NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) has announced the recipients of the Seventh Annual Berkshire County Educator Recognition Award. This award, given by MCLA in collaboration with Berkshire County K-12 superintendents and Berkshire Community College (BCC), was created to honor the region’s exceptional teachers.

This year’s recipients will be recognized on Thursday, May 4, at 5:30 p.m. in Murdock Hall room 218, on the MCLA campus. The event is free and open to the public.

The recipients are Lisa Kelly Kane (Early Childhood – Community Setting), director of St. Paul’s Children Center of Stockbridge; Robin Poirot (PreK-Grade 2), a kindergarten teacher at Cheshire Elementary School in Cheshire; Allison Fisher (Grades 3-6), a special education teacher for the fifth and sixth grades at Monument Valley Middle School in Great Barrington; and Stephanie Kopala (Grades 7-12), a social studies/history teacher at Drury High School in North Adams.

“Each year, MCLA is proud and pleased to recognize the dedication and commitment of exceptional teachers who work diligently to teach, guide and encourage our children to become the best that they can be,” said MCLA President James F. Birge. “We are delighted to honor and celebrate this year’s award recipients, whose efforts have benefitted so many children through their love of teaching and exemplary service to the profession and the community.”

Kane began her career at St. Paul’s Children Center in Stockbridge in 1984 as a preschool teacher, and became its director in 1987. To achieve her goal of accreditation for the Center by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, she took courses in leadership at BCC and created a wonderful network of teachers for its staff, according to Dr. Jake Eberwein, dean of Graduate and Continuing Education at MCLA.

Kane holds a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and early childhood education from the former Westfield State College, now Westfield State University.

Poirot has been a teacher for nearly 30 years. As a kindergarten teacher at Cheshire Elementary School, it’s been her goal to show each of her students that she deeply cares for them, Eberwein said.  In doing so, he continued, she has created a compassionate classroom environment with clear purpose and high expectations. Described as a selfless educator, Poirot is a teacher leader, active in her school and community in raising funds for local causes, recognizing local heroes, and supporting her students in and outside of the classroom – always going above and beyond, according to Eberwein.

A graduate of Hoosac Valley High School, Poirot earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education from the former North Adams State College, now MCLA, and a license in special needs in education from the former Westfield State College, now Westfield State University. She went on to complete her Master of Arts degree in education with a focus on integrating arts in the classroom at Lesley University in Cambridge.

Fisher teaches special education for grades five and six at Monument Valley Middle School in Great Barrington, where she is a project leader for assessment. Her responsibilities include teaching English language arts, reading and mathematics, and supporting the needs and ensuring the success of students with individualized education plans – both inside and outside of the classroom. She is a fierce advocate for her students, most of whom have learning disabilities, Eberwein said, leading her peers and her school community in embracing inclusive and effective practices that catalyze the growth and achievement of her students.

A certified reading specialist, special education, social studies and in English teacher, Fisher earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in social studies education from the University of Albany in Albany, N.Y., and a Master’s of Science degree in education, with a major in education, from Simmons College in Boston. In addition, she completed the Reading Specialist Licensure Program at MCLA.

Kopala is a social studies teacher for grades eight through 12 at Drury High School in North Adams, where she also is an 8-12 history team leader and a College Board Advanced Placement (AP) World History Reader. In addition, she is the K-12 social studies curriculum coordinator for North Adams Public Schools, serves as president of the North Adams Teacher Union, and sits on the District’s Teaching and Learning Team.

According to Eberwein, as a team and curriculum leader, Kopala has driven curriculum renewal, and explores and implements leading edge pedagogies in her classroom and across the school. She is passionate and committed to the success of her students and, in doing so, is shaping the future of her community. She earned a teaching license and Bachelor of Arts degree in history, summa cum laude, from MCLA, a Master of Education degree in reading from MCLA, and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) from the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine.

The celebratory event will also recognize MCLA education students who are preparing to become educators, and the many cooperating classroom teachers who support them through field experiences and an intensive, semester-long, student teaching placement. Additionally, this event coincides with National Teacher Appreciation Week in commending all Berkshire educators who commit their time and talents to ensure the growth and progress of students across our region.   

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth's public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.

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