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Waterbury Public Schools Teacher of the Year Recognition

Last Updated: 5/4/2022 5:31 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 is honored at the Celebration of Excellence in Education awards ceremony, usually held in late May or early June.

WPS Teacher of the Year Award Winners 


Educators of the Year


Bucks Hill Preschool- Linda M. Fournier

Bucks Hill – Alyse Ramos

Bunker Hill- Melissa J. Stango

B.W. Tinker- Michele Parks

Carrington- Melissa Thompson

Driggs- Kathryn Ijomah

F.J. Kingsbury- Brian T. Larkin

Frank G. Regan- Alexander Welch

Gilmartin- Laura Caruso

Hopeville- Mark Esposito

International Dual Language School- Nilsa Garcia 

John Duggan- Julie St.Hilaire

Jonathan E. Reed- Michele Choi

Maloney Interdistrict Magnet- Esther Colangelo

M.M. Generali- Dennis Poulter

Rotella Interdistrict Magnet- Marly Parker

Sprague- Eneida Grazhdani

Walsh- Jennifer Lillian

Washington- Cherie Corbo

Wendell L. Cross- Lisa Rizzo

Woodrow Wilson- Selma Mirto 


Crosby High School- Albert Chabot II

Enlightenment School- Nicole Lichaj

John F. Kennedy High School- Angela Joyce 

North End Middle School- Sarah Carpenter

State Street Program- Susan Lawlor

Wallace Middle School- Cyndi Mercogliano

Waterbury Arts Magnet School- Ralph Belvedere 

Waterbury Career Academy- Sara Paradis 

West Side Middle School- Sequoia Johnson-Cieslewsk

Wilby High School- Chelsea Slade


2021: Jason Martinez, North End Middle School 
Waterbury Public Schools is delighted to announce that Mr. Jason Martinez has been named the district’s 2021 Teacher of the Year. Mr. Martinez, who has been with the district for 17 years, is a physical education teacher at North End Middle School. He is beloved by his school community, which described him as someone who “shares his positivity and enthusiasm for learning with his students every day.” Mr. Martinez embraced this extraordinarily challenging year, designing a 10-week virtual fitness program for his students.

Mr. Martinez is a lifelong resident of the city and is deeply committed to his community, spearheading the city’s Kids Marathon Program, which has grown to be the largest outreach program in the city, for several years. He also served as head football coach at Crosby High School.

“We are very excited that Mr. Martinez has been selected as this year’s Waterbury Teacher of the Year,” said Superintendent Verna D. Ruffin. “He is devoted to his students and exemplifies the best of the teaching profession, inspiring his colleagues through the years and particularly this year.”

Ms. Gramatto (Grace) Tzepos Morikis, a 4th grade teacher at Bunker Hill Elementary School, Ms. Krislyn Petti, an English Language Arts teacher at Wilby High School, Ms. Stefanie Ann-Teta Porcaro, an art teacher at Rotella Interdistrict Magnet School and Ms. Mary-Ann Sagnella, PhD, a World Language teacher at John F. Kennedy High School, were also selected among several applicants as Waterbury Teacher of the Year finalists. Mr. Martinez will be considered for the title of Connecticut Teacher of the Year, which is traditionally announced in the fall.

The district extends its deepest congratulations to all of this year’s honorees. The teachers, selected by their school, have been recognized for their incredible contributions to the field of education. Each one has inspired a love for learning in their students and has supported their colleagues through an extraordinarily challenging year.

2020: Andre Foote, Walsh Elementary School

Andre Foote 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 communities, which said “Andre finds the good in all of his students and asks them to dig deep within themselves, finding strength and goodness.” Andre 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. He inspires 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.

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, John F. 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, John F. 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, John F. 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. 

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

Fax: (203) 574-8010