BOSTON, Mass. /Massachusetts Newswire/ — Today, Mass. Governor Deval Patrick joined state education officials, legislators and teachers from across the state to recognize recipients of the state’s top honors for educators. Awards were presented at a State House ceremony to the 2013 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, as well as the finalists and semifinalists for Teacher of the Year; the 2012 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year; the 2011 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching winners and finalists; and the 2011 Massachusetts Milken Family Foundation National Educator.

Kathleen M. Turner, a Sharon High School French teacher, was recognized as the 2013 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year; and Richard F. Houston, a U.S. History teacher at Harwich High School, was named the 2012 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year.

“Our teachers educate and motivate students every day, preparing them for success as individual learners, responsible citizens, and leaders within their communities,” said Governor Patrick. “I congratulate Ms. Turner and Mr. Houston and thank them for a deep commitment to their profession and the well-being of all students and thank all of our teachers for their work every day to help our students grow.”

“As we continue to invest in our public school system to ensure all students receive a high quality education, every teacher plays a vital role in this experience,” said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. “Ms. Turner and Mr. Houston have encouraged our students to excel, and we thank them and all teachers for their dedication to strengthen our school system and prepare the next generation of leaders in Massachusetts.”

“Congratulations to all of our teachers of the year,” Senate President Therese Murray said. “We are very lucky to live in a state that makes education a priority. It is because of that dedication, and most importantly because of our teachers, that Massachusetts students are number one in the nation. Our teachers play an invaluable role in preparing students for the future. They open a world of opportunity and inspire our students to find their dreams and pursue them. I thank all of the Commonwealth’s teachers for their hard work and commitment to education.”

“I offer congratulations to all of this year’s Teacher of the Year Award finalists and winners,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “The contributions that these educators make to our Commonwealth are so important as Massachusetts looks to establish itself as a strong center for innovation.”

“I commend Ms. Turner and Mr. Houston and our teachers across the state for their hard work to empower young learners to develop into the future leaders of our Commonwealth, our nation and our world,” said Education Secretary Paul Reville.

“There is excellent teaching taking place in classrooms across the Commonwealth, and today’s ceremony is saying thank you to all the incredible educators who work in our public schools,” said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. “The honorees we are recognizing today reflect the dedication and passion of all educators. Their commitment to ensuring that all students receive a well-rounded education and graduate ready to succeed in life is illustrative of the quality of Massachusetts educators.”

“I congratulate the teachers who were awarded these impressive honors today,” said Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “They, like so many of their fellow teachers, go to work each and every day to make a difference in the lives of our young people. Not only do they bring a level of dedication and commitment that we can all admire, they make it possible for the young people of our state to dedicate and commit themselves to, and to achieve, their own dreams for the future.”

“Students and families in Massachusetts are fortunate to have teachers like Ms. Turner and Mr. Houston who are dedicated to educating, supporting, and inspiring students,” said Representative Alice Peisch, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “I congratulate Ms. Turner, Mr. Houston, and the other awardees and nominees for their achievement in what is a difficult but critically important career. Their accomplishments have helped make Massachusetts first in the country in education, and I encourage more high school students, college students, and graduates to follow their lead and pursue a career in teaching.”

The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Program is administered by the Patrick-Murray Administration in partnership with Hannaford Supermarkets. The program annually recognizes excellence in teaching across the Commonwealth by selecting a teacher who exemplifies the dedication, commitment and positive contributions of educators statewide. In addition to sponsoring the State House awards ceremony and luncheon, Hannaford presents a $3,000 grant to the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, $2,000 grants to the finalists, and $1,000 grants to the semifinalists.

The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year is automatically the state’s candidate for National Teacher of the Year. While remaining in the classroom, Ms. Turner will serve as ambassador to the teaching profession over the next year by making speeches and conducting workshops throughout the state. She succeeds Adam Gray from Boston, who received the Teacher of the Year award last year.

Turner grew up in Northbridge and attended Northbridge High School. After graduating from Harvard College in 1994, Turner was hired as a French teacher at Sharon High School. Since then, Turner has been instrumental in building the school’s French program. Turner also regularly takes students to Paris during spring break, plans annual trips to Quebec City, and has established an exchange program with a school in Rouen, France.

Turner’s students have demonstrated impressive results on the College Board’s AP French exam. In the past six years, over 90 percent of the 123 students from Sharon High who took the exam scored a 3 or higher. According to the College Board, a score of 3 or higher on an AP exam represents the score point that is predicative of college success and college graduation.

The National History Teacher of the Year program is a White House initiative and is sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History, the History Channel, and Preserve America. Mr. Houston will represent Massachusetts in the national program and is a candidate for the national award. He succeeds Jessica Kodys, a Milford educator who was the 2011 honoree. The History Teacher of the Year receives a $1,000 grant and the recipient’s school is presented with an archive of primary historical materials donated in that teacher’s name.

Houston was inspired by a group of excellent teachers at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury when he was a student there. Upon graduation from college, he returned to St. John’s and taught history there from 1978 to 1994. After moving his family to Cape Cod, Houston started teaching history at Harwich High School. Houston connects the classroom experience to affairs of the town, state, nation, and the world. Houston believes that teaching history should focus on the goal of producing effective citizens.

All of Houston’s students must attend the annual Town Meeting and wrote an analytical essay about a warrant article. Houston’s students also have participated in the Federal Reserve Challenge, where they present arguments for monetary policy to a panel of judges.

The 2013 Teacher of the Year finalists were: Scott Balicki, a Chemistry teacher at Boston Latin School in Boston; Maureen Knowlton, a Special Education teacher at Millis Middle School in Millis; Paula Plock, an Elementary Education teacher at Williamstown Elementary School in Williamstown; John Scopelleti, an English teacher at South Shore Regional Vocational Technical High School in Hanover; and Alison M. Spade, an Elementary Education teacher at Boston Renaissance Charter Public School in Boston.

The Teacher of the Year semifinalists were: Michelle A. Archambault, a 5th grade teacher at Peter Noyes Elementary School in Sudbury; Dawn Marie Costa, a 7th grade teacher at Dr. Kevin M. Hurley Middle School in Seekonk; Kathryn Dye, a 10th grade English teacher at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School in Haverhill; and Neil Mansfield, a 9th-12th grade Metal Fabrication/Welding teacher at Assabet Valley Vocational Technical High School in Marlborough.

Also recognized on Thursday were 2011 Milken Family Foundation Award winner Derek Vandergrift, a high school History teacher at Waltham High School; and the winners and finalists of the 2011 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The Presidental Award winners were Kathy Erickson, a high school Mathematics teacher at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington and Naomi Volain, a high school Science teacher at Springfield Central High School in Springfield. Presidential Award finalists were Benadette Manning, a math teacher at Fenway High School in Boston; Carla McCormack, a middle school Mathematics teacher at Clarence Edwards Middle School in Boston; Kristen Cacciatore, a high school Science teacher at East Boston High School in Boston; and Mary Ann DeMaria, a 7th grade Science teacher at Bancroft School in Worcester.

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 are furthering excellence in education. The Presidential Award program was enacted by Congress in 1983. Winners receive a trip to Washington, D.C. and a $10,000 award.