Springfield educator is named Massachusetts teacher of the year

Anne Marie Bettencourt with Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester
Anne Marie Bettencourt with Education Commissioner Mitchell ChesterCredit: Photo: State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

An English-language arts teacher at Springfield Central High School who had originally planned to become a screenwriter was honored today as the state’s Teacher of the Year.

Anne Marie Bettencourt, a New Bedford native who lives in Hatfield, said winning the award was a “huge, unexpected honor.” When she got the call, she said in an interview: “It was a delayed reaction, and then it hit me. ‘It was me! It was me!’ ”

Her ninth-grade students cheered for her and gave her a card signed by everyone in the class.

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Bettencourt, 31, who has taught English-language arts since 2008, attended Syracuse University to pursue an undergraduate degree in screenwriting. But after volunteering in a local youth center and spending two summers teaching in Rhode Island while still in college, Bettencourt said she realized her calling was in the classroom.

“Teachers tend to love their subject, but Anne Marie lives hers,” Springfield Central High Principal Thaddeus Tokarz wrote in his letter of recommendation for Bettencourt.

In addition to teaching, the Hatfield resident serves as a ninth-grade team facilitator, working with students, parents, and the community.

“Last year, more than 90 percent of students from Bettencourt’s team moved on to the 10th grade – compared to roughly 50 percent of 9th graders across the district,” said JC Considine, spokesman for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Bettencourt not only teaches her pupils, she also helps mold future teachers. For the past three years, she has mentored student teachers at Springfield College, her alma mater, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The other Teacher of the Year finalists and their schools were: Kimberly Chaffee,Quaboag Regional Middle High School in Warren; Jenna Gampel, Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton; Mary Gavin, Bennett-Hemenway School in Natick; and Ann Lambert, King Philip Regional High School, Wrentham.

Bettencourt said she hopes the award brings attention to urban education.

“There are so many negative things people think about urban schools,” she said. “This is finally a positive. This is a really positive thing for this city.”

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