Three teachers honored as Molin Awards recipients

This year’s Molin Awards winners, from left, Renee Ames for the elementary schools, Jen Groskin of the Nock Middle School and Brandon Sturma from Newburyport High School.BRYAN EATON/Staff Photo

NEWBURYPORT — Three social studies teachers were honored Friday morning at the annual Edward G. Molin Awards — a 37-year tradition to recognize teaching excellence in the Newburyport School District.

Renee Ames, Jen Groskin and Brandon Sturma are the three recipients of the Molin Awards for 2019. The three gathered among a group of their peers in the Rupert A. Nock Middle School auditorium to support and praise one another after a successful school year. Superintendent Sean Gallagher said the ceremony is a nice way for teachers to end the year on a positive note.

The Molin Awards have three categories. For 2019, Ames received the elementary award, Groskin the middle school award and Sturma the high school award. All three honorees are social studies teachers, which Groskin said helps emphasize the importance of teaching students about civics and their country’s history.

In addition, Sturma noted the importance of preparing students at the high school level to become an even bigger asset to the community after graduation.

“Everyone mentioned something about civic engagement,” said Sturma, who added he was humbled to receive the high school award. “The walls of the school are just walls. We have to prepare them to be members of their community.”

As teachers from Francis T. Bresnahan Elementary School, Edward G. Molin Elementary School, Nock Middle School and Newburyport High School sat in the audience, their colleagues read descriptions and speeches about the work the award recipients do on a daily basis for their students. The winners were announced at the end of each speech, creating a mystery for their coworkers to solve as the descriptions were read out loud.

Some teachers read about the volunteer work their colleagues have done, including leading Habitat for Humanity trips, leading the Walk for Hunger and coaching after school sports. Others mentioned not only the subjects they teach in class, but that their teaching goes above and beyond to meet the needs of every student.

All were described as natural born leaders and some revealed quirks and jokes they like to tell each other during the day. Teachers from the Nock School described Groskin as the “Energizer Bunny,” as she leads the Clipper Crew, a middle school community service club. Groskin also brings students to visit the Massachusetts Statehouse and teaches students about making a difference, her colleagues said.

“This teacher works very hard to differentiate and nurture the strengths of each student both academically and socially,” said Tracy Hawkins, one of Groskin’s colleagues. “Her mind never stops conjuring up new ways to support students in the classroom as they learn about the history of our government, all while discovering who they are and who they want to be as ever-changing teenagers.”

Ames was praised for her ability to teach social skills and her efforts to change to support all students, even if one student is struggling. Additionally, Ames was honored for focusing on skills- and project-based learning in her third-grade classroom. Ames has spent time teaching in South America, according to her colleagues, who added her visits to third-world countries help teach students about minimalism.

Sturma, who mainly teaches eleventh-grade American history, was described, according to the speech, as a tall gentleman, resembling Gandalf, a prominent wizard from “Lord of the Rings.” His colleagues also mentioned Sturma’s passion for teaching and ability to be a valued team player.

Although the three award recipients teach in different buildings, Groskin has a close connection with the Sturma and Ames through coaching cross country and ultimate frisbee, creating a link among all three schools and teachers.

Staff writer Amanda Getchell covers Newburyport and Seabrook. Follow her on Twitter @ajgetch.

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