PRESS RELEASE – Six Holyoke Educators Receive Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award

PRESS RELEASE – Six Holyoke Educators Receive Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award


Six Holyoke Educators Receive Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award

HOLYOKE, Massachusetts – The prestigious Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching (PVEIT) Award from the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), and the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation was presented on February 28th to six Holyoke Public Schools educators. Excited family members and district administrators surprised the teachers with balloons and flowers.


This year’s recipients include the following district educators: Laura Vazquez and Kevin Bechard (Holyoke High School); Dr. Laura Chiaravalloti (Holyoke STEM Academy); Cara Bailly (Dr. Marcella R. Kelly School), Lore Mathurin (EN White School) and Laura Mackey (Lt. Elmer J. McMahon School).


The Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award is distributed annually to honor Western Massachusetts educators for their dedication and excellence. Recipients are nominated by their colleagues based upon the following suggested criteria: excellence in teaching practices, subject mastery and scholarship, effectiveness and creativity, impact on students, support of and positive impact upon other teachers’ practice, participation in professional development, evidence of going above and beyond in classroom and school community.


“The Holyoke Public Schools has countless dedicated and committed educators who are deserving of this recognition,” stated Holyoke Public Schools Receiver/Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stephen Zrike, Jr.  “It is a privilege to honor six of these star educators who have transformed the learning experience for so many children in Holyoke.  They are an inspiration to the entire school system.”


The Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award recipients receive a cash award, an engraved plaque, membership for a limited time at a local YMCA and the Springfield Jewish Community Center, one-year membership to WGBY, tuition grants to take graduate courses at several colleges and universities, as well as other gifts. They will be honored in the spring at a banquet with awardees from other districts at The Log Cabin Restaurant in Holyoke, MA.  Visit to view a video of the award distribution.


About this Year’s Recipients: 


Laura Vazquez is a spark plug, a connector, an advocate, a role model, a teacher, an organizer, a communicator, and a game-changing colleague. Her blend of joyful purpose makes her one of the most influential teachers on our staff – for students, families and for faculty. In her first year, she has taken on leading both our Newcomer Program and our scholarship program, as well as coordinating our Credit Recovery and Opportunity Academy programs for our counseling department. Vazquez is eager to learn, eager to teach, ready to push and to celebrate, and 110 percent committed to building structures, systems, and relationships essential to building and sustaining a Holyoke High School that provides every student with world-class opportunities, as well as the skills and dispositions to recognize and take advantage of them.


Kevin Bechard’s love for his students and love for discipline are equally infectious, compelling, and inspiring. His classroom is marked by the joyful sounds of students discussing, questioning and collaborating.  He passionately explains the relevance of the past and its connection to the here and now. In addition to his classroom impact, Bechard has been a leading voice in the conversation on how to make the redesigned Holyoke High School a school that honors both campuses’ tradition and history even as it forges a new path forward – one that puts equity, student voice, and relationships at the heart of the school’s culture. He is a veteran teacher who leads by example, committed 150% to the school’s and students’ success.


Cara Bailly exemplifies excellence in teaching. Whether engaged in exhaustive planning or facilitating rigorous, joyful instruction, she exudes enthusiasm. Her dedication to scholars, parents, families, and colleagues is unmatched. She is eager to lend a hand, share ideas, and bring laughter for all. Ms. Bailly is a learner, consistently striving to better understand how to best support her young scholars via standards-aligned instruction. She is charismatic and creative, designing and implementing lessons that spark a love of learning. She facilitates excellent classroom management skills with love that is characterized by mutual respect with her scholars.

Lore Mathurin has been working in Holyoke Public Schools for 26 years. She was hired in September of 1992. Mathurin is currently the 4th-grade math/science teacher. For the past two years, she has had either the highest or second highest growth on the MCAS in the district for 4th-grade math. (In 2017, she had a 71 percent growth – the highest in the district – and in 2018, she had a 73.1 percent growth – the second highest in the district). She is a team leader, a member of the EN White School Instructional Leadership Team, and is a valued colleague.


Dr. Laura Chiaravallotti has worked in Holyoke for the past four years. She is driven and passionate about improving her students’ academic achievements and their overall academic success at Holyoke STEM Academy.  Dr. Chiaravallotti has great enthusiasm for changing teacher practices school-wide. As an Instructional Leadership Specialist, she has an excellent understanding of her subject matter (English Language Arts) and the art of teaching. When Dr. Chiaravallotti visits a teacher’s classroom, she engages with the students in the work of the standards as well as co-teaches alongside the classroom teacher she is supporting. She is able to model classroom management for her peers, while always putting students first, expecting them to reach for the highest level of academic rigor.  Her drive to make Holyoke STEM Academy the best it can be, leads directly to student results.


Laura Mackey joined the Holyoke Public Schools in 2007 as a teacher in the summer program. Since then, she has worked as a part-time substitute, a long-term building substitute, and in October of 2013, she began her role as a classroom teacher. Currently, she is in her 3rd year working as the Middle School Guidance Counselor at McMahon School, where she also acts as the building test coordinator, Building English Language Learner representative, the facilitator of the Student Support Team and as an administrative substitute. She shows sound judgment, reliability and confidentiality when addressing staff, student and family concerns.  She also promotes the learning and growth of all students by holding them accountable, by working to create a safe and effective school environment and by promoting cultural awareness and acceptance. She truly represents the “Best of Education.”





Judy Taylor, Communications Director | (413) 493-1605,