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Great Brook School teacher chosen for Sanford Teacher Award

  • Maryanne Cullinan of Antrim coaches a small group in her “Organization 101” class on prioritizing their list of ideas for an upcoming class party. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Maryanne Cullinan of Antrim teaches a sixth-grade class on "Organization 101" at Great Brook School in Antrim. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Maryanne Cullinan of Antrim teaches a sixth-grade class on "Organization 101" at Great Brook School in Antrim. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Maryanne Cullinan of Antrim teaches a sixth-grade class on "Organization 101" at Great Brook School in Antrim. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Maryanne Cullinan suggests a scheduled breakdown of events to a group of students who are in the planning phase for a class party. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Maryanne Cullinan of Antrim teaches a sixth-grade class on "Organization 101" at Great Brook School in Antrim. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, December 05, 2018 4:51PM

Great Brook School teacher Maryanne Cullinan has been chosen from teachers across the state for the Sanford Teacher Award, given to teachers who inspire their students. 

“Most of what I do is just trying to understand kids,” Cullinan said. “I’m trying to build their skills and help them understand that school is a place for them.”

In the classroom Tuesday, Cullinan demonstrated the kind of disposition that netted her the award, getting down on her student’s level, listening intently to their plans for the class party they’re planning. It’s part of her “Organization 101” class – a block that uses real-life scenarios such as party planning to teach executive functions like planning ahead, time management and budgeting.

The group is bursting ideas for activities – Uno, Mafia, hangman, a long list of refreshments – so much so that Cullinan has to remind them they only have a 50-minute block to do it all, advising them to plan and prioritize, without squashing their enthusiasm for the project.

It’s the kind of connection to her students that qualified Cullinan, a middle school teacher at Great Brook School in Antrim, to be chosen as the New Hampshire recipient of the 2018 Sanford Teacher Award.

The Sanford Teacher Award recognizes one teacher from each state and the District of Columbia, based on criteria of inspiring teaching. The awards, supported by and named for philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, award teachers who create inspirational and harmonious classrooms supporting student development and achievement.

Each teacher is awarded a $10,000 prize, and is entered for a chance to be recognized at the national winner of the Sanford Teacher Award, selected from the pool of 51 educators. 

Like her students, Cullinan said, she has too many ideas for what she’d like to do with her prize – put in a work sink in her home to accommodate her messy crafting projects, take her kids on an airplane for the first time, getting a nice gift for the school and the colleague who nominated her for the award, and paying off some of her student loans.

“I know I have to prioritize,” she said. “But it’s nice to think about.”

Cullinan teaches Extended Learning at Great Brook School in Antrim, where she wears several hats. The groups she teaches are pulled out for enrichment opportunities, which include things like building Lego robotics, classes on acting, prop or costume design and improv, public speaking, organization, media production, and a mentor program between her middle school students and Antrim Elementary School students. 

“Maryanne is an incredibly creative and energetic teacher, who has a boundless capacity for empathy,” Great Brook Principal Jim Elder said Tuesday. “There’s no kid she doesn’t see for who they are. She always finds a way to value them and connect with them.”

The improv class she teaches, for example, Elder said, grew out of Cullinan looking at the “class clown” personalities in the school.

“She said, well, what do these kids need? They need an audience and they need to feel like they’re funny. Improv gives these kids the things they need in a pro-social way. She helps kids find their voice, find their passion, and find school to be an enjoyable place to be.”

“I get to  help kids find their passions,” Cullinan said. “I love the kids, and I love being able to introduce to them ideas they had no idea existing, that become important in their lives.”

The National Sanford Teacher Award will be announced in early 2019.