Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Awards 2021

About the PVEIT 2021 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 March 15th to six Holyoke Public Schools educators. 

This year’s Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award winners include: Jose Lopez & Maureen Dunn (Dual Language teachers at EN White); Catherine MacBain (Metcalf School); Jessica Majkowski (Kelly School);   Laurie Walker and  Stephen Monge (Donahue School).

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, tuition grants to take graduate courses at several colleges and universities, as well as other gifts. There will also be a virtual banquet hosted on May 11th at 6pm to celebrate this great honor.

Jessica Majkowski from Kelly School

Jessica Majkowski is a third grade teacher at Kelly School. As a third grade teacher, Jess has blossomed into an attentive designer of instruction. She is caring and nurturing while holding strong expectations for her scholars. Her classroom management style during remote instruction honors scholars in a culturally responsive manner that enables them to thrive. She consistently provides a safe environment where scholars feel safe to take academic risks and to persevere in their learning. 

Additionally, Jess has been a member of the Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) for three consecutive years. As an ILT member, Jess has engaged in thoughtful data analysis to inform school and student achievement strategies. She has participated in, and led, peer learning walks to enable her colleagues to reflect on the implementation of our School Improvement Plan with a lens on Gradual Release of Responsibility. Her astute and deliberate contributions to our school improvement processes have led to explicit school strategies that have had a measurable impact on teachers’ instructional practice.

Stephen Monge from Donahue School

Stephen Monge has been awarded the New Teacher Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award. Stephen is in his second year as a teacher and during that time he has served as a highly skilled Reading, Writing, and Social Studies teacher. Stephen has exemplary talent for developing and implementing student-centered teaching practices that build on students’ strengths and reveal positive, long-term outcomes for all learners.  He teaches with passion and uses multiple strategies to cultivate powerful student thinking that has developed strong readers and writers. Additionally, Stephen displays expertise for building relational trust with school leaders and teachers. His colleagues respect him and value his judgment. He is reflective and thoughtful, committed to our culturally responsive focus, and questions how to increase his capacity to impact student learning on a daily basis. 

Catherine MacBain from Metcalf School

Catherine MacBain has been an English Learner (EL) teacher and a Dual Language Coach in the Holyoke Public Schools for 25 years. Catherine has a strong understanding of the development of English Language Learners as well as Dual Language Learners. Catherine understands the progression of skills needed to successfully become a fully bilingual student. She fosters both academic and social emotional growth in all of her students. Catherine thinks about each student’s individual needs and tries to meet those needs throughout the day. Her students consistently show strong progress toward meeting grade level standards. Through her strong instruction her students develop the skills to become critical thinkers, problem solvers and overall positive members of our community.

Catherine has spent years putting countless hours of extra time into planning engaging activities for her students. The detail that she puts into planning her lessons is exemplary. She has also been a member of the School Instructional Leadership Team and a mentor to new teachers.

Laurie Walker

Laurie Walker from Donahue School

Laurie Walker has taught middle school math for 30 years. Laurie has supported countless students with both academic learning needs and social emotional needs. Laurie has exemplary talent for developing and implementing teaching practices that reveal positive, long-term outcomes for students. On a daily basis, she builds students’ capacity to become independent learners and mathematical thinkers. Her math lessons are organized in a manner that keep students at the forefront and reveal a root-cause analysis of student need. Laurie’s daily analysis of student data in real time impacts the decisions she makes to meet the educational needs of all her students. This year she has worked hard to ensure that students have what they need during remote learning. Along with members of her team, she has expanded advisory and the exploration of (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and STEM careers.  Laurie is a valued member of the Donahue School Community.

Jose Lopez and Maureen Dunn from EN White

Maureen Dunn and Jose Lopez are the two-member 2nd grade Dual Language team at EN White. Maureen teaches English and Jose Lopez teaches the Spanish part. They launched the grade 2 dual language program during the 2019-2020 school year. Both educators sought out training through the Massachusetts Association of Bilingual Education (MABE), University of Massachusetts (UMASS), and other partners to ensure that they were prepared to provide HPS students with the best dual language experience.

Maureen and Jose did not know each other when they were assigned as a team, but worked over the summer to solidify their partnership and calibrate their instructional practices. Both educators quickly moved to online learning in March of 2020 without missing a beat.  They continued with their strong, engaging instruction in the fall of 2020.  Most notable is the support they provided to parents during these challenging times. In the year of COVID-19, building strong trusting relationships with families is just as important as ensuring students meet their academic standards.  Jose and Maureen have done both on a daily basis.  Trusting relationships with families is just as important as ensuring students meet their academic standards.

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