By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN â For the second time this year, a North Kingstown teacher has been awarded the Golden Apple Award by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) Commissioner Deborah Gist and WJAR 10âs Patrice Wood.
The recipient is NK High School special education teacher Christine Healy and, according to those working closest to her, itâs a well-deserved distinction.
âWe are all very happy that Chris has been recognized with this award,â North Kingstown High School Principal Dr. Thomas Kenworthy said. âChris works tirelessly on behalf of her students and makes sure that they are exposed to rich and challenging educational opportunities.â
Healy knew officials from RIDE would be visiting her classroom last Friday to take a look at hows sheâs preparing her students for the workforce after high school as part of the life skills and transitional class she teaches.
She says she had prepared lessons to show RIDE when Gist, Wood and a full camera crew surprisingly walked through the door and surprised her.
âI was shocked,â Healy said. âI just kept blabbering and repeating myself. I had expected them to arrive at a certain time and when they did come, we had just gotten back from the Wickford Yacht Club where the students are working and I was a mess.â
As part of her teaching, Healy coordinates with area businesses to allow her students, who have an array of special needs, to work for a period of time.
This allows them to have a variety of career choices after they graduate high school.
Parents are the only ones who can nominate a teacher, which, to Healy, means a lot.
âWhen a parent is affected by what youâre teaching their child...,â she said. âItâs a feeling I canât describe.â
When Raelene Hornby, mother of senior Lizzie Hartford, saw WJAR was accepting nominations, she thought âWho better than Healy?â
âShe gives the students a set of skills that theyâll take with them outside of the school settings,â Hornby said. âShe meets with prospective employers on her own time and that tells a lot.â
In addition to the yacht club, her students have worked at Daveâs Marketplace, Jamestown Community Farm, YMCA and within the high school in the mailroom, cafeteria and greenhouse.
Along with working at area businesses, the students also take part in service-learning projects that allow them to experience the joy of helping others. The latest project entailed performing a Charles Dickenâs play and they charged a canned food item for each admission. All the cans were then donated to the North Kingstown Food Pantry.
At a second play her students performed, they asked for audience members to donate a piece of brightly colored fabric as admission. The coolection was then made into pillow cases for the children at Hasbro Childrenâs Hospital.
âI think itâs so important for my students to connect to the community,â Healy said. âPerforming in the plays and working in the community is a wonderful way for my students to connect what theyâre learning in school to adult daily living.â
After graduation, students will move on to the transition academy soon to be located at the former Davisville Elementary School, where theyâll receive more formal job training.
Hornby said her daughter has come along way both academically and personally thanks to Healyâs teachings.
âSheâs grown into such a lovely young lady and itâs because of the skills sheâs learning,â Horny said. âLizzie has found hobbies and is excited for whatâs to come after graduation.â
Healy has been a teacher for 15 years and has been in the district for most of her career. Sheâs been teaching at the high school for the past four years and, before that, taught regular education throughout district.
âI have the best three paraprofessionals a teacher could ask for. I couldnât do all the things with the students if it wasnât for them,â added Healy.
Healyâs Golden Apple Award segment will air on NBC 10 on March 29.