Summer Street educator named Teacher of the Year finalist

Apr 12, 2018 by

Published in the March 11, 2018 edition

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — Summer Street School media specialist Alex Caram has spent the last six years trying to give students the best education possible.

Caram’s hard work has paid off, as she has been named a finalist for the 2019 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.

“It is an amazing honor,” said Caram. “I am very lucky to be in a district that allows me to try new things and feel supported. I also work with great teachers and administrators who are willing to be creative and try new things.”

Summer Street School Interim Principal Gregory Hurray nominated Caram to be Teacher of the Year in February.

SUMMER STREET SCHOOL media specialist Alex Caram has been named a 2019 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year finalist. Congratulating Caram on the accomplishment are students, from left, Tate Shipman, Kellen Farias, Mason Glinski, Chase Bergeron, Olivia Ryou and Bennett Luba. (Dan Tomasello Photo)

“Alex is an outstanding educator and an equally outstanding human being,” said Hurray in an email sent to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). “In her role as library media specialist at the Summer Street School, Alex has had a profound effect on her colleagues and has made a huge impact on the hundreds of students with whom she works each year. In addition, her influence on scores if not hundreds of teachers throughout the district and beyond is unquestioned.”

Since being named a finalist for Teacher of the Year, Caram has had to write essays, do phone interviews and submit her resume.

“And then I found out I made it to the finalist round,” said Caram. “They just visited (the week of March 26) and watched me teach. They also met with students and teachers.”

Hurray said Caram “has made the media center the heart of both academic and social and emotional learning.”

“(Caram’s) vision for the media center has indeed become the vision for the school,” said Hurray “‘To create intellectually curious learners’ has become our mantra. On a daily basis, Alex collaborates closely with classroom teachers, special educators, and art, music and physical education teachers to not only support their curriculum, but to help them develop student agency in all of their projects.”

Hurray said Caram works to help “develop extended learning opportunities” at Summer Street.

“Teachers at Summer Street School see Alex as a valuable resource,” said Hurray. “(Caram) is someone they naturally include in their major teaching units because of her ability to design curriculum that truly motivates and engages students.”

Hurray noted Caram launched Summer Street School’s Maker Space initiative.

“Caram’s Maker Space includes both hands-on engineering and creative design elements,” said Hurray. “Students have built bridges; created games; directed their own videos on a range of topics; and have participated in a number of design and engineering ‘challenges,’ in which teams of students compete against each other in a problem-solving task such as building the tallest structure possible that will support a marshmallow using only strands of dry spaghetti or creating the strongest popsicle stick bridge.

“Caram currently is working with third grade students to design a ‘better’ school,” Hurray continued. “After researching and planning the elements and design constraints, teams of students began by first mapping out favorable features and will next build models out of cardboard and other materials. Explaining the advantages and features of their various elements – verbally and in writing — will be part of the process. Caram completed a similar project – designing a dream house with all students in grade 2.”

Hurray noted Caram has helped expand the use of technology at Summer Street, including teaching a number of teachers how to make Green Screen videos featuring “students doing readers’ theater or biographical dramatizations.”

The interim principal said Caram is “all about the whole child.” He said she has used books and technology to “make learning and teaching fun, inspirational and meaningful.”

“Given this commitment to the emotional well-being of students at Summer Street, Alex has joined with several other teachers in pioneering a proactive approach to helping students develop positive identity,” said Hurray. “The ‘Service Squad’ currently has 68 students actively working throughout the school on a variety of community service projects. Half of the students have been identified as students who could benefit from a close relationship with a positive peer model and a caring adult. Under Alex’s and her colleagues’ direction, students have worked on a number of projects that benefit others or address a community need or problem.”

Hurray said Caram has helped a group of students undertake the Little Free Library project.

“Four students researched, designed and are currently building a set of small self-contained lending libraries that they will set up at the Senior Center in town and later at other sites so that community members may borrow from them at their own convenience,” said Hurray. “The four students participating in this project also organized a school-wide contest to decorate and design the features of the Little Free Library containers. More than 100 students submitted designs for this contest, and three finalists were selected as winners.”

Hurray said another project Caram and Summer Street teachers are undertaking involves raising awareness and money on behalf of the black rhinoceros.

“The black rhinoceros is endangered and facing extinction,” said Hurray. “The idea for this initiative emerged from the students themselves and, like most of Alex’s projects with students, has inspired others to take action on ideas of their own.”

Hurray noted Caram is the leader of Summer Street’s Student Council, and has helped the organization raise funds for an animal shelter, Toys for Tots and hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas last fall. He said Caram serves on a number of committees at Summer Street.

“Alex is a mainstay in our building, a true leader who constantly goes above and beyond in service to others,” said Hurray.

Hurray said Caram’s initiatives have been recognized at the state level, as she has given presentations to educators across the state during conferences.

“Alex Caram is an outstanding educator whose influence and impact have contributed greatly to the academic success and emotional well-being of numerous students at the Summer Street School and whose work has inspired untold numbers of educators throughout the region,” said Hurray. “I cannot think of an educator whose contributions to students, staff and families and whose professionalism and commitment do more to honor Massachusetts teachers than Alex Caram. For these reasons, I am proud to nominate Alex for 2019 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.”

In an email sent to the Villager, Hurray said the next step in the process is DESE officials will interview Caram.

“My understanding is that they make their final selection after that round of interviews,” said Hurray. “The teacher of the year, the finalists and the semifinalists are all invited to the State House on June 14 to be honored by the Legislature.”

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