March 2, 2021

East Providence 2020 Teachers of the Year Selected

Jennifer Ruthven of Orlo Ave School is District Wide Recipient


The East Providence School Department has released its list of “Teachers of the Year” for 2020. Each school nominates a teacher based on staff and parental suggestions. The district then announces a systemwide selection as District Teacher of the Year. The district award recipient for 2020 is Jennifer Ruthven of Orlo Avenue elementary school. Here is a school by school listing with some of the recommendations and comments as submitted by recipient colleagues, parents and students:

Orlo, Jennifer Ruthven – EP District Teacher of the Year 2020:
Mrs. Ruthven was nominated by her colleagues and parents. Mrs. Ruthven is described by families as being "awesome", going "beyond the ordinary", and she "puts everyone above herself". Mrs. Ruthven has a natural way of connecting with students and families. Her gentle but strong presence allows for a classroom structure that promotes a safe learning space. Mrs. Ruthven truly cares about her students as her own, going beyond academics to ensure her students' success and happiness.

EPHS, John “Sandy” Gorham
John (Sandy) Gorham has been affecting and influencing young men and young women for nearly a half-century at East Providence High School. Mr. Gorham has been the recipient of many awards as a student athlete and high school coach (Division I Coach of the Year 4 times, RI Male Coach of the Year 2 times, Inductee to the East Providence High School of Fame, Inductee to RI Football Coaches Hall of Fame, RI Aquatic Hall of Fame etc..). Despite this incredible resume, Mr. Gorham remains a humble, soft spoken, teacher of Physical Education here at EPHS.

“Mr. Gorham does not give a student an ounce less of respect than he would a teacher or anyone else. He works with everyone to make sure they’re doing their best and feeling their best.”

“Mr. Gorham doesn’t put anyone down, he will work with you to figure things out, and if he can’t do it, he will find someone who can.”

“Sandy has always been a great communicator. He knows the best ways to interact with students, parents, faculty and coworkers. He is skilled at listening and respects the opinions and ideas of others.”

“Sandy is a selfless, hardworking individual who always puts his students and Townie Nation first. He always has his students’ best interests at heart and will stop at nothing until the needs of his students are met.”

“I would say Sandy is the type of guy who would give you the shirt off his back. Even though he has so much going on, he would drop everything to help.”

The consensus is unanimous. John “Sandy” Gorham is sensitive to the needs of students, athletes and every member of the East Providence High School community. We are indeed fortunate to be able to refer to Mr. Gorham as teacher, coach, colleague, and friend. We are also pleased to add one more honor to Mr. Gorham’s long list of accomplishments. John “Sandy” Gorham is East Providence Senior High School’s Teacher of the Year 2020.

EPHS CTC, Tom Galligan
Tom has been an intrical part of the career and technical center teaching construction for over 20 years. Tom is active with the local building trades which helps guide his daily instruction. Tom provides students with the knowledge that the construction industry is looking for, making students marketable for apprenticeships and potential careers.
Tom is also active in the community regularly bringing students on job sites to complete construction projects such as sheds for local members. Tom's positive relationships and hands-on teaching experiences with his students and his connection to the community make him a great nominee for teacher of the year.

Riverside MS, John Macomber
John Macomber is a teacher of English Language Arts at Riverside Middle School. He is a dedicated educator of over 30 years, having begun his tenure at RMS as a special education teacher. Despite his veteran status, John has not let up in his quest to engage students and to utilize an effective blend of contemporary and traditional teaching methods. For several years, he has been among the first faculty members in the building in the morning and the last to leave. Despite the considerable rigor that he brings to all of his classes, John's students respect and admire him. This is because he is fair and compassionate and the students see that first when regarding him. John is that rare teacher who is considered the toughest, but also among the most endeared by his students.

For years, John was the advisor to the Viking Press, the middle school newspaper that won countless awards for RMS. In recent years, John has helped students publish a literary magazine and he has done more to help improve the writing skills of RMS students than any other member of our school community. At the conclusion of this school year, John Macomber will retire. He will leave behind a legacy of excellence and commitment to his students and he will be missed dearly.

To summarize who John Macomber is as a teacher in East Providence, all you need to know is that year in and year out, John Macomber is the teacher who attends every concert, performance and award ceremony of his students, sits in the front row, center stage in his shirt and tie and beams with pride at their accomplishments. John's students know he will be there for them and he has continued to come through for thirty years. Riverside Middle School is pleased to offer John Macomber as our Teacher of the Year for 2020.

Martin MS, Pam Thacker
According to her peers, Pam has taught at Martin Middle School for 20 years. Pam is the Department Coordinator for Science. Pam has taken on huge initiatives this year such as Rise Against Hunger. Pam coordinated this effort for students, staff and families to come together to raise thousands of dollars for the hungry. This act of kindness culminated with night at Martin with over 80 volunteers who packaged over 10,000 meals that were shipped to the less fortunate. Pam saw this event all the way through from beginning to end and was able to get many members of the Martin Family to help. Pam has gone above and beyond to improve culture and climate at Martin this year. She has been a leader on the School Climate Grant team that works with RIDE and other districts in the state to bring back strong practices back to MMS. Last, but not least, Pam has changed her practices to bring more student voice to MMS. She has taken the lead at faculty meetings and been someone the school community counts on.

