Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Awards 2020

About the PVEIT 2020 Awards

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 11th to six Holyoke Public Schools educators. Excited family members and district administrators surprised the teachers with balloons and flowers.

This year’s Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award winners include: Casey Doremus (Lawrence School); Samantha Morin (Morgan School); Kayleigh Berger (HHS Dean Campus); Tania Tapia (HHS North Campus); Thomasina Hall (Veritas Prep) and Tammy Cato (E.N. White).

The award is distributed annually to honor Western Massachusetts educators for their dedication and excellence. Winners 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 the classroom and school community.

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 are also honored at a banquet with awardees from other districts at The Log Cabin Restaurant in Holyoke, MA.

And the award winners are…

Casey Doremus – H.B. Lawrence School

Casey is a 3rd-year teacher who is a leader.  She exemplifies excellence, seeks feedback, and is eager to implement best practices. Casey is a team player with the goal of improving Lawrence School. She is an Active Leadership Team member – understands, engages and models the work outlined in the Lawrence School Improvement Plan for her colleagues. A leader within her 3rd-grade team, she leads lesson planning in all content areas, thinks through and implements instruction aligned to grade-level standards, and creates examples of proficient student work that sets expectations for students.

Casey is positive and eager to work with some of our most struggling students. She always has a smile on her face and a quick chuckle. She is dedicated to her professional growth, and moreover to the students at Lawrence School.

Casey Doremus, teacher who won the Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award

Samantha Morin – William G. Morgan School

Samantha Morin is working in her sixth year as a Morgan Elementary educator. She began as a student teacher and as a paraeducator in the building. She quickly moved to become a first grade teacher. In her time here, she has established some strong relationships with her students and families. She is a strong advocate of the PBIS initiative and philosophy, using a loving and gentle tone to reinforce high expectations for all students. She has emerged as a teacher leader and serves on the PBIS committee.

This year she has also offered Jazzercise classes and self-care tips on a daily basis to the entire staff. She has an understanding in order to give our students quality instruction they deserve, we must make sure we bring the best version of ourselves. She has emerged as a teacher leader this year through the various offerings around self-care and supporting a building-wide initiative. She is equally impactful inside the classroom.  Through her relationships with students, she delivers high-quality instruction and helps to close achievement gaps among all of her students. Ms. Morin is the teacher students come back to visit because of the imprint she leaves on their life.

Samantha Morin, Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award

Kaleigh Berger – Holyoke High School Dean Campus

Kayleigh Berger’s teaching is the most powerful combination of heart and mind I have witnessed in my 31 years of teaching and leading in schools. Her lessons are exquisitely designed to be both rigorous and engaging, her classroom routines and structures are focused and imaginative, and her ability to have students do the thinking speaking, writing, and reading – the work – makes her classroom a model for her colleagues and peers.

Kayleigh has the biggest heart at HHS and she uses it to connect with her students, her colleagues, and our families. She is a fountain of positive reinforcement and encouragement, and is laser-focused on the importance of emotion in learning. Her classroom is a beacon of welcome, safety, and security, making it possible for her sophomores to consistently match or better their peers on the state’s MCAS assessment. We are blessed to have her.

Kayleigh Berger Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Awardee

Tania Tapie – Holyoke High School North Campus

Tania Tapia epitomizes what it means to be a great special education teacher. Her students know in their bones that they are loved and supported, just as much as they are accountable in her classroom.

She collaborates with her colleagues with great respect and attention to detail, be it in the designing of the Freshman Seminar course, the launching of our new academic intervention courses, working as a co-teacher, or acting as a peer consultant on her grade level team. Tania lives the credo of a culturally responsive teacher- she is AWESOME.

Tania Tapia Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Awardee

Thomasina Hall – Veritas Prep Holyoke

Thomasina is an exceptional math and science teacher and is a transformational teacher leader in our school. Her dedication to the students and families we serve is unmatched.

She has played a key role in writing our science curriculum, provides critical feedback on school systems and she has the highest standards for the performance of the school.

Thomasina Hall Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Awardee

Tammy Cato – E.N. White

Tammy Cato is a veteran teacher who will be retiring next year. She currently teaches grade 5 ELA. Tammy consistently provides her students with learning opportunities that stretch their thinking and allow them to productively struggle. All Mrs. Cato’s lessons are student centered and differentiated to support student learning. Last year Tammy’s students had an average student growth of 56 percent on the MCAS. Twenty percent of students were meeting or exceeding expectations on the MCAS.

Tammy has held many positions in her teaching career both in and out of the classroom. She returned to the classroom to end her career due to her love of teaching.

Tammy Cato, Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching
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