December 7, 2019

Mercy Alger is Lyme-Old Lyme Schools ‘Teacher of the Year’

Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Teacher of the Year Mercy Alger stands with Superintendent Ian Neviaser(left) and Lyme School Principal Jim Cavalieri after her award was announced.

LYME-OLD LYME — Keeping with tradition, the Lyme-Old Lyme Schools ‘Teacher of the Year’ was announced at Convocation on Aug. 27, the day before students were welcomed back to school for the start of the 2019-20 academic year.

Lyme Consolidated Principal Jim Cavalieri named fourth grade teacher Mercy Alger as the recipient of the award reminding the audience of administrators, faculty and staff that it is given to “acknowledge excellence in teaching in Lyme-Old Lyme Schools.” Noting that, “As a high achieving district, we have many qualified professionals that meet the criteria for this honor,” Cavalieri went on to point out that nevertheless, “This year’s recipient truly rises above our district’s standard of excellence,” adding that she is, “… on the cutting edge with her instruction.”

Alger joined Lyme-Old Lyme Schools in 2007 and has been spent the last eight years teaching fourth grade in Lyme School. In terms of her classroom abilities, Cavalieri mentioned the sign outside Alger’s door, which reads,”Amazing things happen here.”  He stressed, however, that doesn’t tell the whole story, saying, “Truth be told, that message can’t begin to describe the extraordinary experience that happens in her room,” explaining that Alger has created a “non-traditional classroom space” where “a true community of learners” flourishes.

Cavalieri mentioned that coincidentally Alger’s maiden name was Teachworth, but notes that such a name didn’t necessarily foretell she would be an exceptional teacher. Declaring that Alger was, in fact, “born to teach, with or without her birth name,” he described her as “a creative, energetic, and compassionate teacher, who makes a tremendous, positive impact on all of her students.”

Listing numerous activities that Alger has either initiated or continued, including running the “Look for the Good” project, promoting an after-school writing club, co-directing the fifth grade musical, and serving as adviser to Student Leaders, Cavalieri observed that, “what she does beyond the classroom is as important as what she does within the classroom.”

Describing her as a team player, who supports her fellow faculty members in as many ways as possible, Cavalieri added that she does all this “with such great passion.” Cavalieri summed up Alger as someone who allows each and every student — regardless of ability — to reach their potential, and quoting from a parent concluded, “[Alger] sparks something in everyone: finding their passion, listening for their voice, showing them their strengths, and motivating them to act.”

In her acceptance speech, Alger, who attended Lyme-Old Lyme Schools herself, initially looked back on her own school days saying, “I was raised on this stage, within these walls, on this campus,” and prompted laughter when she added, “I was taught by some of you in these very seats.” With a brief burst of music to accompany her, she then gave her own rendition of the opening lines of John Mellencamp’s famous number, “I was born in a small town, and I live in a small town …”

Throughout her speech, Alger used the theme of small towns and the importance of their communities, recalling, ” I was raised here, on the shoulders of giants and … when I looked back at why all of these giants made such an impact on me, it became so clear; they knew the secret of how to have the best school year yet all along.”  This secret she explained was that, “They all told us stories,” adding, “The act of telling a story does more than just tell a story. It builds trust. Community. … Realness.”

Citing examples of memorable and often amusing moments with several of the teachers present in the auditorium from when she was a Lyme-Old Lyme student, Alger urged her colleagues to “remember the power of sharing our stories,”saying, “As the craziness of assessment schedules hits your desk … I hope you remind yourself daily of the person you are outside of your classroom walls and how much power and value that has within your daily interactions with your students. I hope you soak in weekends, inspiring books, hours spent around a table … so that you may come back on any given Monday with yet another story to tell.”

She concluded by stressing that in the moments when teachers share their own personal stories with students, they will be teaching, “… community, vulnerability, and trust … and in those moments I know we will all rise as giants in this small town and have the best year yet.”

 

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