RIC Grad Named R.I. Teacher of the Year

Jessica Waters
RIC alum Jessica Waters overcame several obstacles on her way to becoming the 2013 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.

Her selection as Teacher of the Year was announced by Governor Lincoln Chafee, who said, “Jessica Waters is a teacher who challenges her colleagues with provocative ideas and who is committed to bringing out the best in every one of her students. She is a shining example for all Rhode Island educators, and she will represent our state well as she vies to become National Teacher of the Year.”

Sasha Sidorkin, dean of RIC’s Feinstein School of Education and Human Development, said, “We are very proud of Jessica not only because of her accomplishment, but also because of her life story. Those who had to overcome challenges in their own lives often become better, more compassionate teachers.”

The Cumberland resident grew up in a home with parents saddled with drug addiction problems, and dropped out of school in the 10th grade. The fact that a school counselor didn’t even try to get to her to stay in school caused Waters to think about what she would have done in the counselor’s shoes. “I…decided I wanted to be that caring teacher who could make a difference in somebody’s life,” she wrote in her Teacher of the Year application.

Waters proceeded to receive a GED and graduated from the Community College of Rhode Island before receiving a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from at RIC in 2008.

Today, Waters is providing encouragement to her students – many of whom are disadvantaged – as a science teacher at the Beacon Charter High School for the Arts in Woonsocket. Last year, Waters volunteered to have an education researcher observe her classes for 79 consecutive teaching days, and the researcher’s findings will be published in a book. A colleague noted that Waters uses student reflective essays, online discussion boards, and exit surveys to poll her students on teaching and learning in her classroom.

Waters prides herself on her “ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and learning abilities.” She has achieved her goal of being the educator she wished had been there for her when she decided to drop out of high school: one who truly cares about her students.

Waters now becomes a candidate for the 2013 National Teacher of the Year, to be selected in April 2013.