Waterbury Public Schools Teacher of the Year Recognition

Last Updated: 8/2/2019 5:20 PM

Each year Waterbury Public Schools has the opportunity to select a teacher to serve as its district Teacher of the Year.  The Waterbury Teacher of the Year is then eligible to compete for the Connecticut State Teacher of the Year recognition.


The teacher selected should be exemplary in the classroom as well as someone who goes above and beyond the basic requirements of teaching. They should contribute to the school culture and demonstrate commitment to the school community. The teacher should be representative of the school in which they teach and be able and willing to represent Waterbury (if selected) in the state competition. 

Principals form (or use an existing committee) to develop a pool of three nominees for the building. No nominee may serve on this committee. If the committee used is a standing committee within the building, then nominees MUST recuse themselves from any deliberations on this subject. The Principal will choose a building winner from among the three nominees and submit this selection to the Teacher of the Year Committee. Each building-level Teacher of the Year will receive a certificate at a recognition ceremony, usually held in late May or early June.

WPS Teacher of the Year Award Winners 

2020: Andre Foote, Walsh Elementary School (Current Teacher of the Year)

Waterbury Public Schools is delighted to announce that Mr. Andre Foote has been named the District’s 2020 Teacher of the Year. Andre, who has been with the District for six years, is a music teacher at Walsh Elementary School and also teaches at Kingsbury Elementary School one day a week. He is beloved by his school community, which said “Andre finds the good in all of his students and asks them to dig deep within themselves, finding strength and goodness.” Mr. Foote is deeply committed to his community and organizes several yearly concerts and performances in Waterbury. His passion for music education has also taken him to Uganda twice, where he partnered with local schools to teach music to students.

“It is such an honor to be named Waterbury Teacher of the Year,” said Mr. Andre Foote shortly after Friday’s announcement. "I want to first say a huge thank you to my administrators, my co-workers and friends at Walsh Elementary School, to Dr. Ruffin and the Teacher of the Year Committee, and, of course, all of my students. The Teacher of the Year application process has given me a lot of time to reflect. In doing so, I can't help but feel grateful for all I have been blessed to be a part of, not only as a teacher, but as a teacher in Waterbury, Connecticut. Other teachers may say it all the time, but we really do have the best students in the world. I can't think of any place I would rather be than in a room full of students singing songs, laughing, playing instruments and having fun. To be recognized for this is just the icing on the cake. Thank you all so much for this nomination. It truly is an honor.”

“Mr. Foote initially envisioned obtaining a degree in education as a means to “fall back on” only to later realize his talents, passion and ability to impact and influence students in a most profound manner,” said Superintendent Verna D. Ruffin. “He found his passion. His vision grew to include one of the most powerful ways that one can impact lives…he became a teacher.  Mr. Foote is an outstanding teacher excelling in inspiring students to pursue excellence, engage in culturally relevant learning and experience the world of music and sharing the music with others. He challenges the dilemma urban communities face when music or the arts are not prioritized and expanded. He finds a way to make it happen. It is with great honor that Waterbury Public Schools announces the exemplary work of this outstanding teacher, musician, and professional as Teacher of the Year.”

Ms. Jillian Cipriano, a 4th grade teacher at Driggs Elementary School, and Mrs. Alison Kirchberger, a 5th grade teacher at Hopeville Elementary School were also selected among several applicants as Waterbury Teacher of the Year finalists. Mr. Foote will be considered for the title of Connecticut Teacher of the Year, which is traditionally announced in the fall.

WPS honors a Teacher of the Year from each of our schools. The District extends its deepest congratulations to all of them on this recognition.

Teachers of the Year


AnnMarie DeCarlo- Bucks Hill Annex

Alexandra Robalino- Bucks Hill

Howard Rochon- Bunker Hill

Jos Gagnon- Carrington

Angelica Cavallo- Chase

Jillian Cipriano- Driggs

Erin Scirica- Duggan

Christina Piccochi- Generali

Catherine Dwyer- Gilmartin

Alison Kirchberger- Hopeville

Kelly Cassone- Kingsbury

Siobhan Kalnins- Maloney Interdistrict Magnet

Kim Rock- Reed

Christine Schmied- Regan

Cheyenne Walent- Rotella Interdistrict Magnet

Kathleen Napolitano- Sprague

Sharon Cantor- Tinker

Andre Foote- Walsh

Stephanie Rua- Washington

Marnee Capobianco- Wendell Cross

Andrea Perrelli- Wilson


Nikoleta Kollchaku- Crosby High School

Traci Wells- Enlightenment School

Danielle Byron- Kennedy High School

Lisa Fenn- North End Middle School

Heather Matthews- State Street School

Lisa Palombo- Wallace Middle School

Jaclyn Gibson- Waterbury Arts Magnet School

Michael Labagh- Waterbury Career Academy

Harley Gaafar (awarded posthumously)- West Side Middle School

Joseph Perusse- Wilby High School

2019: Lisa M. Romano, Rotella Interdistrict Magnet School

Lisa Romano is a true teacher, whether she is in her classroom, outside at recess, in the auditorium monitoring, she inspires students to do their best. Lisa is a lifelong learner, just receiving her 6th year leadership degree, visiting colleagues during her prep time to sharpen her skills, and sharing articles with colleagues and her twitter followers. This year she started a Leadership Program with 5th grade students, and it is amazing how much these students have grown as leaders. She is a compassionate, sincere teacher as evidenced by the fact that five of her colleagues chose to nominate her, each complimenting her on her passion and drive.

