North Quincy educator named 2018 Teacher of the Year

 Students at North Quincy High School packed into the gymnasium on Tuesday, May 9, to honor science teacher Cara Pekarcik, who was named the 2018 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.Students at North Quincy High School packed into the gymnasium on Tuesday, May 9, to honor science teacher Cara Pekarcik, who was named the 2018 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.

The North Quincy High School gymnasium was buzzing late Tuesday morning — National Teacher Day — well before the start of a ceremony honoring science teacher Cara Pekarcik as the 2018 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.

Ahead of the official announcement made by state Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, hundreds of the school’s students filled the bleachers and waved signs acknowledging the many teachers who have inspired and supported them over the years, and the school band’s playing made the mood even more festive.

Pekarcik, a member of the Quincy Education Association, gave credit for her accomplishment to the students and her fellow educators at North Quincy High School.

“The biggest thing is the students. There is so much kindness, respect and empathy in this group,” Pekarcik said as she addressed the crowd, which roared with approval when she was announced as the state’s Teacher of the Year. “I can admit that some days are frustrating. But most days are filled with laughter and learning.”

MTA Vice President Erik J. Champy, left, and Quincy Education Association President Allison Cox, right, were on hand to congratulate honoree Cara Pekarcik. MTA Vice President Erik J. Champy, left, and Quincy Education Association President Allison Cox, right, were on hand to congratulate honoree Cara Pekarcik.

It is the particular flair that Pekarcik brings to her teaching that earned her the nomination by her principal, Robert Shaw, and ultimately the selection of a panel that included previous recipients of the Teacher of the Year award. The nomination process began last fall, and the field was eventually winnowed down to six finalists.

Before she sought a path into education, Pekarcik was a biologist who studied whales. Pekarcik, who holds a master’s degree in secondary education from UMass Boston, began teaching biology at North Quincy High in 2006.

According to colleagues, Pekarcik inspires her students to be inquisitive, and she leads them to understand how science is part of their everyday lives.

Pekarcik applied several times to be part of a research expedition to Antarctica led by PolarTREC and was finally accepted into the program for teachers and researchers in 2016.

During her journey, Pekarcik kept a journal — accessible online by her colleagues and students — and she arranged for a livestream chat with students while she was aboard the icebreaker that carried her through the trip.

Pekarcik is also the adviser to the high school’s chapter of the National Honor Society.

On hand at the school Tuesday to congratulate Pekarcik were MTA Vice President Erik J. Champy and Quincy Education Association President Allison Cox. State Senator John Keenan, state Representative Bruce Ayers and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito also attended the event.

Pekarcik will take part in a ceremony at the State House recognizing outstanding educators on June 15.

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