Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Awards 2024

Six HPS award winners were nominated by their colleagues

Six Holyoke Public Schools educators were surprised and honored on March 1, 2024 when their classroom doors were opened by Superintendent Anthony Soto bearing flowers, balloons, and a proclamation from Holyoke Mayor Joshua A. Garcia to let them know they were selected to receive Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Awards this year.

Since 2003, the award has been distributed annually to honor Western Massachusetts educators for their dedication and excellence. More than 100 Western Massachusetts educators are honored each year. This year’s Excellence in Teaching Award winners from Holyoke include:

Headshot of Amber Dutton

Amber Dutton

Amber Dutton is a Grade 4 English language arts teacher at Morgan School. She was nominated for making her classroom a supportive space for all students and working closely with each individual student to achieve their academic goals. Her leadership and collaborative spirit have been pivotal to the success of Grade 4’s redesign.

Headshot of Nicole Fisher

Nicole Fisher

Nicole Fisher is a math teacher at Donahue . She was nominated for her data-driven approach to improvement. She analyzes student performance to assess areas in need of support and works with staff to leverage data to make improvements in classrooms. She is a gifted strategist who shares with colleagues in the spirit of growth.

Headshot of Suzanne Platinitis

Suzanne Platinitis

Suzanne Platinitis is a kindergarten teacher at McMahon. She was nominated for her leadership and problem-solving contributions that helped ensure a smooth transition of three schools coming together this past year, helping preserve the best historical practices while learning and teaching new ones in tandem.

Headshot of Sheila Fallon

Sheila Fallon

Sheila Fallon is an English teacher at Holyoke High School North Campus. She was nominated for her exemplary ability to build a relationship with each student, making sure every student is seen and known. Her ability to give specific, kind, and thoughtful feedback with high expectations has allowed her students to grow in their success.

Headshot of Christine Lopez

Christine Lopez

Christine Lopez is an English teacher at Metcalf. She was nominated for encouraging students to take academic risks and for helping to foster a love of learning in her students. She is seen as an asset as a leader. She regularly leads grade-level team meetings and building strong relationships with colleagues, students, and families.

Headshot of Merly Vega

Merly Vega

Merly Vega is a teacher at Sullivan School, leading both Spanish language arts and Heritage Language classes. She was nominated for her daily demonstration that success is possible in our school and our district. She holds students to high expectations to help them surpass their goals, and is a dedicated partner to the families she serves.

The six HPS award recipients will each receive an engraved plaque and a check for $250, along with tuition incentives and scholarships offered by seven major colleges and universities in the region—Elms College, Bay Path University, Mount Holyoke College, Springfield College, Western New England University, Westfield State University, and the University of Massachusetts. Winners also receive 3-month memberships at the Springfield Jewish Community Center or one of the six regional YMCAs.

All winners are further invited to apply for the selective Classroom Innovator Prize of $250. Created to foster educators’ interest and engagement in Project Based Learning, teachers can submit a project-based learning idea. Up to 15 prizes will be given. All winners interested in this important teaching methodology will be supported by professional development opportunities.

The Excellence in Teaching Awards program, now in its 21st year, is made possible by the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation in partnership with the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation.

Other business and community support comes from American International College, Arrha Credit Union, Country Bank, and Meyers Brothers Kalicka.