Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy math teacher Marielle Emet knew last Friday’s school assembly was important, but she never imagined it would end with her being named a Milken Educator and receiving $25,000 from the Milken Family Foundation.
“We knew we were having an assembly and we knew it was a big deal because the governor was going to be there and Commissioner Gist was going to be there,” said Emet, a 29-year-old resident of Gaspee. “We thought it was to announce something with state testing results.”
But once the presentation began, featuring Governor Lincoln Chafee, Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist and Board of Education Chairwoman Eva-Marie Mancuso, Emet said it was obvious the event had nothing to do with state testing.
The speakers began to describe an individual at the school, and Emet admits that the description sounded like her, even though she never likes to think like that.
When it was announced that she was indeed a 2013 Milken Educator Award winner, Emet says she was shocked.
Emet was completely unaware that she was even nominated for the award since individuals cannot apply for it and everything is kept secret until the all-school assembly.
“It was an overwhelming day,” she said. The first person she called was her husband, who was home with their 8-month-old daughter. “He was just overwhelmed. It’s amazing.”
She was even more shocked when the students began to chant her name.
“That was definitely the best part for me,” said Emet talking about the reaction from her students. “That’s when I really started to loose it.”
And the celebrating has continued. Emet said many of her students have brought her copies of newspaper articles about the ceremony and cards.
“For me, that is what matters most,” said Emet, referring to the support from her students.
Emet has worked at Blackstone Valley Prep Middle School since it opened four years ago, teaching math for fifth and sixth grade.
“It’s an incredible environment to work in,” said Emet, saying that everyone at the school works well together to achieve the same mission of getting “100 percent of scholars on the path to college.”
“We are beyond thrilled. It is such an incredible thing to have a spotlight shined on one of our best,” said Jeremy Chiappetta, executive director of Blackstone Valley Prep. “She is such a team player.”
Chiappetta recalls one of the first things Emet said after winning was that the rest of the teachers she works with deserve the award just as much as she does.
Emet said she works with many teachers who are very dedicated to the scholars and the school, and any one of them “could have and should have won this award.”
Chiappetta said that Emet, who also serves as the school’s academic dean, is an exceptional teacher who presents lessons that are “engaging, thought-out, and rigorous.”
“For me, its about figuring out what makes it fun and engaging for all scholars,” said Emet, who explained that even in a subject like math she tries to incorporate games, competitions and has even performed more than one song and dance routine. “I think all people want to be challenged and be better than they were before.”
“I would put my kids in her classroom in a nano-second,” said Chiappetta.
Chiapetta explained that in addition to her work in the classroom, she assists new teachers, reviews lesson plans for colleagues, leads professional development programs and works with teachers in other districts. Combined with her academic results (in mathematics, Chiappetta says Blackstone Valley Prep has demonstrated some of the highest scores in the state), Emet is more than deserving of this award in Chiappetta’s eyes.
“I think her excellence as a teacher stands out,” he said.
Chafee, Gist and Mancuso agree.
“Marielle Emet came to Rhode Island four years ago to make a difference in students’ lives, and she certainly has done so and more,” Chafee said. “Her colleagues recognize her as a brilliant educator with intelligence, drive, compassion, humor and warmth.”
“It is wonderful to see that Marielle Emet’s hard work at Blackstone Valley Prep has led to positive results, with the 7th grade students reaching 93 percent proficiency in mathematics,” said Mancuso. “Congratulations to Marielle on this well-deserved award, and I also congratulate the teachers, staff members, students and families of Blackstone Valley Prep on their commitment to excellence.”
“Marielle Emet is known at Blackstone Valley Prep not only as an excellent teacher but also as a great leader,” said Gist. “Marielle leads professional initiatives for her colleagues at Blackstone Valley Prep and for teachers in the Central Falls district as well, which truly shows her commitment to teaching and learning for all Rhode Island students.”
So what will Emet do with the unrestricted $25,000 she received?
“I am definitely going to give a portion to charity. Also some practical things as a new mom, but hopefully one fun thing too,” said Emet.
When asked what charities she would consider giving money to, Emet named a number of causes close to her heart. Her sister works in the Peace Corp., and she has an uncle battling cancer, so she could see herself supporting those causes. She will also support Teach For America, an organization she worked with.
“Without Teach For America, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” said Emet.
She explained that Teach For America reaches out to college students, asking them to teach for two years in an under-served school; she participated in the program, teaching in Baltimore City starting in 2006.
“I did Teach For America in Baltimore City two years longer than was required, so I was there a total of four years,” explained Emet, who moved to Rhode Island in 2010 when her husband became a graduate student at Brown University.
While winning a Milken Educator award does not come with any strings attached, Emet explained that it comes with a lot of opportunities such as summer fellowships and networking events with previous award winners in the area. She can see herself participating in those events in the future.
For additional information, please visit www.milkeneducatorawards.org.