NEWBURYPORT — The Edward G. Molin Awards for Teaching Excellence were awarded this week to three teachers who have been outstanding during the 2013 school year and before.
The recipients were Robin Achin-O’Malley, a Kindergarten teacher at the Brown School; Janice Krusemark, a physical education and wellness teacher at the Nock Middle School; and Michelle MacDougall, a high school math teacher. All three women say they were shocked to hear their names called.
“I always try to figure out who they’re describing,” said Achin-O’Malley, who has been teaching in Newburyport since 1996. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that it would be me.”
The Molin Awards are given yearly to three teachers, one from each level of the school system - elementary, middle and high school. The awards are given in memory of Ed Molin, a Newburyport philanthropist who established the awards to recognize teaching excellence. Recipients are nominated by their colleagues before being selected by a committee of teachers.
MacDougall, who has been teaching in Newburyport for 16 years, said that it is an especially high honor to be nominated for an award by her peers.
“It was humbling,” she said. “I was honored, because there are so many fantastic teachers at the high school. I work with a great group.”
Krusemark, a 12-year veteran of Newburyport schools, agreed. “It is a very big honor to be acknowledged by your peers for the work that you do,” she said.
All three of the recipients say that they focus on helping individual students reach their full potential. Seeing them reach their goal is what keeps the teachers motivated, they said.
“Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces when they reach their goals, and knowing that you’ve helped them reach those goals is the best,” said Krusemark, who has been teaching physical education and wellness for 12 years. “Just to see them acknowledge, understand and enjoy a skill is great.”
Achin-O’Malley agreed. “I teach them to be their own best learner,” she said. “And I am giving them the beginning steps for that.”
MacDougall said that having clear structure and expectations in the classroom helps to keep her students focused.
“They know what to do to be successful in the classroom,” she said.
As for keeping herself motivated, MacDougall relies on her passion.
“I truly love my subject,” she said. “When kids get it, it is fantastic.”
She said that seeing students through four years of school is especially rewarding. “Seeing high school students mature is the best part,” she said.
Although Achin-O’Malley teaches much younger students, she loves seeing them mature as well, even after they have left her classroom. “I see graduates who are driving, going to college and starting their careers,” she said. “The rewards are triple and quadruple fold.”
Krusemark was pleased that a physical education and wellness teacher was recognized by her peers.
“I feel that [physical education teachers] are just as important, because of all the things we do that compliment what others do in the classroom,” she said. “We do a lot of life skills that round out the entire child.”
Because of her strong beliefs in the importance of her subject, there is one word that Krusemark does not allow in her classroom - gym.
“In years past people thought of gym teachers as just throwing a ball, but we do a lot of physical fitness and skills,” Krusemark said. “We’ve been a long way.”
Each recipient of the Molin Award is given $500 and a silver bowl. And, as they continue teaching, the passing of knowledge goes both ways.
“They’re teaching me too,” said Achin-O’Malley.