Skip to content

Nomination Essays For Teacher Of The Year

The annual program allows participating school districts and open-enrollment charter operators/districts to nominate two teachers — one elementary and one secondary educator. Please review the eligibility criteria.


Important Note for Charter Schools

All applications from classroom teachers located on charter campuses should be submitted to the appropriate charter operator/district, and that operator should select one elementary teacher and one secondary teacher for submission to the regional competition. Since some charter operators (charter districts) are located in one ESC region, but operate charter school campuses in other regions, the charter operator/district should submit the selected application to the regional ESC in which the teacher's school is located. This application will be considered along with all other applications within that region. As such, a charter operator may be submitting an elementary teacher's application to one region and a secondary teacher's application to another region for consideration.


Application Instructions

  • Complete the application packet, providing all requested information. Incomplete applications will be rejected.

  • Be brief and succinct in responses to essay questions, focusing on the most significant experiences and characteristics. Candidates who add a personal touch to their applications will produce stronger entries, as well as provide contest judges — who have a limited amount of time to evaluate each entry — with applications that are more readable and that highlight applicant strengths.

  • Section I must be submitted on the form provided. Sections II-IV should be produced using your own word-processing software. Following the formatting instructions below. The result should be a clean, clear copy suitable for easy black-and-white copying and placement in a three-ring binder with other applications.

  • Make sure the applicant, the applicant's principal, and the applicant's district superintendent (chief school administrator) sign the application.

  • Include a color photograph of the applicant (color, portrait orientation, 300 dpi, jpg format, suitable for publicity purposes). Please no cellphone selfies, PDFs, or Word documents with photos embedded. No photocopies or photographs of photos will be accepted.

  • Submit an electronic copy (PDF preferred) of the completed application form (Section I), the pages you create in your word-processing software to provide the information requested in Sections II-IV, and photograph, with required original signatures to your Regional Education Service Centerby June 7, 2018. This is considered the official entry, and any failure to meet this deadline will result in disqualification. 

  • Both applicants and their districts should retain copies of entry materials, as originals cannot be returned.


  • Section I must be submitted on the form provided on page 2 of the application packet.
  • Sections II-IV should be produced using your own word-processing software. Start each section on a new page and include the section number and heading at the top. (For sections that allow for a multi-page response, repeat the section number and heading on page 2 and subsequent pages, adding “continued.”)
  • Number all pages and adhere to the word or page limits specified for each section; additional pages and/or materials submitted will NOT be presented to the Selection Committee.
  • Use at least 1-inch margins, a minimum of 10-point, easy-to-read type, and double space.
  • The result should be a clean, clear copy suitable for easy black-and-white copying and placement in a three-ring binder with other applications.


Contact Jennifer Garrido, Texas Teacher of the Year Coordinator, 512.852.2105

Educator Recognition Programs

Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Program

Each year the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year (TOY) program honors a Massachusetts teacher who exemplifies excellent teaching in the Commonwealth. Beyond celebrating the individual, the program looks at the complex work that is involved in educating all students through highlighting student achievement, commitment to the profession, innovations in education, and teacher leadership. It draws attention to issues of teacher quality and reiterates the importance of the teacher as the single most important school-based factor in improving student outcomes.

The nomination window for the 2019 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year cycle is now closed. We will reopen nominations in August for the 2020 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year!

For more information on the MA Teacher of the Year program, please click on the following links.

Program Overview

The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year (TOY) Program began in 1960. Each year the program celebrates Massachusetts teachers who exemplify excellent teaching in the Commonwealth by selecting a teacher who is worthy of representing the positive contributions of teachers statewide.

"Being named Massachusetts Teacher of the Year was meaningful to me not only because it recognized my passion for teaching and learning but also because it was a celebration of public education. During my year of service, I spoke to colleagues across the state and had the opportunity to meet and learn with fellow educators from all parts of the United States. I say that the TOY designation is the "gift that keeps on giving" because new doors continue to open for me in ways I would never have imagined, even now - two years after the end of my official term. I have become increasingly involved in professional organizations, I have been called upon for consulting, I have reviewed textbooks and other educational writing, and I traveled to China as part of an NEA Global Competence program." Kathleen Turner, 2013 MA Teacher of the Year

The Teacher of the Year must also demonstrate:

  • A proven track record of meeting students' needs in order to further student growth and achievement.

  • Instructional leadership in his/her classroom in addition to being a respected member of and contributor to the larger school and district community.

  • Respect for and nuanced understanding of the different perspectives that contribute to high quality education--including those of colleagues, administration, parents, students, and policymakers.

Opportunities for the Teacher of the Year:

  • The Teacher of the Year (TOY) will have the opportunity to serve as an ambassador for the teaching profession, which will include public speaking and writing opportunities. This is a chance for the TOY to share ideas and to learn from others; it is not the expectation that the TOY speaks on behalf of all teachers. Rather, the TOY should reflect an understanding for the various perspectives that exists among teachers. The TOY maintains full time teaching responsibilities.
  • Contingent upon the National program and funding, along with the other states' teachers of the year, the MA TOY attends a 5-day National Teacher of the Year Conference, travels to Washington, DC for a week to participate in numerous recognition activities and meets the President, spends a week at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, and after the TOYs official year ends, attends a "Next Steps" Conference in Princeton, NJ.
  • The Massachusetts TOY becomes the state's candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Program. The National Teacher of the Year spends a year out of the classroom traveling across, and out of, the country.

"I always wanted to 'sit at the table' and influence education policy. In addition to being a member of the Governor's Teacher Advisory Group, I was one of three teacher members on the task force of twenty to offer advice on the development of the new Massachusetts Teacher Evaluation system. This was the most intensive, challenging and yet rewarding experience of the year." Dr. Wilma Ortiz, 2011 MA Teacher of the Year

2018 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

Cara Pekarcik

High School Science Teacher

North Quincy High School

Quincy Public Schools

If you would like to contact Cara or request a visit to North Quincy High School, please contact her

Cara Pekarcik is a science teacher who believes education is not just what happens inside the four walls of a classroom. Cara enhances student participation by showing students how concepts apply to their lives. She employs the use of science and engineering practices as well as hands-on learning opportunities to improve literacy and sharpen critical thinking skills. She believes that educators have a responsibility to help students gather information, make informed decisions, formulate new ideas and ultimately gain confidence in their abilities. Cara also encourages educators to look beyond the walls of their classrooms to create curriculum that utilizes the interests, knowledge and resources of students, parents and the broader community.

Cara graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Psychobiology from Southampton College of Long Island University in 2001. Upon graduation, Cara began working at a Massachusetts non-profit research organization where she studied demographics and behaviors of large whales. Cara served as educator/naturalist onboard thousands of whale watches as well as a mentor/coordinator for the organization's college internship program. Her enthusiasm for education grew over time, and steered her towards a career as a high school science teacher.

In 2006, Cara began teaching at North Quincy High School (NQHS) in Quincy, MA. She received her Master's in Secondary Education (Biology) from the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2011. She brings her field experience and love of science to classes including, biology, physical science, marine science, and zoology. Cara encourages students to experience all aspects of science, ranging from inquiry science fair projects, to an annual whale watch trip and visits from local experts in related careers.

Cara believes that educators make excellent role models for life-long learning. She has participated in local professional development opportunities with the museum Institute for Teaching Science (MITS), and MassBioEd as well as national opportunities with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. In September 2016, Cara embarked on the professional and personal trip of a lifetime as a PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating) educator. Cara traveled to Antarctica to work with chemists and molecular biologists from various universities and research institutions. Her role was to learn about the science and make the science accessible to her students and the public. The expedition provided Cara an opportunity to expand her understanding of various science concepts and ultimately develop lessons that incorporate this new knowledge with skills that promote student success in the classroom and throughout life. Through these experiences, Cara works to better herself as a person, a learner and an educator who can empower students never to stop learning and never to give up on their dreams.

Cara is an active member of the North Quincy High School community. She serves as a volleyball coach and as the school adviser for the National Honor Society Chapter at North Quincy High School. She also supports athletic, academic, theatric and other events held throughout the year. Cara has mentored pre-service teachers from Emmanuel College and the University of Massachusetts Boston.

As Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, Cara looks forward to sharing her experiences with other educators across the Commonwealth. She hopes to celebrate their successes and encourage educators to seek out opportunities to enhance their understanding of their subject as well as enrich their lives. Cara also hopes to encourage advances in the education and training of pre-service teachers and to continue to serve as a role model for her students.

