Samantha Roman McKee Named 2023 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Semifinalist
Kind, hard-working, creative, funny, and smart… are just a few of the adjectives students used to describe their 2nd grade teacher, Samantha Roman McKee.
McKee was recently named a 2023 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Semifinalist. Each year, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education honors a licensed PreK-12 Massachusetts public school teacher who exemplifies excellent teaching in the Commonwealth. The Teacher of the Year program highlights student achievement, educators’ commitment to the profession, innovations in education, and teacher leadership.
Lower School principal Corrie Marchand nominated McKee for the award, calling her an excellent teacher and an asset to the second-grade team and the school.
“Samantha McKee’s ability to engage her students, utilize technology, and share best practices is unmatched and unprecedented,” Marchand said. “She greets her students with music, challenges, and a vast array of online programs that they navigate seamlessly thanks to her teaching and modeling. Her students are growing and learning despite the many challenges they face, and that is due to her dedication. We are fortunate to have her on our staff.”
McKee entered the education field her freshman year in college, working in preschools through an AmeriCorps program called JumpStart. After college, she joined Teach for America, another AmeriCorps program, and was placed at Atlantis as a 1st grade teacher in 2016. She moved to 2nd grade the next year and remains there today.
“I love teaching 2nd grade,” McKee said. “There is still excitement at this age, but there is also more independence. It’s really cool to see students make connections between different subjects they are learning.”
McKee strives to foster a community where students are excited to learn and want to do their best.
“I try to make small, meaningful changes every day. My mantra in my classroom is “Practice Makes Progress.” I don’t aim for perfection because I do not believe it exists. There are always ways to improve. It doesn’t matter how long It takes to reach your goal as long as you make progress along the way.”
Her creativity, flexibility, and collaboration have made her a role model for other teachers at the school. She regularly shares her practices with staff at professional development sessions and takes time to work one-on-one with new staff members or team members who are struggling.
McKee also believes a solid partnership with families is vital to a student’s success in the classroom. Unable to host a classroom open house for families due to pandemic restrictions this past fall, McKee hosted a family gathering at a local park on a Sunday afternoon. Students played in the park while McKee and the ELL teacher spoke with families about their concerns, hopes, and dreams for their children. She says now when she sends a message to a family member, they have a rapport. There is trust and compassion, and she credits that wonderful relationship to one sunny Sunday in the park.
Families appreciate the open communications and McKee’s dedication to her students.
“Mrs. McKee is great. If I reach out to her, she gets back to me in a timely manner,” said Chantelle Gaspar, parent of Taylin Sousa. “If Taylin has any issues at school, she helps, and she teaches me how to help her at home. If she is having a hard time with anything, she’ll give me extra practice for me to work with her at home.”
“Mrs. McKee has been great with my son Ean,” said parent Doribel Apaza. “She is willing to help with everything-even making sure she looks out for him with the lunch menu because he is on a special diet. She communicates about all of the things that are happening in the classroom.”
McKee is fluent in English and Spanish. She is in the process of completing her Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and a Graduate Bilingual Education Certificate.
“I started graduate school in the fall of 2020. I was inspired to act when I saw that ELL students were some of the most affected by online learning,” McKee said. “Being bilingual myself gives me a unique perspective to help students of a similar background. I wanted more tools to promote educational equity for all my students, especially my ELLs.”
When she’s not teaching, McKee is active in the Attleboro SDA Church. She also remains active as an AmeriCorps alum.