Top Teachers 2019

We are pleased to introduce you to New Hampshire’s Top Teachers for 2019. The number and quality of submissions from our readers was overwhelming. Each told us about a teacher that has made a difference in their school and community.

We have selected five Granite State educators to feature in our third-annual Top Teacher issue.

The nomination essays written about these talented people are included here, alongside a short profile about each teacher. We look forward to honoring our Top Teachers in an on-the-field ceremony before a New Hampshire Fisher Cats game in May 2020 (look for details in a future issue of ParentingNH). Note: Some essays may have been shortened or edited, but the full version of the nominating essays will be sent to the teachers after publication.

– Melanie Hitchcock, Editor of ParentingNH

Marilyn Mitchell
Chester Academy, Chester
Grade 1

Marilyn Mitchell has been teaching for 36 years, 35 of them at Chester Academy. Marilyn is an avid winter sports enthusiast, especially skiing. When she’s not in school, she loves to cook, bake, read and work in her yard.

Marilyn says: “Our days in first grade are filled with active learning and lots of laughter. There’s never a dull moment in our busy classroom. I have loved getting to know many of the wonderful families in Chester.”

Nominator: Jonathan Eckerman, parent of former student

“Mrs. Mitchell is truly one of NH’s best teachers. She has been teaching at Chester Academy for 35 years and has touched the lives of several generations of Chester families, our own included. Each of our four children has had the opportunity to learn from Mrs. Mitchell and each has come home so enthusiastic to tackle whatever comes next as a result of her positive attitude and encouragement.

Mrs. Mitchell’s classroom is a welcoming environment for all learners and has laid the foundations of learning, respect, and a love of exploration both in the classroom and beyond. It is not uncommon to see Mrs. Mitchell surrounded by current students, but even more touching her former students.

In addition to her classroom duties, Mrs. Mitchell has been in charge of the school’s ski program introducing students to her love of the outdoors and the exhilaration of skiing. She can also be found working diligently to improve the lives of her fellow teachers through her work on several committees within the school. Mrs. Mitchell demonstrates daily how living your values and working hard can build a strong foundation in education that will serve one well throughout his or her educational career and beyond.”

Andrew Bengtson
Next Charter School, Derry
Mathematics; second, third and fourth-year students

Andrew Bengston with Chauncey McGovern (L) and Juliana Stefanile (R).

Andrew Bengtson earned a Master’s in Education from Keene State College in 2001 and taught middle school in Derry and Walpole, NH for 12 years. He has taught at Next Charter School since it opened in 2013.

Andrew says: “Building relationships with my students is the most important thing I do as an educator. School can be challenging at times, and it’s important that students feel safe and valued. This allows them to focus on their academics
and seek help when they need it.”

Nominator: Lynda Sabbio, parent of current student

“ Mr. Andrew Bengtson is so deserving of being teacher of the year for many reasons. Next is a competency-based high school with approximately 70 students. This environment is perfect for a teacher like Mr. B (as his students call him) because he wants to get to know his students for the people they are and help them grow into strong individuals. He promotes independent thinking amongst his students and helps them feel confident being true to who they are.

If a student is having an issue, whether it is academic or personal, he takes notice, reaches out. He has the ability to engage them in a meaningful discussion about it and he’ll ask questions that make them think. He knows just how much to push them and he’s always encouraging them.

My daughter struggles with anxiety. She had a very challenging sophomore year and he was always there for her. He is a very patient teacher and always listens to what his students have to say. He offered up helpful suggestions on how to cope with her anxiety that have proved to be invaluable.

Mr. B is a teacher that his students will not only remember with respect but I know will carry with them all the lessons learned by him, both academic and preparing for life as an adult.”

Scott Dunlop
Spaulding Youth Center, Northfield
All subjects; primarily eighth through 10th grade

Scott Dunlop joined Spaulding Youth Center in 1995 as a special education teacher following his time as a student teacher. Almost 25 years later, Scott still faces something new and challenging in his neurobehavioral classroom every day, which is one of his favorite things about working at Spaulding Youth Center.  Scott said that seeing some of his previous students excel outside of school and in the community makes the time he has spent at the organization especially worthwhile.

Nominator: Colleen Sliva, principal

“… Scott’s neurobehavioral classroom includes youth and young adults in middle school through early high school. Students in his class have moderate to severe cognitive deficits, including neurological and developmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder. Many of these children often display aggressive and sometimes dangerous behavior, and some are nonverbal. Within this uniquely challenging atmosphere, Scott embraces each and every day with positivity and dedication and accomplishes truly legendary outcomes for our extraordinary students.

Beyond his work with our students, Scott regularly exceeds expectations in other ways. He often takes the lead in
organizing school-wide outings, such as trips to Manchester Monarchs and New Hampshire Fisher Cats games, to create opportunities for our students to participate in their community and create positive and memorable childhood memories.

Scott’s impact also reaches beyond the Spaulding campus. Since 1997, he has served as the beloved head coach of the Concord High School boys’ varsity soccer team. His guidance, support and commitment has been an inspiration to the many student-athletes he has coached over the past 20-plus years. Scott also coordinates Spaulding employee teams to play in various fundraising events, such as an annual wiffle ball tournament, including securing matching SYC spirit teams.

