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National Bammy Award for Massachusetts Educator

Para Educator Nancy Burke (r.) with student Taylor Warren. Courtesy: Massachusetts Teachers Association
Para Educator Nancy Burke (r.) with student Taylor Warren. Courtesy: Massachusetts Teachers Association
September 28, 2015

BOSTON - A Massachusetts educator won national recognition this week for a garden project that enables high school students in wheelchairs to do some digging in the dirt.

Nancy Burke, an education support professional at Haverhill High School, won top honors at the Bammy Awards this weekend. She says she came up with the idea of creating a wheelchair-accessible garden so her students could get some real-life experience planting and harvesting food.

"We built raised-garden beds so the students in wheelchairs can actually become little farmers; plant the tomatoes, the peppers and they learn about the environment, they are learning about healthy water," says Burke.

The Bammy Awards are presented annually for extraordinary work across the entire education field - teachers, principals, school nurses, support staff, and even custodians. Burke was one of only two Education Support Professionals to receive a Bammy Award this year.

Massachusetts Teacher's Association president Barbara Madeloni says it is good to see the spotlight on educators who bring real-life experience into the classroom, rather than a school day focused solely on preparing for standardized tests.

"Here we have educators like Nancy saying, 'I'm going to teach the whole child, and I'm going to invite the child to enter the world in way that's not about a test; that's not even initially about a book - but, through gardening they work on math lessons, they work on life science,'" says Madeloni.

The Bammy Awards were created to help reverse the negative national narrative that dominates the education field. Madeloni says Burke's creative interaction with her students goes a long way in that direction.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA