NSHS teacher nominated for national Teacher of the Year award


NORTH SMITHFIELD – North Smithfield High School teacher Natalie O’Brien is one of just 58 educators nationally nominated for the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award in the senior division of the National History Day contest.

The award is sponsored by Patricia Behring in recognition of the pivotal role teachers play in the lives of students.

O’Brien, who serves as the school’s social studies department chairperson, has taught as NSHS for more than two decades. Through her well-known involvement with the We the People program, a national civics competition, she’s led 14 groups of North Smithfield students to state championships.

In 2016, she was recipient of the American Lawyers Alliance’s Law Related Education High School Teacher of the Year award and in 2020, she was named the North Smithfield school district’s Teacher of the Year.

Her classes include honors American government, U.S. history and AP government and politics.

“I love National History Day, because it truly gets students to take ownership of their learning while acting as historians,” O’Brien said in her nomination forms. “We have always used primary source documents in our classes, but this program allows students to find and develop their own understanding of historical documents. With the support of our school librarian, the program has really started to flourish.”

Each nominee receives $500, and the winner of the award will receive $10,000.

O’Brien was nominated by the Rhode Island Historical Society, the state affiliate to the National History Day program.

The winner will be chosen by their commitment to engaging students in historical learning through innovative use or primary sources, implementation of active learning strategies to foster historical thinking skills and participation in National History Day.

“The nominees for the Behring Award have shown a dedication to teaching that goes beyond the classroom,” said Dr. Cathy Gorn, National History Day executive director. “These educators are leading examples for their peers and invaluable resources for their students. I congratulate Mrs. O’Brien on her well-deserved nomination.”

The winner will be announced during the National History Day awards ceremony to be held virtually on June 19.

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