Floris Wilma Ortiz-Marrero was honored as the 2011 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year this morning for her work in building the English as a second language program at Amherst Regional Middle School.
The first ESL teacher to be awarded this distinction in this decade, Ortiz-Marrero will be giving speeches and conducting workshops throughout the state. She will also receive smart classroom technology for her school worth more than $16,000, a $3,000 cash award to be used for classroom materials, and a laptop.
"At the end of the day, I want my students to be able to have a connection with the outside world," Ortiz-Marrero said. "What we learn and what we teach is relevant to life outside the classroom."
A native of Puerto Rico, Ortiz-Marrero moved to the United States in 1985 and has been teaching at Amherst Regional Middle School since 1993.
Ortiz-Marrero emphasized the importance of developing her students' language skills to equip them for a global world.
Michael Hayes, principal of the middle school, wrote about Ortiz-Marrero’s dedication to her students in in the letter of recommendation he sent to the governor's office.
"The central question for Wilma is always, 'What is best for the kids?'” Hayes wrote. “In Wilma's classroom you will find a nurturing environment that is also filled with high expectations for the students.”
Also honored today was Kelley R. Brown, a social studies teacher at Easthampton High School. She was named the state’s 2010 Preserve America History Teacher of the Year, the governor’s office said.
Brown, who lives in Montgomery, has taught at the high school since 2001.
"Massachusetts is lucky to have many fine educators, and these two individuals exemplify the commitment to high standards and high expectations that we hold for all children," Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester said in the statement.
Ortiz-Marrero and Brown will represent Massachusetts as candidates for the honors on the national level.
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