Charter public school teacher named RI 2013 Teacher of the Year!

Photo via Providence Journal

Educators, students and residents throughout the state shared excitement as Jessica Waters, a teacher at Beacon Charter High School, was named Rhode Island’s 2013 Teacher of the Year.

As a representative of the great work and dedication poured into our charter public schools, we thank Jessica, and teachers from all of Rhode Island’s charter public and traditional public schools, for their continuous work to help our students succeed.

Check out the recent article from The Providence Journal that captures Jessica Waters’ journey and success: 

An unusual path to Teacher of the Year|
By Linda Borg
November 29, 2012

CRANSTON – Jessica Waters, a former high school dropout who left home at 15, was named Rhode Island’s 2013 Teacher of the Year recently before an adoring crowd of friends, colleagues and family.

Waters, 34, of Cumberland, teaches at Beacon Charter High School in Woonsocket, a school where many students share hard-luck stories similar to her own. Of the 230 students at Beacon, nearly half are struggling economically and one in five has a disability.

One of four siblings, all girls, Waters remembers the day she signed the paperwork to drop out of high school. She was in 10th grade. As she recalls, her guidance counselor made no effort to persuade her to finish high school. “I recall thinking that if I was a teacher, I would have tried everything in my power to work with that student,” she said at Wednesday night’s awards ceremony at Orchard Farms Elementary School in Cranston.

Waters moved away from home and began working at Dunkin’ Donuts. Later, she became a hairdresser but, in the back of her mind, college always loomed large. In her early 20s, she enrolled at the Community of College of Rhode Island, followed by Rhode Island College. “I always had a vision of college,” Waters said. “I wanted to break down the barriers that college was only for the elite.”

Originally, Waters dreamed of becoming a doctor, and she excelled in math and science. Something, however, was missing. “There was this wrenching feeling that I had to get back to helping kids,” the mother of three said. Waters was in her late 20s when she walked the stage at Rhode Island College, one of the most remarkable moments of her young life.

Four years ago, she applied for a position at Beacon, and she’s been teaching science there ever since. On a Wednesday night, several colleagues smothered her with hugs and kisses as Waters stood there with her husband, Chris, and her three daughters, ages 12, 3 and 10 months. Her fellow teachers praised Waters for having an “unparalleled work ethic” and for “thinking outside the box.” “She has this X factor,” said Carrie Appel, a Beacon teacher. “Kids just like her.”

Waters always goes beyond what’s called for, her colleagues said. She maintains a website with resources to help students with their studies and, along with her colleagues, keeps an online diary where staff can share teaching tips. As the founder – and adviser – of Students Against Destructive Decisions, Waters helps teenagers avoid the kinds of destructive behavior that derailed her own parents, who struggled with addiction.

Continue reading the article, here.