A golden finish

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Last Thursday, George J. Peters Kindergarten teacher Betty Faria got the surprise of her school year when NBC 10’s Patrice Wood walked through her classroom door. Her kindergarten class was seated on the rug in front of her, immediately excited and curious as an entire entourage of family, friends, CPS administrators, and local dignitaries followed Wood through the door.

“I’m Patrice Wood,” Wood said, laughing as Faria tried to comprehend what was going on.

“Yes, you are,” Faria said.

“And you are the recipient of a Golden Apple Award for outstanding teaching,” Wood said. “You know, you are so loved.”

The Golden Apple Award is a special recognition for local teachers who go above and beyond every day. With each award, the teachers have been nominated by someone who feels that the nominee is especially deserving; sometimes by a family member, colleague, student or former student.

The Golden Apple is presented by NBC 10, Hasbro and RIDE.

Faria, who has been teaching for 28 years, was nominated by her colleague, MaryAnn Mattiello, the teacher assistant who works in her classroom day in and day out and who has an especially keen view of just what an amazing teacher Faria is, and the difference she makes for her students every day. She noted that Faria was as inspiring today as she was back when Mattiello’s own son had her as a kindergarten teacher.

Commissioner of Education, Ken Wagner was on hand to present the award to Faria.

“Congratulations,” he said. “Here is your Golden Apple. Thank you for being such a wonderful teacher.” “Thank you so much,” Faria said.

Bobby Gondola, Director of Global Philanthropy and Social Impact for Hasbro presented Faria with a grant, which he encouraged her to use before her retirement at the end of the school year, and thanked her for her many years of teaching, noting that it was amazing to hear all the accolades from those who had gathered to celebrate her.

As a special treat, NBC 10 producer Ben Wilcox was also present. Calling him her “show and tell,” and one of Faria’s success stories, Wilcox was not just there in a professional role, but as a former kindergarten student of Faria’s.

“I liked her so much, that I went back to visit her every day in first grade,” Wilcox said. “I think I visited once a month after that until I graduated from Hope Highlands. Thank you for being such a great teacher.”

Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, husband of MaryAnn Mattiello, presented Faria with a special citation on behalf of the House of Representatives.

“I want to personally thank you, you taught my children and you were a wonderful teacher,” he said. “I remember even in those days when you had those young kids who were a little apprehensive to go to school, you always made them feel welcome and comfortable, they came home happy, and they loved spending time in your classroom and you build such a strong foundation for our children in Cranston. These kids are going to go and they’re going to be young, successful adults and the seeds that you’re planting today are going to reap benefits tomorrow. Thank you for all you do, on behalf of all our children. You’re a remarkable, wonderful teacher.”

Principal Patricia Caporelli presented Faria with flowers, as did members of Faria’s family which were given to her by her son Steven Faria.

The 2017 Teacher of the Year Nikos Giannopoulos came forward to congratulate Faria, who in turn congratulated him on his own title. He spoke to her about how inspiring it was for him to be in her classroom and see how much her students loved her and loved learning.

Wood asked Faria what advice she would pass along to future teachers after having had such a stellar career of her own.

“It’s so easy to come in, in the morning to their energy,” she said. “It does get you started. Just enjoy all that they have to share with you.”

Wood told Faria that she was the epitome of a life-long learner and asked her how she was able to keep the energy going all these years.

It was the energy from the students as well as her love for literature and reading that have helped to keep her going over time. Now that she is retiring, Faria told Wood that she has grandchildren to read to and hopes to be able to volunteer some of her time in the classroom as well.

Wood then turned to the students who had been seated on the rug throughout the event, trying to contain their excitement and pride for their teacher.

When she asked them whether or not they had made a good choice, the students chorused their answer, a resounding, “Yes.”

She asked them who wished to say something nice about their teacher and every hand went up. Among the things the students credited Faria with were being a good reader, helping them, teaching math and numbers, and being fun and nice.

Faria and her class put on a spontaneous song and dance performance for the audience, singing one of their favorite songs, “Mother Gooney Bird,” who had seven chicks, which quickly turned into a song about Mrs. Faria’s own 19 “chicks.”

The entire presentation can be seen on NBC 10 on Thursday, June 15, at 6 p.m. and will be available for viewing on the NBC website once it has aired.

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