Home News and Features Montpelier Roxbury Honors Outstanding Educators

Montpelier Roxbury Honors Outstanding Educators

Mary Cat Reed and Rachel Popoli were nominated by the Montpelier Roxbury Public School district to be the Outstanding Teachers of 2023-24.
Montpelier Roxbury Public Schools announced this year’s outstanding educator awards on Friday, Sept. 22. The honors go to Rachel Popoli of Roxbury Village School and Mary Cat Reed of Union Elementary School. Popoli and Reed will be honored at the 43rd annual Outstanding Educator Awards event scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 2, at the UVM Dudley H. Davis Center Grand Maple Ballroom beginning at 3:30 p.m.

“I believe it’s really important for teachers to be strong models of an accepting society,” Reed stated in an email to The Bridge. “Outside a child’s family, teachers have the next greatest impact on students. We need to teach children how to accept, respect and value differences.” Reed also said she knew she wanted to be a teacher from a young age after reading the “Little House on the Prairie” series and “Anne of Green Gables.” She started out at Union Elementary as a substitute.

Reed’s hero is Tom Smith, her father’s best friend. Smith was paralyzed at the age of 19, but is a positive, thoughtful person with a “wonderful sense of humor,” she says. Reed loves spending time with family and friends, being outdoors, and being with her dogs.

As for Popoli, she said she decided to go into elementary education while in college. She felt strongly about wanting to help children. As for working at Roxbury Village School, she said, “When I first visited Roxbury Village School years ago to interview for a 1st grade position, (which didn’t work out), the small school vibe and gorgeous raised garden beds … caught my attention. Years later I applied for a dual preschool and elementary special education position.” Popoli said her goal is to bring positivity and creativity to her job. Her hero is her Mom who was a multilingual teacher for women in Laos and Cambodia.

Popoli has been at Roxbury Village School since 2021. She started as the preschool teacher combined with special education teacher, but, since 2023 has been the full time special education teacher. She is known for her love of nature and outdoors, excellence in early childhood education, and dedication to meeting students where their needs arise.

The award is organized by the University of Vermont’s College of Education and Social Services in collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Education. Every year, the College of Education and Social Services, together with the Vermont supervisory unions and school districts — along with the agency of education and the NEA — join to honor the state’s outstanding educators, according to uvm.com. A supervisory union is allowed to nominate up to two educators, plus a third from their technical school if they have one. Those teachers then are eligible to be considered for the Vermont Teacher of the Year. Robyn Newton, a physical education teacher at Vergennes Union Elementary, was chosen as last year’s Vermont Teacher of the Year.

Outstanding teachers interested in applying for the Vermont Teacher of the Year award must submit an application to be considered by the Vermont Agency of Education. A volunteer committee made up of previous Vermont Teachers of the Year assess the applications and recommend finalists to the Agency of Education. The finalists must give a brief speech to the Vermont State Board of Education. The AOE makes the final determination. Vermont’s Teacher of the Year becomes a candidate for the National Teacher of the Year award and will travel to Washington D.C. for a spring reception in the White House.

Montpelier Roxbury’s Bibba Kahn of Main Street Middle School was named state teacher of the year in 2020; U-32’s Kate McCann won the honor in 2017; and Sue Koch of Union Elementary School won in 2016.

“I’m so psyched to announce the MRPS UVM Outstanding Teachers of the Year! This year, we celebrate the amazing Rachel Popoli from Roxbury Village School and Mary Cat Reed from Union Elementary School,” wrote Montpelier Roxbury Public School Superintendent Libby Bonesteel Friday, Sept. 22. “These two fabulous educators truly represent this award in all its glory.”

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