Five-year veteran wins city Teacher of the Year

Third-grade teacher at Maree G. Farring Elementary honored by students, officials

May 13, 2010|By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

The 17 roses that adorned the desks of Brian Rainville's third-grade classroom at Maree G. Farring Elementary/Midde School symbolized why he was named Baltimore's Teacher of the Year on Thursday morning.

The roses were originally a bouquet presented to Rainville as he learned he had received the honor during a surprise visit from schools CEO Andres Alonso and other administrators.

As fast as they were in his arms, Rainville handed the flowers to one of his students who distributed them to the rest of the class, as Rainville offered his first words: "It's the students' accomplishments that allow any teacher to succeed," he said.

"When they came through the door, I was excited for my kids," Rainville said of his surprise visit and honor. "I couldn't have been Teacher of the Year without their achievements."

The 29-year-old Rainville, who will also celebrate a birthday Friday, began his teaching career at Maree G. Farring five years ago. He left a business career in commercial construction to attend the Baltimore City Teaching Residency and landed his job at the elementary school in 2005. He taught kindergarten and first grade before he began teaching third grade in 2008.

Rainville led his first class of third-graders to a 100 percent pass rate on the Maryland School Assessments, with 86 percent of students scoring in advanced math, according to city school officials.

It was these accomplishments and others that inspired Principal Linda Brewster's nomination of Rainville. Brewster, who began her career as prinicipal at Maree G. Farring the same school year as Rainville, called him "the epitome of what a teacher should be."

"I knew it within the first week that he would be Teacher of the Year," Brewster said. "He would have been nominated before, but the requirement is that a nominee be teaching for at least five years."

Tearful students hugged school administrators and school system officials in gratitude for Rainville's award. Others sat beaming at their desks. When asked who wanted to comment on why their teacher deserved the honor, every hand went up.

"He takes me through the hot and cold, the thin and thick, in everything I do," said Iyanla Taylor, 9, who was also Rainville's student in first grade. "I can tell him whatever I need. That's the person that I can count on when I need something."

Parent Jennifer Spence, whose 9-year-old son Michael Bright is in Rainville's class, was nearly brought to tears talking about the impact Rainville has had on her son. The family recently moved to Baltimore County and she makes the 25-minute bus ride so that Michael can stay in his class.

She said that when she heard that Rainville had given the students his cell phone number and encouraged them to call him for anything — whether they were in trouble or just wanted to tell a joke — she made sure that Rainville would remain a part of her son's life.

"I feel that my son is getting the education he deserves," Spence said. "He gives them not only what they need, he gives them his all."

Rainville was chosen from 21 nominees and nine finalists for the award, said Nancy Neilson, coordinator of the city's honor. A panel of former honorees selected him based on a writing sample, an interview and observing his class.

"When we observed him, he had a great connection to the children," said Andrea Jackson, who was part of the selection panel. Jackson, a fifth-grade teacher at Northwood Elementary School, was named Teacher of the Year in 2006.

In addition to being in the running for the state's Teacher of the Year award this fall, Rainville also received gifts donated by area businesses, including round-trip tickets on Southwest Airlines, a one-month gym membership, and baseball and theater tickets.

The best gift, Rainville said, was the joy his students exuded when they found out he had won.

"It's an honor because I did my best to win this for them," he said. "They deserve this."

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