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Anne Marie Bettencourt of Hatfield state Teacher of Year

  • Anne Marie Bettencourt and Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester.

    Anne Marie Bettencourt and Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. Purchase photo reprints »

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO<br/><br/>Anne Marie Bettencourt, right, and Daniel Zukergood, co-wrote "Teaching in the Real World" in 2008.

    GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

    Anne Marie Bettencourt, right, and Daniel Zukergood, co-wrote "Teaching in the Real World" in 2008. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Anne Marie Bettencourt and Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester.
  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO<br/><br/>Anne Marie Bettencourt, right, and Daniel Zukergood, co-wrote "Teaching in the Real World" in 2008.

Bettencourt is the 52nd recipient of this award and automatically becomes the state’s candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Program.

Bettencourt was presented with her award Tuesday morning at Springfield Central High School in a ceremony that included Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and state Sen. James Welch, D-West Springfield.

“I was tickled pink to be able to give this award to Ann Marie,” said state Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. “She is a very deserving recipient and she is emblematic of the excellent teachers we have here in the commonwealth.”

Originally from New Bedford, Bettencourt graduated from New Bedford High School and Syracuse University.

“I had the opportunity to speak with Ann Marie and get to know her,” Chester said. “If you had known Ann Marie in high school, you would never have thought she would be a teacher.”

Now 31, Bettencourt credits two of her New Bedford High teachers with helping her understand the importance of education. It was their support and guidance that bolstered Bettencourt’s self-confidence and determination.

She told the Gazette in 2008 that education was one of the things that saved her life. “I didn’t have much else besides school and some really good teachers,” she said. Bettencourt said writing, in particular, became a way for her to express her frustrations with life at home, and she credits her teachers with turning her education around.

In college, Bettencourt resolved to help students like herself, saying, “they don’t have anyone in their corner,” she said.

While a student teacher at Springfield Central High School, Bettencourt was responsible for writing daily journal entries about her classroom experiences. Her supervisor, Daniel Zukergood, was so impressed with her writing and insight that he suggested her journal be turned into a book.

Shortly thereafter, the apir published “Teaching in the Real World: Strategies to Survive and Thrive,” through Pearson, a higher education firm that is the parent company of Prentice Hall.

After receiving a master’s degree in education from Springfield College in 2006, she began her teaching career as a seventh-grade English language arts (ELA) teacher at Chestnut Middle School in Springfield. Since 2008, Bettencourt has taught ninth-grade ELA at Springfield Central High School.

“The one thing that really impresses me about Ann Marie is that she is someone who knows, from very personal level, the great impact that a teacher can make,” Chester said.

According to school officials, in 2012 more than 90 percent of students Bettencourt taught moved on to the 10th grade, as compared to roughly 50 percent of ninth graders across the district.

For the past three years, Bettencourt has also served as a mentor for student teachers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Springfield College. She works with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, an initiative to improve learning in schools by bringing together educators to deepen their individual and collective experiences as writers.

In a statement released Tuesday, Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Daniel J. Warwick described Bettencourt as “a consummate professional who is committed to helping all students reach their potential. Her work with ninth-graders is truly remarkable.”

Bettencourt will join other exemplary educators — including the Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year, the Milken Family Foundation Award winner for Massachusetts, the finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Teacher of the Year finalists and semifinalists — for an awards ceremony at the Statehouse June 13.

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