Myron J. Francis, Paula Chace
Since 1988, this teacher has devoted her career to the children of East Providence. A townie herself, she epitomizes “Townie Pride”, a phrase coined in 1984 by superintendent Myron J. Francis, to represent a sense of community and coming together to work for a common good.

Here are some quotes from her colleagues:
“Paula is a great collaborator and team player at MJF. She is involved in many committees and takes initiative in recognizing students' success. She has been extremely supportive over the years with my MLL students and has provided me with tremendous support. She is a leader and a true friend to students and faculty alike.”

“Paula is always willing to help and do tasks other than in her "job description". The students' well being and achievement are her driving force. She used countless hours of her own time to spearhead the Pennies for Patients Campaign, which was a huge success. On a personal note, without hesitation she pitched in and went above and beyond to assist with fifth grade ELA in the time of need.”

“Mrs. Paula Chace has a heart of gold. She’s always looking for the best ways to help her students. She cares about their academic needs as well as their SEL needs. She pushes her students to always do their best. MJF is a better place because of Paula Chace.”

“Paula works tirelessly to teach reading skills to her students. She also cares for the well being of her students and families by providing them with social/emotional support - calling home to check in, solving problems, and communicating positive reports. Paula’s work with students and families is truly a lifelong endeavor. She goes above and beyond to help students reach their potential and even maintains connections with students after they leave Francis following up and checking in on them from time to time.

While her job title states “Reading Teacher”, she is much more than this, as is quite evident from the words of her colleagues. This is her last year in the classroom, however we know she will continue to help the community she loves throughout her retirement.

Hennessey, Carla Midgley (posthumously)
On behalf of the entire school community at Hennessey Elementary, we proudly honor the memory of our beloved colleague, Carla Midgley, as the 2020 Hennessey Teacher of the Year. We fondly remember Carla as dedicated, collaborative, growth oriented, talented, caring, and knowledgeable. The heartfelt words and tributes have sincerely poured in from teachers, students, and families alike. Carla always exuded humility, kindness, humanity and respect in all aspects of her teaching.

Carla contributed an unwavering commitment to the children and families we serve. She was a fierce advocate for her students. She had a unique ability to make them all feel
safe and loved while establishing a learning environment with clear and consistent expectations optimal for growth.

Carla was a caring member of the Hennessey staff and an active member of the community. Carla treated all of her colleagues with care and respect while supporting
ideas and dialogue. She proudly served as our PTO President and organizer of our Feinstein efforts and Pennies for Patients Fundraiser.

She continued her passion for children even outside of the school day, tutoring students with special needs and volunteering with other charitable organizations in the
community. The Hennessey school community is stronger and more inclusive because Carla Midgley was a part of it.

Kent Heights, Donna Ferrucci
Mrs. Ferrucci is a veteran educator who has taught at Kent Heights School for 25 years. A colleague stated on the nomination form “In her new position Donna has proven how dynamic of a teacher she is. She teaches students to be kind, hard-working and safe.” (The core values of Kent Heights School.) In fact, years ago, Mrs. Ferrucci suggested the above core values and a previous faculty and staff adopted KHS in conjunction with PBIS.

Donna is a role model for students and adults. She has provided an updated Faculty Room where teachers can have a place to relax. She requested and received a donation from Cardi’s furniture. 

Mrs. Ferrucci’s writes a “Dean’s Daily” each morning which provides humor, motivation and valuable information.

Mrs. Ferrucci also created a “Best Buddies” program at Kent Heights School that was so quickly successful the program is now a Best Buddies Chapter – promoting inclusion and diversity at KHS. She is the producer of the entertaining videos created during Distance Learning that positively builds the KHS community and strengthens our bond.

“She helps us all strive to be the best version of ourselves.”

Oldham Melissa, Natusch
It is with great honor that Oldham School nominate Melissa Natusch as our 2020 Teacher of the Year. Mrs. Natusch is an Itinerant/Integrated Classroom Teacher in the Pre-K program. She supports instruction of the Pre-K classroom teachers while serving the individual needs of Pre-K children who are differently abled and their buddies. Mrs. Natusch is kind and genuinely cares for all children; she is extremely supportive of her colleagues and is an amazing learning partner to the parents of her students. As an active member of the Oldham School Improvement and Coordination of Care Teams, Mrs. Natusch is truly a leader in our school learning community.

Silver Spring, Michaela Markham
Michaela Markham, Physical Education Teacher, at Silver Spring Elementary School goes above and beyond making our school a better place. She has a wonderful personality, which is reflected in the way she interacts with students and staff. Michaela is approachable and a good listener who is positive, kind, patient, helpful, and flexible each and every day. She uses her extra physical education period to reward deserving students.

