Poplaski was surprised by the appearance of her father, professor William Minardi.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A very surprised Dina Poplaski was named the recipient of this year's Marion B. Kelley Teacher of the Year Award.
Poplaski, a prekindergarten teacher at Brayton Elementary School, was gathered with other teachers in the school library after waving off the children for the summer when Principal Sarah Madden made the announcement.
"I'm really overwhelmed," said Poplaski, who was also surprised by the appearance of her father, William Menardi, who recently retired as professor in the education department at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
"She has a wonderful sense of humor that we all appreciate every day," said Madden. "Her room is one that is filled with joy and learning every time I walk in."
The Cheshire resident joined Brayton Elementary in 2002, when it was starting up its early childhood program after operating Rhythm Rhyme Nursery School in locations in Williamstown and Cheshire for more than 20 years.
"To be highly respected and held in such regard is just a great thing," said Superintendent James Montepare, who recalled reading her application when the district was searching for a prekindergarten teacher. The district now has a nationally accredited program. "We have such a wonderful preschool program ... I want you to know how thankful we all are to have you in our district."
Nominations for the annual award, named for the principal of the former Haskins and Johnson schools, are submitted by teachers across the district; the central office makes the final determination.
Madden said it wasn't a hard decision based on the letters received. "It was overwhelmingly Dina."
Mayor Richard Alcombright joked it was no suprise because she came "from such a great lineage of education."
Indeed, education seems a family business: Both of Poplaski's parents were teachers – her mother in Adams for many years and her father teaching science at the former Mark Hopkins School and then education for 24 years at MCLA – and of her five sisters, one is a teacher and the others have been involved in the education field in some form.
Minardi quipped that "when we have family gatherings, it's like a teachers' convention."
Poplaski teared up a little over her peers selecting her for the award.
"I am so pleased, so happy, so overwhelmed; it's so heartfelt, that they chose me ... I am absolutely honored," she said. "I love being here. I love Brayton School."
"I've supervised [student teachers] many times in this building and throughout the whole county and I can say there are some marvelous teachers in this building and in the city," her father said with a grin. "But I concur wholeheartedly with the choice."
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I know Nicholas loved every minute of your classroom last year and is so excited about seeing you this Summer. Congratulations. Great choice.