who have unique learning styles. Her students enter her classroom having learned that learning is difficult for them, and because of this, they are in a different educational setting than their same aged peers. Anne however, does not see this as a challenge. Rather, she told me that she sees her job as an opportunity to “straighten sagging shoulders” and “raise heads that are pointed to the floor.”
The students in Mrs. Grosky’s class work in a system by which they earn certain tokens at the end of each school day. These tokens are earned for positive peer interactions, completion of assigned work, helping others during the school day, and for their participation in learning at the highest level that these seventh and eighth graders can. The tokens are then deposited into an account, and then at the end of the week these students can write checks to the “Grosky Store” for school supplies, books, and other items that pertain to school. The students also have the option of saving their tokens in their accounts so that they may purchase the ultimate item from the proverbial “top shelf” of the “Grosky Store.”
The best item in the “Grosky Store” is Sunday Dinner at Mrs. Grosky’s home. When Mrs. Grosky first came to me with this idea, I did not know what to say. In ten years as an educational administrator I had never been approached with such a request. Once I had a clear understanding of what she was thinking, I had to accept the idea. Anne and her husband Mitch (a retired principal) have now taken to having Anne’s students over the house each week. There they assist in planning, preparing, eating, and cleaning up after a meal with Anne’s family. On one Monday in particular when Anne showed me the pictures of one of her students making a Caesar Salad something dawned on me. I was looking at a picture of a student, who at the age of thirteen and due to the situations of his life had never had the opportunity help prepare and enjoy a meal in the fashion that Anne had provided. My heart melted.
When I watch Anne teach and I see her science experiments, her class plays, and her truly multi-sensory approach to teaching, I know that miracles are happening in her room everyday. When I see the pictures from her home each Monday, I know that the miracles are now taking place on Sundays as well. What a treat…a teacher who loves her work, loves her students, and truly changes their lives. I believe that all teachers should be recognized, and as you have read, especially Anne.
So about a month ago, I got together with some of Mahar’s employees, parents, and with the students in Anne’s class. We decided that she should be the one who is called the “Teacher of the Year” and we put together a packet of information on her behalf. Just a couple of days ago, Mrs. Grosky was informed that out of the 69,000 teachers in Massachusetts that she has been named a Top Ten Semi-Finalist in the competition. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education still has much to do to identify the person who will hold this prestigious title. The winner, by the way, is automatically entered into the National Teacher of the Year Competition. Because of rules that govern confidentiality, I cannot write about how Anne has helped each student individually, but I think that President Obama is going to be delighted when he meets her and learns about what she has done.