“She helps me to love school.”
This was the simple explanation of one second-grader at the Dr. William W. Henderson Inclusion Elementary School when she wrote a letter recommending that her teacher Amy Gailunas be chosen as one of Boston’s Best Public School Educators.
On Tuesday, Gailunas, a grade two inclusion teacher, was one of eleven educators to receive the recognition from Mayor Thomas Menino, Superintendent Carol Johnson and the members of the Boston School Committee.
Three Dorchester school teachers were honored at this event, including Gailunas, Harry Gilliam of the Richard J. Murphy K-8 School and Clifford Tetle of Oliver Wendell Holmes Elementary School. Patricia Flakes, a Dorchester resident and teacher at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, was also honored.
The group of 11 was narrowed down from 50-60 educators by a 10-member selection committee made up of parents and administration members. Kathleen Colby, a parent and member of the selection committee, said the criteria boiled down to selecting educators who go above and beyond in their profession in different ways and show a clear commitment to urban public schools.
“This year was an extraordinary group of nominees,” Colby said. “We all commented on how difficult this year it was to actually decide on the winners. Almost everyone who didn’t win could have.”
Gilliam, an 8th grade English, Science and Spanish teacher, has spent 17 years with the Boston Public Schools. He adopted his style from the many different mentors he’s had throughout his years of teaching. His students refer to him as Mr. G, and he enjoys being the support for the middle schoolers he teaches as they navigate the “minefield” that is now adolescence. He was especially touched by the letters his students sent in to help in his selection as Educator of the Year.
“It’s not about the names or title, but it’s about the relationships we share,” Gilliam said.
Tetle, a music teacher for almost 20 years, employs a very humorous and hands-on style of teaching to try to stimulate interest in children from kindergarden to fifth grade. He said receiving the recognition was a complete surprise.
“I really believe in humor,” Tetle said. “I do some funny things in the class to make them laugh because that’s important, and after they laugh, I always say ‘Mr. Tetle likes to have fun, but he likes to get schoolwork done.’”
Flakes, a resident of York Street, has been teaching for 35 years in the Boston Public Schools. She said she was inspired to teach by her first black teacher in 2nd grade in Roxbury, and she remembers teaching her own friends on the porch of her house during her childhood. Flakes said she was very overwhelmed and humbled by the recognition.
“I’m just really passionate about my students being successful,” she said. “It just means so much to them to accomplish even the smallest task. . . It’s my life’s work and it’s what I enjoy, just giving back.”