Anyone who knows Mr. Dunlop and is familiar with his wholehearted efforts to not let our students be defined by their disabilities. He is deeply committed to the belief that his students can achieve success in and out of a school setting and prepares them to do so. Throughout his tenure, Scott has played an instrumental role in creating opportunities for several of our most challenging students to successfully complete trips to public locations, community events and other activities many of us take for granted.

If I could, I would hire 10 more of him. Scott Dunlop has made an incredibly positive impact on his students, colleagues and community and we are exceedingly lucky to have him.”

Kelly Gagnon
Derry Village School, Derry
Grade 2

Kelly Gagnon, in the classroom, with Isabelle Collins (L) and Karlee Watts (R).

Kelly Gagnon has been a classroom teacher since 2009, and has taught all 10 years in the Derry School District. She also has a Master’s degree in Reading and Writing.

Kelly says: “Working with my second grade students is such a gift. They inspire me to be the best I can be. In my classroom, I want my students to know that anything is possible and feel comfortable and able to try new experiences. I enjoy their smiles each day and I learn at least as much from them as they do from me. Every child is different and it is rewarding to see them grow as learners and individuals in their own unique, special ways.”

Nominator: Tara Collins, parent of current student

“Mrs. Gagnon is the type of teacher you hope and wish for. She is kind, caring, patient, fair, intelligent, and compassionate. She meets her students where they are at, instead of trying to make them fit into a mold. She somehow has the ability to teach an entire classroom while providing the individual help that each child needs. She encourages kids to advocate for themselves and celebrates their differences, instead of asking them to all be the same. She is the type of teacher that her students will remember their entire lives, and that the parents of her students will be forever grateful for.”

Nominator: Mandy Watts, parent of current student

“…She is an amazing teacher and goes above and beyond for her students. My daughter has really bad social anxiety and she has done everything possible to make her comfortable and excited to come to school. She has taught her a lot of techniques that have helped her with her math. My daughter absolutely adores her. She has made her the most comfortable she has ever been. She is the most caring teacher and really does want all her students to succeed in life.

My daughter smiles every day she goes to school and says how much she loves Mrs. Gagnon. She will ask for help now when she is stuck and sits with the teacher when she needs help. My daughter has grown so much in just this short time this year with her as her teacher. The world needs more teachers like this. This teacher deserves to be recognized for the amazing work she does. She cares for her students like they are her own.”

Amanda Eaton
Wilkins Elementary School, Amherst
Grade 1

Amanda Eaton and grade 1 students, Jack Brady, Ceci Gathier, Phoebe Larson, Hannah Kausch, and Zoe Wright.

Amanda Eaton has had the pleasure of teaching at Clark-Wilkins for 16 years. She is thankful for the supportive families of Amherst and being part of a collaborative team who inspire her. Amanda strives to spread kindness in her school and in her community. She lives in Mason with her husband David and their two labs.

Nominator: Kelly Comtois, parent of former student

“…My daughter grew leaps and bounds with Amanda. You can tell from her weekly write ups how much she cares about each and every one of her students. We as parents get photos each week with what they worked on. I always felt like I knew everything they were doing.

To my surprise, I received a phone call from Amanda Eaton about 60 days into the school year with a message asking me to call her back. I thought ‘Oh no, I wonder what happened or what did my daughter do.’ I called her back and she cheerfully greeted me and said: ‘I just like to place phone calls and tell you all the things that make your child so special.’

Through the school year, I volun-
teered many times within the class-room. Amanda has this amazing way of captivating her students’ attention. I have never heard her yell. She speaks to them with respect and calmness — in turn they respect her. Every day my daughter was always so excited for school. Never once did she not want to go. She would always say she has so much fun growing her brain and seeing Mrs. Eaton.

One of the most important things about Amanda is she teaches kindness and self-love. My daughter would often come home and talk about how she was going to do amazing things when she’s grown and she wants to be a teacher exactly like Mrs. Eaton. A teacher like this comes along every now and again if you are lucky. We were so lucky to have had her in our lives.”

Past ParentingNH Top Teacher honorees:

  • Lauren Asmega, Strafford School
  • Lindsay Bliznik, Moultonborough Academy
  • Matt Bryant, Windham High School, Windham
  • Marilyn Byron, St. Joseph Regional Catholic School, Salem
  • Mary Guidoboni, World Academy
  • Gail Boucher Lewis, Auburn Village School
  • Kathy Litch, World Academy, Nashua
  • Holly Lubelczyk, James Mastricola Elementary School, Merrimack
  • Michelina Madden, New Durham Elementary School, New Durham
  • Kathleen Pappalardo, Dr. Lewis F. Soule Elementary School, Salem
  • Srilakshmi Sankar, World Academy, Nashua
  • Patricia Silvia, Strong Foundations Charter School, Pembroke
  • Shauna Webber, Smyth Road Elementary, Manchester
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