Springfield is home to the newest Teacher of the Year

Anne Marie Bettencourt

Anne Marie Bettencourt

Anne Marie Bettencourt, a ninth-grade English language arts teacher at Central High School in Springfield, is the 2014 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.

Hundreds of students, state and local education officials and school staff crowded into the school's library for the ceremony Tuesday, May 7, National Teacher Day. (In related news, read about Falmouth third-grade teacher Suzy Brooks who was honored on National Teacher Day for her inspiring use of social media.)

Bettencourt, a teacher for seven years—all of them in Springfield--said she was "honored, really honored. The night I got the phone call I think my jaw hit the floor."

The New Bedford native automatically becomes the state's candidate for National Teacher of the Year. She is the 52nd recipient of the award in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester was on hand to make the award to Bettencourt. He said one of his favorite annual traditions "is the naming of the new Teacher of the Year, and Anne Marie Bettencourt is an outstanding choice to represent the excellence we see across the profession in Massachusetts. Educators like Ms. Bettencourt have an enormous impact on student learning through their leadership, dedication and exceptional teaching." Springfield School Superintendent Daniel J. Warwick said her work with ninth graders "is truly remarkable. We certainly couldn't be more proud of Anne Marie and the positive light her work has shone not only on Central High School but our entire school district."

Bettencourt said the honor really "is a representation of all the people who do the work together with me in Springfield." She said, "There's that old line that says, 'kids don't care what you know until they know that you care.'  I think that statement holds the most truth," especially in Springfield. "Our students want to know that we care about them."

She said she decided to become a teacher because when she was thinking about what she could do with her life, "I realized that I loved two things—working with children and literature," and so being a teacher "is a great way to marry the two."

Bettencourt is a member of the Ninth Grade Academy at the school, which she calls "integral to our success." She said core teachers meet every day to talk about how to help students succeed. "The students are the focus of our conversation. It drives everything that we do."