Baker-Polito Administration Honors Outstanding Educators

HyWest teacher among the semi-finalists...
Some of the best teachers in the Commonwealth were honored at the State House this week. (Courtesy of Mass DESE)

BOSTON — State officials this week recognized the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and other recipients of the Commonwealth’s top honors for educators.

“Massachusetts teachers are instrumental in preparing the leaders of tomorrow for success after they leave the classroom,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We are very pleased to recognize these Massachusetts public school teachers today for the hard work, dedication and creativity they bring to their students every day,”
Our administration is proud to acknowledge these teachers for their hard work throughout another successful school year,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Their dedication to the job and commitment to their students is crucial to ensuring Massachusetts continues to lead the country in education.”
At the State House ceremony on June 20, officials presented awards to Takeru Nagayoshi, an English teacher at New Bedford High School who was selected earlier this year as the 2020 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, as well as finalists and semifinalists for the state award. The event also included the announcement that Michael Neagle of Pyne Arts Magnet School in Lowell is the 2019 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year. The Commonwealth’s most recent Milken Award winner and the Massachusetts finalists for the 2018 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching were also recognized.
The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Program recognizes excellence in teaching across the Commonwealth by selecting a teacher who exemplifies the dedication, commitment and positive contributions of educators statewide. The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year is automatically the state’s candidate for national teacher of the year. While remaining in the classroom, Mr. Nagayoshi will serve as an ambassador for the teaching profession over the next year.
“Massachusetts schools are the best in the country because our educators are the best in the country. It’s that simple,” Education Secretary James Peyser said. “It is an honor to recognize our amazing teachers and educational leaders who are working every day with students across the Commonwealth.”
“We don’t always acknowledged how much preparation it takes to create lessons that reach every student,” Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley said. “All of us appreciate the planning, collaboration, and long hours that each of these teachers put in behind the scenes to make their classrooms engaging places where students can grow.”
Mr. Nagayoshi, who grew up in New Jersey, holds a bachelor's degree in international relations from Brown University and a master’s degree in education from Boston University. He specializes in teaching Advanced Placement courses such as AP Seminar and AP Literature. A son of immigrants and LGBT teacher of color for an urban public school, he believes in using his personal perspectives to advocate for education equity, social justice, and community-based education reforms. His previous honors include winning the Sontag Prize in Urban Education.
Mr. Neagle, a history and civics teacher at Pyne Arts Magnet School in Lowell, was named the 2019 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year. He will represent Massachusetts as a candidate for National History Teacher of the Year, a program sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The state history teacher of the year receives a $1,000 grant, and the recipient’s school is presented with a collection of classroom resources donated in that teacher’s name.
Mr. Neagle received his bachelor’s degree from Westfield state College, his Master of Education from UMass Lowell and a certificate of advanced graduate study in history and education leadership from Fitchburg State University. He is working toward a graduate certificate in Holocaust and genocide studies at Salem State University. He has been teaching for 12 years, previously served in the Marine Corps, and was also recognized today as a semifinalist for Teacher of the Year.

The 2020 Teacher of the Year finalists honored today were:

  • Kevin Dua, a history teacher at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge;
  • Marissa Gumas, a math teacher at Blake Middle School in Medfield; and
  • Jenney Pascarelli, a physical education teacher at Memorial Elementary School in Natick.

The 2020 Teacher of the Year semifinalists honored today were:

  • Rachel R.M. Crawford, a music teacher at Bartlett Community Partnership School in Lowell;
  • Eamon Cunningham, an English teacher at Milford High School in Milford;
  • Dominique D. Gilmer, a special education teacher at the Nathan Hale School in Boston;
  • Roxann Grover, a health and physical education teacher at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School in Haverhill;
  • Chaitra McCarty Byrd, a third grade teacher at Hyannis West Elementary, part of Barnstable Public Schools;
  • Mr. Neagle; and
  • Jennifer Ryan, a fifth grade teacher at Pine Hill Elementary School in Sherborn, part of the Dover-Sherborn Public Schools.

The 2018 Milken Family Foundation Award winner, Jennifer Gordon, who is a librarian at Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School in Cambridge, was also recognized. Known as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the Milken awards were established to provide public recognition and individual rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary teachers, principals and specialists who further excellence in education.
In addition, officials recognized the Massachusetts finalists for the 2018 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, who are:

  • Tamara Hosford Keough, a science teacher at High Rock School in Needham;
  • David Kujawski, a science teacher at Bird Middle School in Walpole;
  • Danielle Merdin, a mathematics teacher at Dr. William W. Henderson K-12 Inclusion School in Boston;
  • Alison Pagnani, a mathematics teacher at Grace Farrar Cole Elementary School in Norwell;
  • Karen Walsh Fortin, a mathematics teacher at Florence Sawyer School in Bolton, part of the Nashoba Regional School District; and
  • Melissa Zeitz, a science teacher at Liberty Elementary School in Springfield.

For more information on teacher recognition programs, please go to DESE's Educator Recognition Programs webpage. welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on