First Annual Excellence in Education: Living our Guiding Principles Monthly Award

Home E CES Stories E First Annual Excellence in Education: Living our Guiding Principles Monthly Award
Article Author: Kathryn Levesque
Publication Name: Collaborative for Educational Services
Article Date: 11/15/2021
Article URL:

Collaborative for Educational Services educators working with youth in the care of the MA Department of Youth Services (DYS) do tremendous work facilitating youth success across a range of outcomes. They do so, in part, by embodying the guiding principles that the organization has embraced in their work with DYS. To recognize these educators, CES has introduced a monthly Excellence in Education: Living our Guiding Principles Award. The award is given to a teacher for each of the five DYS regions; and a statewide winner will be selected at the end of the year.

Said Director of Education, Woody Clift: 

“It brings me great pleasure to announce the winners of October’s Excellence in Education-Living our Guiding Principles award. I celebrate our colleagues for the positive impact they have on everything we do, most especially, their students.”

Colleagues and/or students nominated each of these exemplary educators. They represent the very first winners of this award recognizing educators across the DYS workforce who, through their craft, embody one or more of the Guiding Principles including: College, Career, and Civic Readiness; Culture and Purpose; and Social Justice and Equity. These are  central to the organization’s mission to improve the academic and life outcomes for the youth they serve.

Danielle Maco, Teaching Coordinator for RFK Girls Treatment in South Hadley, MA was selected as the award winner for the Western Region. Danielle was nominated by her students and program staff for her work with the Culture and Purpose principle. Her students commented, “Ms. Danielle makes me feel I can do anything, even when I don’t believe it myself,” and she makes me enjoy and want to come to school, and is my light in this dark time I am in.”

Katie Vadenais is a Teaching Coordinator at the Paul T. Leahy Center in Worcester, MA; Central Region. Her nomination highlighted her contributions to Culture and Purpose as well as College, Career and Civic Readiness.  In nominating Katie, colleagues shared: “Working in a detention setting can be very challenging. For many students, this is their first experience in DYS. Katie offers a safe learning environment for all students, many who come in with a variety of social, emotional and educational issues; which includes a consistent routine for class procedures while still offering choices and differentiating approaches. She is not afraid to tackle difficult issues, often creating lessons that address those issues specifically and include historic and contemporary connections. Katie manages the discussion well, treating students with respect so that their voices may be heard..Katie also integrates art into many of her lessons, creating a safe, joyful space where students may express themselves creatively.”

Mindy Nguyen, Teaching Coordinator at Carbone Hall in Framingham, MA, received the award for the Northeast Region for her contributions to Culture and Purpose as well as College, Career and Civic Readiness. Colleagues said about Mindy: “Mindy has developed relationships with students and staff that have had a very positive effect on the climate and perception of education at her program. She developed classroom norms with student input which supported behavior and engagement, and has provided excellent support to her students to help them make progress with their coursework.”

Samia Peterson, ELA and History teacher at EBDU in the Metro Region was selected for exemplifying the Guiding Principle of Culture and Purpose. Her colleagues shared that Samia “has led the way with starting the EYF curriculum on the unit and has demonstrated creative ways to engage each youth in career and life skill readiness,” and that she “creates a safe place for students to take academic risks and builds scaffolding to support students in reaching for and succeeding in higher rigor materials that they are used to trying. Her students feel heard and valued.” 

Pedro Elias, Math and Science Teacher at Brockton Detention in Brockton, MA, Southeast Region was nominated under the guiding principle of culture and purpose. A Teaching Coordinator had this to say about his colleague: “As part of the preparation for Hispanic Heritage Month, Pedro spent a couple of weeks having students help him prepare a mural for the hallways with important historical and cultural information about many of the Hispanic countries in the Caribbean. Pedro shared with the students his own personal story of how he immigrated to this country and his experiences in assimilating to American culture. He shared with them the doubts and fears he had about being able to find a job where he would be able to support his family. More than anything he was able to share with students about how he was able to persevere and has been able to adapt to American society and culture while maintaining his connections to his Peruvian culture. The students were engaged, interested, and asked questions… I have a great admiration and respect for the bond he is able to create with his students. On this day I found that admiration and respect rising to new levels.”

About the DYS Education Initiative

The Collaborative for Educational Services in Northampton, MA, manages the DYS EDUCATION INITIATIVE on behalf of the MA Department of Youth Services. This initiative, spearheaded by Director of Education Woody Clift, Ph.D., provides a range of educational services, including college programming, career exploration, and high school education to youth across the Commonwealth who are in the care of DYS,. In addition to supporting youth success in high school, the program includes efforts to increase access to postsecondary and vocational opportunities, resulting in youth participation in postsecondary classes online or at colleges while in residence and/or in community settings. The Initiative’s College Program offers youth the opportunity to earn college credits toward degree programs through online college courses and college courses taught in DYS facilities by adjunct faculty from one of our higher education partners. 

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