Michaela knows and consistently treats each and every student in our school with respect and kindness. As a result, she has a wonderful rapport with each student who loves her and her class. Staff and students alike enjoy listening to her selection of music, which fills the gymnasium with energy and spunk. Michaela enthusiastically collaborates with and supports colleagues and initiatives such as our attendance program that rewards students who have perfect attendance. She will be the first one to lend a helping hand with an open mind and can do attitude.

Michaela is a wonderful role model for our school community, which is why she is Silver Spring Elementary School’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.

Waddington, Erin Simard
As a teacher, Erin Simard demonstrates kindness each and every day. She shows genuine love and respect for all her students. Her classroom is always beautifully organized and reflects the care she puts into nurturing them. She thoughtfully designs lessons and activities that are engaging for her kindergartners. Mrs. Simard knows where every student is at academically and what they need next to help them be successful. Mrs. Simard is an advocate for her students and what is developmentally appropriate for them. She goes above and beyond to make sure they each have what they need to learn. She infuses her classroom with energy by combining learning and humor. She welcomes all into her classroom and when you enter her classroom, you immediately feel a part of their caring classroom community.

In addition to being a fantastic teacher, Mrs. Simard is a great friend and truly cares about her colleagues. She is always willing to lend an ear, a witty comment, or a suggestion for solving a problem. Mrs. Simard’s friendly and humorous personality makes her a pleasure to work with and a great teammate. She has a natural ability to make everyone laugh which helps to bring our community together. She collaborates with others exceptionally well, sharing ideas and always trying out new ideas herself. Mrs. Simard steps up and goes above and beyond, joining committees, helping fellow teachers, and attending family events. She is dedicated to the overall school success and always willing to help a fellow teacher.

A parent stated, “When I think of teacher of the year, the first person that comes to mind is Mrs. Simard. I met her two years ago when she had my oldest son. She was amazing with my little ADHD child. He was a handful but somehow she loved every piece of him, including the crazy parts. She worked very hard to make sure he never fell behind the rest of the class. She made sure he always reached the next level and pushed him to get there. She never complained. She always had a smile on her face…”

Another parent wrote “Mrs. Simard should be the Waddington Elementary School teacher of the year. She goes above and beyond at all times to make her students feel loved. She engages her students and teaches them to love learning. My son can't wait to go to school each day and she has eased the transition to Distance Learning like no other. She truly cares about her students. Her dedication, compassion, and humor make each day meaningful. Without a doubt, I believe she deserves this recognition.”

Whiteknact, Cheyanne Schoonmaker
here are many qualities and attributes that make Cheyanne Schoonmaker stand out in our Whiteknact Community. Whether you meet her in the halls of our building, in a meeting advocating for a child, in the four walls of the classroom, in the teachers lounge, or out in the street, one thing that is evident is the passion she has for teaching. Many have had the opportunity to work with Cheyanne in different capacities but it has always been the compassion for others that seems to touch us all. You can hear the adoration for Cheyanne in the voices of her students, parents, guardians, colleagues, and friends. Cheyanne thinks nothing of going above and beyond for anyone, simply because it is the right thing to do. It is this strength that makes Cheyanne a quiet leader.

Cheyanne continually demonstrates her love for her students combined with exemplary teaching of all core subjects while giving her students important social, emotional, and academic skills. Her class is handled in a fun way with student’s ideas and responses given value and respect. Cheyanne has a tight ship style of teaching that her little sailors really enjoy and thrive in.

Cheyanne is a creative and positive educator who communicates very well with parents and colleagues, doing her best to resolve problems at the outset. Cheyanne is appreciated and admired by other educators for how well she differentiates instruction and assignments to meet the inclusive and diverse needs of all her students, in an effortless manner.

Additionally, Cheyanne has excelled in meeting her students' needs during Distance Learning. She creates playlists and works collaboratively with other teachers using a variety of effective teaching tools and explains assignments in a clear and methodical manner. Cheyanne hosts daily classroom meetings to model and explain all expectations. These classroom meetings are attended with great enthusiasm from students, parents and other school staff. Cheyanne’s students, and the entire Whiteknact community, genuinely admire, love, and respect her.

Pre-K @ Martin, Sara Mistretta
On behalf of the PreK staff and school community, it is my pleasure to nominate Ms. Sara Mistretta for the 2020 Teacher of the Year. Ms. Mistretta has been teaching in the East Providence School District for the past 4 years. Currently, she is a teacher in the State PreK Program at Martin Middle School. She began her career in the West Bay as a Prek Teacher. After the closing of that classroom she took a job as a Kindergarten teacher for a year in Providence. PreK being her passion she found her way to East Providence just in time to assist in the opening of our very own program. During her four-year tenure in the district she has been a leader in a very strong team of teachers who have together developed the PreK program into successful State CECE Bright Starred Certified Facility.


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