Danielle Charbonneau, an English language arts teacher at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, has been named the 2023 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, becoming the first ever teacher from Martha’s Vineyard to receive the prestigious award. She will now represent Massachusetts in the National Teacher of the Year award.
In her application for the award, Charbonneau emphasized the need for dynamic education to remain relevant and provide students with new ideas. “We need to be bold enough to make the changes that need to happen in our classrooms and in our schools,” she wrote.
Danielle Charbonneau is an 18-year veteran teacher, with seven years of experience in the school’s alternative education program, of which she is currently the coordinator. The program is designed to engage students who were not thriving in the traditional high school structure. In addition, Charbonneau is the co-advisor to Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s Gender Sexuality Alliance and a member of the school’s Race-Equity and Cultural Proficiency Group.
Charbonneau’s alternative education program, called Project Vine, aims to increase student engagement, reduce chronic absenteeism, and break what is often a family legacy of bad high school experiences. Charbonneau’s students are not separated from their peers and are still able to participate in extracurricular activities and electives.
“You know, it can be very painful for some people to try and get through the traditional educational model, and there’s room for alternatives,” Charbonneau said. “If school is fun, kids will come.”
Danielle Charbonneau’s selection for the award began with a call for nominations from administrators, teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders in January. The selection process included a review of the nominees, followed by a pool of 12 semifinalists which was then narrowed down to five, and then two finalists. Finally, Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley selected Danielle Charbonneau as the winner.
“Ms. Charbonneau is a caring and committed teacher who supports students at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in a meaningful way, preparing them for success in and out of the classroom,” said Governor Charlie Baker in a statement. State Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley also praised Charbonneau’s commitment to adapting school to students’ needs, which has prepared her students for success in the classroom and beyond.
Charbonneau hopes to encourage state education officials and lawmakers to create grants for schools interested in following the Project Vine model and to keep good data on their progress. “So that we can get a real sense of what works,” she said, “and really use that to drive the educational choices that are being made.”
Charbonneau’s recognition as the 2023 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year is a testament to her commitment to making education accessible and enjoyable for all students. Her innovative approach to alternative education programs, as well as her dedication to creating an inclusive and accepting environment for all students, has had a significant impact on her students’ lives. As she continues to inspire and motivate her students, Danielle Charbonneau serves as a role model for educators across the country.