2018: Ryan Carpenter, North End Middle School

Ryan Carpenter is an English language arts teacher who contributed and created many student programs. Ryan initiated NEMS’ participation in the vocabulary.com bowl and scored highest middle school in CT. He developed the curriculum around the book Bronx Masquerade which has since been adopted by other schools in the district. To add, Ryan is also a three-time winner Generali Grant and founded four projects through DonorsChoose. He also participated and lead students in sports teams by becoming head coach of the boys baseball team and the assistant coach of the cross country team. His leadership skills were further shown in his participation as a TEAM Mentor for beginning teachers and presented school and district-wide professional development. Ryan also coordinates 8th grade activities and is a teacher in the CPEP program. 

2017: Yolanda Lee-Gorishti, Crosby High School

Yolanda Lee-Gorishti teaches physical science and human biology. Yolanda started Crosby’s branch of the Science National Honor Society, which has soared. Students participate in community-service work, including tutoring their peers twice a week. She organized the STEM Fair at Crosby for the past four years and supervises the Environmental Science Club. Yolanda serves on the Science District Curriculum Committee and has helped write district assessments for science.

2016: Ann Grace Spizzoucco, Wallace Middle School

Ann Grace Spizzoucco has taught sixth grade English language arts at Wallace since 2005. She has also taught Italian at both Wallace and Crosby High School. Ann has served as a member of the school-wide Leadership Team, as a facilitator for the Data team, as a member of the School Governance Council of both Wallace and Crosby and as a mentor for the check-in/check-out program for students at risk. Ann attributes much of her teaching success to high expectations and creates an atmosphere where students aspire to excel. 

2015: Jahana Hayes, Kennedy High School; 2016 National Teacher of the Year 

Jahana Hayes taught history at Kennedy High School. She was an exemplary educator who brought a sense of community to the classroom. She attributed part of her success as a teacher to her ability to relate to her students. As she described during her interview, “I am that urban child.”  She is particularly proud to have spear-headed an effort to write a successful grant proposal for a $25,000 planning grant to recruit minority staff to the district. In 2016, Jahana was named the National Teacher of the Year and was honored by former Presdient Barack Obama at a ceremony at the White House. 

2014: Patricia Williams, Wallace Middle School

Patricia Williams teaches English Language Arts. Patricia is an exemplary educator who impressed the Teacher of the Year committee with her commitment to constantly reflect on her own performance as a teacher each day with the goal of improving her teaching so that her students can learn and achieve. They liked Patricia's characterization of our students as having “big personalities” that can be put to full advantage in an active classroom environment. She currently teaches at Crosby High School.

2013: Nina Agostine-Smith, Waterbury Arts Magnet School

Nina Agostine-Smith was a theater arts teacher at Waterbury Arts Magnet School. Nina's community involvement included Kyla’s Road to the Cure, Shakesperience Productions, the Seven Angels Theater HALO Awards and Autism Speaks. As part of her theater arts productions, she regularly developed and distributed study guides for fellow teachers, including lesson plans, text analysis and possible research opportunities for students, so that the production tied into current curriculum. 

2012: Vincent Balsamo, Kennedy High School

Vincent Balsamo was a math teacher at Kennedy High School and now serves as Principal of Wallace Middle School. He created the high school's first robotics team. Vincent encouraged his students to participate in their school community. He believes that all students want to feel accepted and capable and that it is important that he model positive skills. 

2011: James Butler, Waterbury Arts Magnet School

James Butler exemplifies the teaching profession. James has been teaching social studies for 12 years. He develops and implements lessons that place students in the moment, while making connections to other disciplines. His students are instilled with confidence and exceptional content knowledge, prepared to meet the challenges of the world. James his respected by his students and colleagues for his compassion.

2010: JoAnne Piccirillo, Carrington Elementary School

JoAnne Piccirillo was a fifth grade teacher at Carrington Elementary School. JoAnne went beyond teaching content. She taught students how to self-evaluate and guide their own learning. She incorporated real world examples into her lessons. From listening to current events on the news to looking for science experiments in her flower garden, she was constantly looking for new ways to connect learning with life.

2009: Alison Cremins, Kennedy High School

Alison Cremins was an English Lanuage Arts teacher at Kennedy High School. Alison is extremely capable of engagig students and motivating them to achieve and make strides through the curriculum. While at Kennedy, she assumed the lead in the school's Positive Behavioral Support program and was intrumental in trying to make a systemic change in the culture of the school. She was one of the program's lead teachers and made incredible efforts in improving student behavior and attendance. She is a role model of civic responsibility, leading the "WAM-bassadors," student council, the high school newspaper and blood drives. Alison currently teaches English Language Arts at West Side Middle School.

Waterbury Public Schools
236 Grand Street
Waterbury, CT 06702
Phone: (203) 574-8000

Fax: (203) 574-8010