Video: Surprise assembly honors Burrillville Teacher of the Year

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BURRILLVILLE – It began with a fire drill, turned into an assembly and was all orchestrated to surprise a teacher who parents say stands out for his dedication.

Steere Farm Elementary School teacher Jason LaDuke is the 2021 Burrillville Teacher of the Year, receiving the award before the student body on Thursday, May 20 in the school courtyard.

LaDuke, a West Kingston resident, is a second grade teacher at the elementary school, and was nominated by several parents.

Supt. Michael Sollitto read messages from those who recommended LaDuke for the honor.

“Your ability to reach all students has made such a positive impact not just on the students, but on their families as well. Our son and his classmates are lucky to have you this year as they try to maneuver being eight-years-old and learning in a pandemic,” noted one. “You have truly been a positive figure in their lives. “

“Thank you for being such a great and positive role model for our child,” another parent wrote. “He’s having a great second great experience to help carry him forward.”

Sollitto said that normally, the district’s top teacher is announced at a School Committee meeting and then sent a letter.

“This year we decided to revamp the process a little bit and make it more of a celebration, because it is a big deal – being Burrillville’s Teacher of the Year,” the superintendent told NRI NOW

Principal Janet Lyons conducted a fire drill to get the entire student body outdoors. Once the students had lined up outside, the event became “an assembly, with songs sung by music teacher WIlliam Latendresse, before Sollitto came out and made the announcement regarding the surprised educator.

Curriculum Director Julie Mayhew noted that faculty, students and parents are invited to nominate a teacher for the honor every March. District nominees are then asked to fill out an application that involves listing their education, professional development, volunteer work in the schools and community, and any leadership roles they’ve played, and also have to write several essays about their professional work.

A letter announcing the award noted, “In this particularly challenging year, the committee was struck by your many statements around growth mindset. You described rising to the challenges of virtual instruction and your surprise at how well students not only adapted, but flourished.”

“Your commitment to connecting with and inspiring your students, your humility in learning alongside them, your pursuit of professional learning, and your passion for your craft and for the work that you do, was evident throughout your writing,” noted the letter, signed by Mayhew and Sollitto. 

The teacher’s family also attended the ceremony, where LaDuke was given a citation.

Jason LaDuke with with Amanda LaDuke and sons Nathaniel, 3 and Benjamin, 6.
From left are Principal Janet Lyons, teacher Jason LaDuke, Supt. Michael Sollitto and Director of Curriculum Julie Mayhew.
From left are Rebekka Prescott, Joseph, Jason, Amanda and Elaine LaDuke, with Benjamin and Nathaniel.

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