RI Teacher of the Year, Lisa Leaheey Talks About Her New Role!

Jeevika Thazhaiselvam, Managing Editor

On June 8, 2022, the Commissioner of Education announced Lisa Leaheey, ELA teacher at NPHS, was announced the 2023 Rhode Island State Teacher of the Year. Ever since, she’s taken up various new responsibilities, which she has kindly shared with the Cougar Courier.

“Every Thursday, I work at the RI Department of Education, planning events for the 2023 District Teachers of the Year, like the recent WaterFire celebration”, she says. “I also work in various RIDE groups on initiatives like Secondary Education Regulation, Educator Recognition, and DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion).”

Once a month, she joins NBC10’s Patrice Wood and the Commissioner of Education, Angelica Infante-Green, in presenting RI educators with the Golden Apple Award. As prestigious as this may seem, Mrs. Leaheey’s accolades don’t end there. She has appeared on the Rhode Show to promote Providence’s WaterFire Recognition and celebrate Educator Excellence. In addition, she has also appeared on the Teacher’s Aid podcast to talk about restoring relationships with students.

Using these new platforms, Mrs. Leaheey has focused on helping shift the traditional mindset about grading. She says, “I want to help teachers change their minds about how grading and assessment can function in the classroom. Since the pandemic, we’ve focused a lot of attention on students’ well-being. Still, we haven’t revisited one of the foundational elements of traditional education – one that CAUSES a lot of student stress every year – grading. I am saddened by how much students define their value by a number on a test or report card and how hundredths of a GPA point can threaten to ruin a student’s school year. We need to focus on relearning what school is for and restructuring how we assess student learning and student progress, and we have to rethink the way grades work in our classes”.

Mrs. Leaheey’s grading and teaching style approach has found immense favor in her classes. Priyanssi Behera, a senior at NPHS, says, “she values students’ opinions, and I always feel seen in her class. She doesn’t go by the books and instead has her unique ways of helping us learn.”

On top of all this, Mrs. Leaheey is part of the 2023 NTOY cohort, which means she’ll be traveling to meet and work with other 2023 STOYs. As part of these duties, she’ll be able to visit the Google headquarters in California, go to a Space Camp in Arizona, and even meet the president himself in Washington, DC! She’ll be able to discuss important issues regarding education with national legislation. Last but not least, Mrs. Leaheey is applying for the 2024 United States National Teacher of the Year. Regardless of whether she wins, her accomplishments in teaching and her impact on students are a victory that NPHS can boast about!