Cranston's Julie Boyle, a Coventry High School English teacher and English curriculum coordinator, has been named Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.
"At the start of the school year, I joked that this was my 13th year, my 'Lucky 13,'" said Boyle.
Boyle didn't realize just how lucky her 13th year would ultimately be.
"I was named the Coventry Teacher of the Year in the fall, and from there I applied at the state level. I had to complete essays, get letters of recommendation; I had a short turnaround time to do it all," said Boyle. "In October it was NECAP testing time and I got a phone call from RIDE [Rhode Island Department of Education] saying that I was one of six finalists. I was surprised because I felt that I'd put my packet together somewhat hastily.”
Boyle went on to participate in the next round of the application process: the interviews at the Department of Education in Providence, an intense 29-minute experience.
"I was honored to make it that far," she said. "The next phone call came that very night.”
On Oct. 25, Boyle had to make a 10-minute presentation about any educational issue she felt passionate about, then, participating in a mock panel, debate with two other finalists.
Boyle was told that night that the panel had selected their winner, but she would have to wait another month before she found out the results.
On Nov. 30, Boyle got the surprise of her life when Commissioner Deborah Gist and Governor Lincoln Chafee arrived at Coventry High School for an assembly at which she was named Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.
"It was very overwhelming," said Boyle. "I was now representing Rhode Island, nationwide, as Teacher of the Year."
She was thrilled to find out that part of her job as the Rhode Island representative included a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet President Barack Obama, as well as several other trips throughout the year.
Boyle went to Washington, D.C. from April 21 to 27 and met the president that Tuesday.
“I was very nervous, but I felt surprisingly calm when the moment was upon me," Boyle said. "After going through all the security, we waited in the dining room and I was looking at the portrait of Abraham Lincoln. I was looking out at the monuments. I was very overwhelmed with emotion and pride; I was representing a great group of teachers who weren't there," she said.
Each of the Teachers of the Year lined up by height and waited for their time with the president.
"I'm short, so I had lots of time to think, and I'd thought a lot about what I was going to say, prior to that time," said Boyle. "They called my name, I stepped forward. It was a very emotional moment. I had my dad's watch; he passed away five years ago and he is my American hero. I stepped forward and put my hand out. I said, 'Mr. President, it's nice to meet you,' and he said, 'Julie, it's nice to meet you too,'" said Boyle.
President Obama spoke to Boyle about what she taught and when she said that she was an English teacher, President Obama agreed wholeheartedly with Boyle when she explained that to her, reading, writing and communication are crucial to success and to a fulfilling life.
"Then he asked me if there was anything I'd like him to know, and I said, 'Why yes, Mr. President, there is. The teachers in my state feel like a bruised lot. We have had mass firings, budget cuts and pension cuts. We need a champion in the White House to celebrate everything we do," said Boyle. "He said that he's been hearing that message a lot more lately. He thanked me for the work that I do with America's children."
Boyle posed for a photo with the president, one she now treasures.
Later that week, Boyle had the opportunity to work with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Project Respect, an initiative aimed at attracting the brightest minds in education.
"We discussed the fact that over 50 percent of teachers leave within the first five years and how teachers enter the profession," she said.
Boyle and the other state representatives had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Jill Biden in the vice president's residence.
"She's a teacher, and she was very keen on talking about supporting military kids and families," said Boyle.
Boyle and her husband, Shawn Boyle, went to a gala ball and went to Senator Jack Reed's office for a meet and greet. A great deal of her time in D.C. was spent working, and her husband toured the area while she worked.
"They call us the Class of 2012 and as different as we are regionally, we have so many things in common," she said.
Boyle is looking forward to the opportunities coming her way during the rest of her tenure as Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.
"We've already gotten to go to Texas and to Atlanta. I've gotten to be a keynote speaker at different events; I've worked on some important educational issues as well. In July, we are going to the International Space Camp for a week. They want all of the teachers to be students again, the focus is on Science, Technology and Math," she said.
Boyle believes that being Rhode Island's Teacher of the Year has been a bit like being Miss America.
"It's definitely left a strong mark on my career, my life and the things I want to do," she said. "It's been an honor to be every teacher's voice. Michelangelo on his 88th birthday said, 'Ancora Imparo,' which means 'I am still learning.' I'm definitely Ancora Imparo this year."