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Merrimack Valley teacher named state’s special educator of the year

  • Merrimack Valley Middle School assembles to honor Faith Greene, who was named the Middle School Special Educator of the Year; Monday, April 1, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Merrimack Valley Middle School assembles to honor Faith Greene, who was named the Middle School Special Educator of the Year; Monday, April 1, 2013.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Sixth-grader Trenton Holland hugs Faith Greene, who was named the Middle School Special Educator of the Year, during a school assembly; Monday, April 1, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Sixth-grader Trenton Holland hugs Faith Greene, who was named the Middle School Special Educator of the Year, during a school assembly; Monday, April 1, 2013.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Merrimack Valley Middle School students do "the wave" during an assembly to honor Faith Greene, who was named the Middle School Special Educator of the Year; Monday, April 1, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Merrimack Valley Middle School students do "the wave" during an assembly to honor Faith Greene, who was named the Middle School Special Educator of the Year; Monday, April 1, 2013.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Merrimack Valley Middle School assembles to honor Faith Greene, who was named the Middle School Special Educator of the Year; Monday, April 1, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Sixth-grader Trenton Holland hugs Faith Greene, who was named the Middle School Special Educator of the Year, during a school assembly; Monday, April 1, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Merrimack Valley Middle School students do "the wave" during an assembly to honor Faith Greene, who was named the Middle School Special Educator of the Year; Monday, April 1, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

Just before 2 p.m. yesterday, Merrimack Valley Middle School teacher Faith Greene was making what she thought was a trip to the gymnasium’s supply closet to find new classroom equipment. But as she got closer to the gym doors, she started to hear commotion.

When she turned the corner and walked in, she was greeted by raucous cheers from students, teachers and her family members. The reason for the celebration: Greene has been named Middle School Special Educator of the year, an award that she will officially receive this June at the New Hampshire Excellence in Education Awards.

“When people are asked to explain why they think Mrs. Greene is a great teacher, they hesitate, not because they can’t think of anything to say, but because they don’t know where to begin. She has so many talents she brings to her job,” Principal Pat Severance said.

Greene, of Concord, has been teaching special education for 16 years, with that time spent at Merrimack Valley and Rundlett Middle School. This year, she has eight special education students in her classroom who have a variety of complex physical and mental needs. The state chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children gives out the award each year. A kindergarten teacher from the Merrimack School District is also receiving a Special Educator award this year. Both she and Greene were so qualified that it was impossible to pick just one winner, said Lois Stevens, the group’s past president.

More than a dozen students and teachers took to the podium yesterday, each reading a message of thanks and handing Greene a balloon.

“You have been the source of inspiration to the seventh grade, showing us how to adapt, adjust and recognize the special talent of all our students,” said teacher Kristen John.

Cameron Neilson, one of Greene’s students, said simply: “Mrs. Greene, you love me.”

Greene knew she had been nominated for the award, and a team from the Council for Exceptional Children came to observe her and talk to her colleagues Thursday. But she didn’t know she actually won until the assembly. The school notified her husband, Ben Greene, on Friday, and he said it was hard to keep the news a secret all weekend.
Ben, Greene’s parents, three of her children and her granddaughter all attended the assembly.

Before earning her master’s in education, Greene worked in music, teaching piano and other lessons. But when her oldest children were in elementary school, she remembers seeing the special needs children in the hallways and wanting to be in their teachers’ places.

“I didn’t realize (special education) is where I’d end up,” she said. “But I wanted to work with those kids and who knows why, it’s just like when you know what it is you want to do. And I knew I wanted to work with those kids.”

Several of Greene’s colleagues said her dedication to the individual needs of every student is what makes her stand out as an educator. In addition to teaching students in the classroom, Greene takes them on field trips into the community, helps them learn daily life skills and builds their self-esteem, said Alli Lund, also a special education teacher at the middle school.

“She just tries to meet all of their needs and does that successfully, which is incredibly difficult to do, given all of her responsibilities,” Lund said.

Greene made sure to emphasize the help she gets from all of the aides and teachers in her classroom. As a team, they strive to help the students academically, socially and emotionally by encouraging them to get involved in after-school and social activities.

“Yes, I’m worried about teaching them reading and math, but I’m also worried about them being at the school dance and having a great time,” Greene said.

Greene helps every student discover new heights of their potential, Severance said, whether that’s delivering a note across the building on their own or taking on another new task. The satisfaction her students feel upon completing something drives them to keep learning more, Severance said.

“She makes them know how wonderful it is that they were able to do that, and it doesn’t matter if it’s tie my shoe, if it’s drinking from a water cup if that’s something I couldn’t do before,” she said. “That starting point is where she starts, and then there isn’t anything they can’t do if we know how to teach them how to do it.”

The positive attitude that Greene brings goes far beyond her own classroom, and the number of teachers and students at yesterday’s assembly was evidence of that, Severance said.

With Greene, “there’s no can’t,” Severance said. “She just doesn’t believe that.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or
kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

Legacy Comments1

Congratulations on your outstanding achievement, Faith!

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