Photo Gallery | 2014 Berkshire County Educator Recognition Awards


NORTH ADAMS -- Some call them heroes. Some call them legends. But on a daily basis, they call themselves teachers.

During a ceremony held last week before nearly 60 attendees at the Church Street Center, educators Jo-ellen Height, Patricia Robie and Dr. Brad Whateley were honored as recipients of this year's Berkshire County Educator Recognition Award, presented by and at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

The award program was created four years ago in collaboration with the Berkshire County Superintendents Roundtable to honor the region's exceptional teachers working in the K-12 sector.

"All educators touch the future by working with the leaders, thinkers, citizens, entrepreneurs and activists of tomorrow," said Cynthia Brown, MCLA's vice president of academic affairs. She said the award ceremony -- which includes graduate students, mentor teachers and veteran educators of Berkshire County -- is a chance to recognize "the whole continuum of teaching" and to inspire a new generation of aspiring educators.

"In this field, we as professionals are a combination of who we are and what we know," said Southern Berkshire Regional School District Superintendent David Hastings, who heads the Berkshire County Superintendents Round table. "You are the best of the best," Hastings said of the three honorees.

Jo-ellen Height has more than 45 years of experience as a teacher and speech and language therapist. She was an advocate effective in shutting down state institutions that segregated students with special needs from their typical peers. Her current role is as an integrated special needs pre-kindergarten teacher at Undermountain Elementary School in Sheffield, where she has taught for the past 38 years.

Height said she was grateful for the award program and that "teachers do not often receive positive recognition for their work."

In addition, she has provided leadership in the Southern Berkshire Regional School District in helping the district receive National Association for Educators of Young Children accreditation, and she regularly contributes to numerous district committees, personnel search and curriculum teams.

"My job as a teacher is to help each child shine in his or her own way," she said. Amid all the current state evaluation and curriculum mandates, she said, her hope is to remind and encourage her colleagues to "take a breath and to commit to what is really important -- the students."

Patricia Robie currently teaches fourth grade at Becket Washington School in the Central Berkshire Regional School District. A teacher for 15 years who has taught in Grades 3, 4 and 5, as well as study skills courses for grades K through 5, "Robie is not only an effective teacher, she has contributed to curriculum alignment, promotes family and community involvement, and otherwise integrates her work with support of the wider community," Brown said.

Robie also provides mentoring to new teachers, and she serves on the Innovation School Planning Board for her school, as well as on Becket Washington's School Council and Parent-Teacher Organization.

"I'm no different than the hundreds of teachers in Berkshire County who do what I do every day," said a humbled Robie. She said she hopes teachers can continue to work together to support each other and help provide a quality education for their students.

Dr. Brad Whateley worked as a primary care physician for 20 years before becoming a physics teacher at Pittsfield High School 10 years ago. Today, Whateley "is a calm and inspiring teacher who truly engages students in what can be a challenging subject," Brown said of the math and physics teacher.

She said that since joining the PHS faculty, Whateley has expanded the school's Advanced Placement (AP) physics program from one to three full sections, and has provided leadership in adding an early physics program and engineering academy. He also serves as a mentor of new teachers, an adviser of the National Honor Society, and is an active member of the Pittsfield High School community.

He said his goal is to "plant a little seed of scholarship in every student" to help them succeed and exercise their full potential.

In addition to being honored with a ceremony, the three teachers each received citations from the state House of Representatives and Senate, and were given a stipend for personal use, and a stipend to use toward classroom programs or materials.

To reach Jenn Smith:
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On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink