EAST PROVIDENCE – For the first time, a local teacher has won the “Oscar of teaching," an award that comes with a $25,000 check, a free trip to the national awards forum in Los Angeles and participation in a program that pairs freshman teachers with veterans.
The third-grade teacher at Hennessey Elementary School was standing on the sidelines when a representative of the Milken Educator Awards announced her name.
“The envelope, please,” Milken Senior Vice President Jane Foley said to a crowd of eager children, most of whom were wearing Townie red shirts and shaking red pompoms.
“Emily Rendine!” Foley yelled.
“I have no words,” said Rendine, who is 32 and grew up in Rumford. “This is the best day of my life. I love all of my students. I love all of the teachers I work with.”
Rendine 'does it all'
Milken honors teachers who go above and beyond, show creativity in their practice and involve the outside community in their work. Like the Oscars, the Milken Educator Awards are a closely-kept secret until the winner is announced before a cheering crowd of students, faculty and elected leaders.
“This is not someone who stands around,” said state education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “She is taking a leadership role in her school and changing the lives of our children.”
Rendine, who is getting married in December, “does it all,” as Infante-Green said.
During the pandemic, with students stuck at home for months, Rendine and her mother narrated YouTube videos of such sites as the topiary gardens in Portsmouth, ski trips in Vermont and Red Sox games.
Rendine shared those virtual field trips with her class, embedding a little English and a little math in each one. More importantly, her students got a glimpse of the world beyond their laptops.
She also hosts an after-school dance class called “Fancy Feet,” in collaboration with the local Boys and Girls Club and she started a community garden to help her students understand the value of green spaces. Rendine also sponsors an annual STEAM event, which stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math.
“She really goes above and beyond in her efforts to engage kids,” said her principal, Tonianne Napolitano. “She is soft-spoken. She is well-respected by the faculty. There is no drama. She has a great rapport with the kids.”
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Teaching was always her first love. Rendine remembers making worksheets for her dolls.
And she hasn’t stopped learning. She recently earned a certificate to teach students who have dyslexia, a reading disability where individuals have difficulty decoding letters and words.
The Milken Educator Awards has no formal nomination process. Candidates are selected through a confidential selection process and are reviewed by a blue ribbon panel in each state. Final selection is made by the Milken Family Foundation.
Up to 40 elementary educators will be recognized this school year.
Linda Borg covers education for The Journal.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: East Providence teacher wins the Milken Educator Award