Cara lives in Weymouth and in her time away from school, she loves to read, kayak, travel (especially to National Parks), and spend time with family, friends and her rescue dog, Sadie.

Nominate a Teacher for Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

"Serving as the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year was not only a great honor, but it also allowed me to find my voice as a teacher leader and advocate on behalf of students, my colleagues, and our profession. In particular, the speaking, writing, and policy skills I developed during my tenure served me very well as I later transitioned to working on education policy in Washington, DC." David Lussier, 2000 MA Teacher of the Year

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education accepts nominations year round for the Teacher of the Year program. The cut-off date for this selection cycle is February 3. Nominations submitted after February 3 will be held until the following year when the teacher will be informed of the nomination.

We recognize that there are amazing public school teachers in all corners of the state. We encourage you to recognize their contributions by nominating them. Anyone (parents, teachers, students, administrators, community members, etc) may nominate a teacher or co-teachers (2 teachers in the same classroom, at the same time, responsible for the same students). Teachers may even apply without being nominated. Once nominated, nominees will receive an invitation to apply and the application materials.

Submit a nomination.

You may also submit a nomination by email, fax, or hard copy.

Please include the following:

  1. Your name, email, and how you know the teacher you are nominating;
  2. The teacher's full name and email;
  3. The teacher's grade level, subject area, school, and district,; and
  4. A statement explaining why you feel the teacher deserves recognition.

Email the nomination to the Educator Recognition mailbox at with the subject, Teacher of the Year Nomination.

Fax the nomination to 1-781-338-3395

Mail the nomination to:
Teacher of the Year Program
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
ATTN: Amy Gerade
75 Pleasant Street
Malden, MA 02148

Application Process and Timeline

"There are many adjectives that I could use to describe my experience as Massachusetts Teacher of the Year but the most fitting would be inspirational. I was inspired by the teachers I met and the passion they have for educating children across the state of Massachusetts and around the country. My journey took me to small towns, college campuses, and the White House. At each stop I learned more about the teaching profession and about myself. In the classroom and as a teacher leader, I will forever draw on the experiences of this past year with the hope of inspiring others to make a difference in the world. It was an incredible honor to be the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year." Jeff Shea, 2015 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

Application Process

Round 1 — Preliminary Application (due Thursday, February 15, 2018)

  • Candidate information, four essays, principal's letter of support, photograph
  • Semi-finalists will be selected and notified by March 7, 2018.

Round 2 — Semi-Finalist Application (due Friday, March 16, 2018)

  • Written task and submission of contact information for two references
  • Phone conversation with the Teacher of the Year coordinator
  • Selected applicants will be notified by March 28, 2018.

Round 3 — Classroom Observations (April 3- April 11, 2018)

  • A team from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) will conduct classroom observations for selected applicants.
  • Selected applicants will be invited to interview at ESE in Malden, and will be notified by April 13, 2018.

Round 4 — Finalist Interviews (April 24-27, 2018)

  • Interviews with an independent selection committee will be held at the Department in Malden on Wednesday, April 24, 2018. For a candidate to be considered a finalist, s/he must go through the interview process.
  • An optional pre-interview meeting will be held at ESE in Malden on Monday, April 23, 2018, from 2:30pm-3:30pm.
  • The recommended candidate will have interviews with the Senior Associate Commissioner of the Center for Instructional Support and the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.


In order to be eligible, teachers/co-teachers must:

  • Have completed at least four years of teaching experience;
  • Spend the majority of the school day in direct instruction of students;
  • Possess an active and valid Massachusetts teaching license for the subject and grade level taught;
  • Teach in a public school or Department approved adult learning center; and
  • Be a full-time teacher.

Note: Co-teachers must teach in the same classroom at the same time and be responsible for the same students. Each teacher needs to submit an individual candidate information form, resumé, and photograph, but may collaborate and submit one copy for each of the essays.


The preliminary application includes the following:

  • Candidate Information
  • Teacher's resumé;
  • Responses to 4 essay questions;
  • Principal form and letter of support; and
  • Photograph (Recent color head and shoulder shot suitable for publicity purposes)

2018-2019 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year preliminary application overview, including application instructions, essay questions and principal's form

Apply to the 2018-2019 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year program

If you have questions about the Teacher of the Year Program, please email the Educator Recognition mailbox at

Former Massachusetts Teachers of the Year

Last Updated: February 21, 2018