Jessica Waters, a science teacher at Beacon Charter High School for the Arts, has beaten out three finalists for Rhode Island Teacher of the Year Award to become the school's first to win the honor.
Waters, 34, is also the first teacher from the school to be nominated for the award, the state Department of Education's annual educator recognition program.
Waters has taught at Beacon since 2008 and was chosen by faculty vote. She was recognized for her passion and enthusiasm in the classroom as well as for her contributions to the professional development of her peers and community-based initiatives she took part in outside the classroom.
“In just her fifth year of teaching, Jessica Waters has earned the respect of her fellow teachers at Beacon and around the state,” said David V. Abbott, the Acting Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “She is known not only for her innovative work as a science teacher but also for her dedication to the welfare of her students, in part through her role as the founder of the Beacon chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions. All of us at the R.I. Department of Education congratulate Jessica Waters on her selection as the 2013 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.”
“Jessica Waters is a teacher who challenges her colleagues with provocative ideas and who is committed to bringing out the best in every one of her students,” said Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, who announced the selection. “She is a shining example for all Rhode Island educators, and she will represent our state well as she vies to become the National Teacher of the Year.”
“Within the past year, the students at the Beacon Charter School have doubled their proficiency level in science, a great tribute to the work of Jessica Waters and her colleagues,” said George D. Caruolo, Chairman of the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education. “As one of her fellow teachers notes, Ms. Waters takes challenging material and makes it engaging. We are pleased to honor her as an outstanding Rhode Island educator.”
In her Teacher of the Year application, Waters recounts that she grew up in a home with parents who had drug-addiction problems and that she dropped out of school in the 10th grade. As she relates, she was distressed when a school counselor made no effort to encourage her to stay in school. “I recall thinking that if I were a teacher I would have tried everything in my power to work with that student,” Waters wrote. She later earned her GED and graduated from CCRI and from Rhode Island College, with a B.A. in secondary education. “I…decided I wanted to be that caring teacher who could make a difference in somebody’s life,” she wrote.