In an effort to acknowledge outstanding teachers in the Rhode Island community, NBC 10, the Rhode Island Department of Education and Hasbro have established the Golden Apple Award.
Cranston has long recognized Mark Colozzi as one of those outstanding teachers, and now it’s official.
The Golden Apple Award honors those who believe in the true spirit of teaching by making classrooms a creative and safe place to learn. The criterion for the award is straightforward: explain why the educator is unique or creative, highlight how the educator is student-focused and be able to offer compelling examples.
With the many hats he wears, Colozzi embodies those criteria for his students. He is the supervisor of music for Cranston Public Schools and the co-director of instrumental music and choir director at Cranston East, where he conducts the concert band, marching band, jazz ensemble, choir and chamber choir.
Cranston East Class of 2012 alumni Melanie Rainone nominated Colozzi for the Golden Apple award.
Colozzi had no idea about the nomination.
“I had no clue about the nomination. I am humbled and totally blown away by it. The nomination is an affirmation that what we do as teachers counts in the lives of many, more than we know,” he said. “I hope that my students realize how much they have done for me and shaped who I am as an educator.”
Rainone was eloquent and enthusiastic in her admiration of Colozzi.
“I nominated Mr. Colozzi because it was the right thing to do. ‘Mr. C’ is one of the hardest workers and kindest-hearted people I know. He asks for no recognition or thank you’s, even though he deserves both,” Rainone said in an email interview from her college in New York. “Anyone who has ever known him knows how tirelessly he works and how much time he dedicates to his students and to his art.”
Rainone has been involved in music her entire life. She played the violin from third to sixth grade, but singing is what really stuck with her.
While at Cranston East, she sang in the concert choir for four years and with the chamber choir for two. Under Colozzi's guidance, she successfully auditioned for Rhode Island All-State as a senior.
Rainone credits Colozzi for instilling in her work ethic and a belief in her musical and leadership abilities.
Once word got out that Colozzi had won the award, former students from all over the country were sending him congratulations.
Eric Kalver was a member of the class of 2005, during which time he played percussion. He was a snare drum/section captain for the drum line, drummer in the jazz band and 1st chair percussionist in the wind ensemble. He also was a bass in the choir.
Kalver remembers Colozzi and his time with the East music program fondly. He attributes his success in his career and life with the influences Colozzi had on him while at East. Kalver attended Berklee College of Music, graduating with a dual degree in arranging and performance, and now lives in Los Angeles, working for a music publishing company.
"When I began playing in the Cranston East band program, Mr. Colozzi changed the way I approached playing music. Mark Colozzi is the coach to our football team of band geeks. His energy and enthusiasm was something I had never experienced from other teachers,” he said.
Kalver recalls that band practice wasn’t a daunting task; it was something he looked forward to every day.
“He pushed me to strive for the best both musically, educationally and professionally. He taught me how to be a leader, how to work as a team and how to respect your peers. There would be good days and bad days, but Mr. Colozzi would never give up on his students,” Kalver continued. “If it weren't for Mr. Colozzi, Mr. Arsenault and Mr. Lepore, I would not be where I am today. Congratulations, Mr. C, and thank you for everything you give to your students. I am extremely proud to have been one of them, yet I feel like I will never stop learning from you.”
Colozzi’s impact was not just in teaching music, but also in displaying humanity to his students.
Holly Nelson graduated from East in 2004, and Colozzi was her band director.
“I am visually and hearing impaired [deaf in one ear, blind in one eye] and Mr. Colozzi helped me learn to play the tuba in the marching band. My goal wasn't to be the best musician; my goal was to have fun in the show despite my challenges. It wasn't easy, but with Mr. Colozzi's encouragement and understanding, I participated fully in the band,” she said.
Colozzi is planning to use the $250 prize money to assist with much-needed funds for bus transportation to festivals and other musical events and opportunities.
“Mr. Colozzi is a tremendous teacher, musician and role model. This is exemplified in the hours he spends with the band, chorus and students of Cranston East. His dedication to music education is unmatched. This is a much-deserved award,” said Cranston East Principal Sean Kelly.
Dr. Judith Lundsten, Cranston Schools superintendent offered her congratulations as well.
"When I was notified that Mark Colozzi at Cranston East and Holly Meyer at Cranston West would be receiving the Golden Apple award, I was so excited as they are well deserving of this award. I love that they were nominated by students,” she said.
Colozzi loves his work, but is concerned about the future of music and arts education.
“As I have reached the twilight of my teaching career, my sincerest hope is for our district to recover from its fiscal crisis and restore the wonderful programs and musical opportunities that Cranston's students have experienced in the past. Music and the other fine arts are the basis of creativity for countless vocations in life,” he said. “They are the heart and soul of who we are as human beings, guiding us to enrich our lives with skills that are essential, including expression, discipline and self-worth. Few things are more satisfying than for a teacher to witness their students taking pride in what they do, striving for excellence and refining their social skills.”