Teachers win awards for dedication, excellence

The Newtonite

by Amanda Hills
Math teacher Tracey Stewart and English Language Learning teacher Kristen Durocher were awarded the Elicker and Keegan awards, respectively, for excellence in and dedication to teaching Wednesday, May 30.
The awards are given to those who show “a deep appreciation and knowledge of a subject matter, teaching that stretches the mind of students and standards for performance that inspire excellence,” according to the awards’ information sheet.

Math teacher Tracey Stewart

Stewart said, “I always knew in my heart that I wanted to be a teacher.”
She cited her sixth grade math teacher as her inspiration because she was “kind and patient with all of her students, and she pushed us to do more than we thought we could,” she said. “I hope my students feel the same way about me.”
Prior to coming to this school, she taught math at Day Middle School, beginning in 1991.
Stewart began teaching at this school in 2008, and she said she “felt welcomed into the community since the minute I arrived.”
“It’s a pleasure to come to work each day when you are surrounded by dedicated and talented professionals,” Stewart said.
She explained that she loves teaching because it is “new every year, so it never gets old and the kids keep me young.”
Upon hearing that she had won the Elicker Award, Stewart said that she was “pleasantly surprised,” and that the award was “completely unexpected.”
She concluded, “I was filled with pride. This award means the world to me. It lets me know that I’ve made a real difference with my life’s work.”
Math teacher Elena Graceffa, who has worked with Stewart for four years, called her a “generous and collaborative colleague.”
“I always know I can trust her perspective because she thinks about teaching through the eyes of her students.”
Graceffa added, “She is a continual source of ideas, discussion and inspiration for me, and she is a role model I try to emulate.
“She cares deeply about how to get students engaged and thinking about math, without losing sight of the element of fun that makes her classroom such a wonderful place to be.”

English Language Learning teacher Kristen Durocher

Durocher said that she did not always know she wanted to be an ELL teacher. She graduated from college “without any clear direction” and decided to “do some soul searching before jumping blindly into the workforce,” she said.
In order to discover her passion, she traveled the world. “My objective was to travel to countries where I could contribute to people who were less fortunate than me.”
It was in Nicaragua that she first got the opportunity to teach English at a language institute, and she “absolutely fell in love with the job,” she said.
“I realized I loved teaching, and I realized I loved interacting and working with people from different countries.”
Then Durocher taught at a school in Hermosillo, Mexico for a year before coming to this school in 2001.
She said, “Teaching ELL in the United States gave me the perfect opportunity to pursue my passion for being around people from all over the world and my love of teaching, while staying close to home.”
Before beginning her time at this school in 2001, Durocher taught at a school in Hermosillo, Mexico for a year.
Teaching at this school has been “an incredibly rewarding experience,” she said. “It’s precisely this type of an environment that has allowed me to grow into the teacher that I am today and will challenge me to continue to grow in the future.”
Durocher said that when she heard she had won the Keegan award, she cried. “I feel like I’m the recipient of something that was accomplished by our department as a whole.”
English Language Learning teacher Deborah Jose has worked with Durocher for 11 years, and said that she is “unwaveringly generous with her knowledge and always ready with a good idea for incorporating literacy into any lesson.”
She said, “She is the ultimate team player, open, honest and always ready to offer a good idea or tackle our unceasing stack of paperwork.”
Jose also said that Durocher “is a teacher who keeps her students awake.”