PROSPECT — Work hard and you can become a star.
That message is one which Karen Aliciene, a sixth-grade language arts teacher at Long River Middle School, communicates to her students on a regular basis. She tells them that if they put in the effort, they each have the ability to become a star in the classroom.
Aliciene must have been taking her own advice, because she has become a star teacher herself in the Region 16 school system.
Aliciene has been named the 2011 Teacher of the Year in Region 16, which covers Beacon Falls and Prospect. The announcement was made by school officials last week at the 2010-11 school year’s Regional Breakfast.
Aliciene was selected from about a dozen candidates who were nominated by parents, students, teachers and administrators, and chosen by a special committee that reviewed the candidates’ records and accomplishments in depth.
A teacher of 14 years, Aliciene has spent her entire career in the Region 16 school system. She previously spent ten years as a fourth-grade teacher before moving to sixth grade, where she has been for the past four years.
The humble Aliciene says she feels the award really could have gone to numerous teachers across the region and recognized the exceptional work of not only her fellow teachers in her building but educators across the district.
“It’s very humbling for me, because I don’t look at myself as any better than any other teacher in this district,” Aliciene said. “I have my days where I ask myself, ‘How am I doing? Am I doing a good job?’ and this reward is a validation to that and lets me know I’m doing well.”
Aliciene does attribute some of her success to the expectations that she puts on students and her constant redesigning of material.
“I try to set very clear but high expectations for all students,” Aliciene said. “Meeting the students at the level they are at and working with them to improve is important. It’s also important to constantly be revamping your presentation so no one is bored.”
She acknowledges that, along with her change sin presentation, there have been several changes in technology that she has needed to adjust and tailor her teaching to.
“One of the biggest changes I’ve had to deal with over the years has been technology,” Aliciene said. “The kids are so accustomed to technology and new programs, so I have to make sure I am up to speed and knowing what I’m doing and can relate and make it better. You have to try to stay in tune with the kids’ current interests. It’s helpful to be able to relate and talk about things that they have an interest in and that will keep their attention.”
Region 16 Superintendent of Schools James Agostine praised Aliciene as the ultimate professional and a teacher that he is proud to have represent Region 16.
“She was really the most deserving candidate,” Agostine said. “She is an exceptional leader and shows a very high quality in her instruction and abilities. She is always extremely professional and has done a great job by the students.”
Aliciene says letting students know they are capable of greatness—even if they have struggled in years past—and suggests no better place to start than in sixth grade at a new school.
“I let kids know it’s a great time to make a change,” Aliciene said. “Middle school is a clean slate, and maybe even if you haven’t been in years past it is a fresh opportunity to become a star. I encourage the students to become stars.”
This lesson may be easier learned with a star like Aliciene at the head of the classroom, leading by example.