They offer challenges and hold high expectations, but are also known for being caring, compassionate, dedicated and driven. Meet Methuen Public Schools’ 2023-24 Teachers of the Year!

Last month, Methuen’s principals presented to the School Committee their school’s top-educator winner (selected based on input from staff and sometimes students). Comprehensive Grammar School’s winner, Carrie Capua, was also named the Methuen Rotary Club’s Teacher of the Year.

Congrats to all! Learn a bit more about these professionals and what they love about their jobs.    

CGS: Gr. 3 ELL Carrie Capua

Teaching can be a challenge. But how do you teach a child who speaks a different language?

Kindness is key, and that’s where CGS’ Carrie Capua has thrived for the past 7 years. She works with grade-3 newcomers in the EXCEL classroom.

“Mrs. Capua lets us work together and helps us make friends. She helped us learn English and made us better readers,” wrote one of her students, in the nomination letter read by Supervising Principal Katie Proietti.

Recently Capua was observed collaborating with administration, staff and others to develop support for a new student.

“She led with the student’s strengths, interests and what he CAN do!” Proietti said. “She is never deterred by the student challenges. Instead, she builds on strengths in a positive supportive way to engage the student and partner with the family.”

“I’ve been able to work with many diverse students that come from many different countries and cultures,” Capua said. “Working with newcomer students has become a passion for me. People often ask how I do it when I don’t speak their native language. Having consistent routines, high expectations and building relationships with students all contribute to the success in our classroom. … I feel that many students thrive in our classroom, not because I speak their language but because I welcome them wholeheartedly and show kindness, a universal language for all.

“Every year in June, when I take time to reflect on all that we’ve accomplished and the progress my students made, I feel proud and grateful to be a part of their journey,” Capua said.

“Without knowing the language, (Capua) embraces (her students) as her own, not just another one passing through the system,” noted one of Capua’s colleagues. “Because of teachers like her, hope becomes tangible.”

 


MHS: Teacher, coach Jason Smith

Jason Smith, who has taught science at MHS for over 25 years, is a winner in the classroom, on the softball field and in the pool! He’s a dedicated and approachable educator, mentor and coach with an uncanny ability to connect with kids of all ages and abilities. But he’s no pushover!

“Mr. Smith is known as a teacher with high expectations. Moreover, he is a teacher who consistently sets high standards and goals for his students and takes pride in his students achieving those goals,” said MHS Principal Rich Barden. “Mr. Smith sends the most important message to all of his students, ‘You can do this! I’m not giving up on you!’ “

Smith has built a strong anatomy and physiology course, complete with attention-grabbing labs.

And at the end of the school day, Mr. Smith becomes Coach Smith.

“For nearly 20 years he had led the swim and dive and softball programs to victory,” Barden continued. “Most notable is his ability to create a culture of success, hard work and integrity.”

“Where has the time gone?” asked Smith, noting that then-Principal Arthur Nicholson was among those “who sold me on this place and took a chance on a young kid from upstate New York. It’s 26 years later, we have a beautiful building – with walls – and I’m still here!

“I’ve had the opportunity to teach and coach some of the greatest kids, many of whom have gone on to do great things in their lives,” said Smith. “To all of my former and current students in physical science, biology, AP biology, anatomy and physiology, and to all of my athletes in swim and dive, softball and even basketball, thank you for the impact that you have made on Methuen and on my life.”

He named many former and current MHS staffers who’ve made his time at MHS memorable – both professionally and personally.

Several of Smith’s softball players – still in uniform – attended the meeting, cheering on and high-fiving their coach in celebration of his award.
   

Marsh: Gr. 7 ELA Christina Conlon

As a seventh-grade English Language Arts (ELA) teacher, Christina Conlon thinks outside the “book” when it comes to the district’s new literacy curriculum.

“Her classroom is a hub of student engagement and conversations about reading, where students’ voices are as prominent as hers,” said Supervising Principal Rebecca Gordon, noting Conlon empowers kids “to take ownership of their learning processes.” 

A Marsh staffer since 2014, Conlon shows “exceptional leadership skills” within the ELA department, especially as teachers embarked down a new path this year.

“She has provided essential support to new and veteran teachers in all aspects related to our new curriculum resources,” Gordon said. “Her colleagues continually seek her out for curriculum support, and she embodies the spirit of a self-starter and a lifelong learner.”

Conlon said she feels fortunate to be part of her school’s “inspiring community.”

“Thank you to my wonderful students for working so hard and embracing all that seventh grade throws at them. Your tenacity, enthusiasm and resilience continually remind me of the impact that education has on shaping the future,” she said.

  

Tenney: Counselor Laura DePlacido

For 20 years, Laura DePlacido has “worked tirelessly as an advocate for her students’ learning, whether it be in math and science or students’ social and emotional learning and development,” said Supervising Principal David Hill in his nomination letter.

DePlacido has served as both a sixth-grade teacher and a Lower School guidance counselor.

“Today she is seen as a leader of the Tenney guidance team. She mentors new counselors and never shies away from lending a helping hand when needed, especially when things get tough,” Hill noted. “(Laura) eagerly shares her years of successful teaching expertise with new teachers just beginning their journey. She is an invaluable resource and someone whom anyone can go to with questions and advice.

“Laura has helped to build the Tenney community to what it is today including participating and volunteering in after-school events with families. Over the past two decades she has been a constant positive force in making our school a place where students want to learn, grow and feel included,” Hill stated.

DePlacido heralded her administration and co-workers “for their commitment to our students and each other … and being able to support a creative learning environment.”

“To my students, thank you for trusting me and allowing me to guide you on your journey. Every day I continue to learn from and grow with you.”
 

 

Timony: Karen Krull, psychologist

As a school psychologist, Karen Krull’s role is to work with the staff and child to bring on student success, particularly in the area of special education.

“This inevitably starts with her in-depth understanding of each child she is testing, and family with which she works. Her ability to develop trusting relationships with students during the testing process in such a short amount of time is exceptional, and essential in her charge to create the best picture of how the child learns and what they need,” said Supervising Principal Chris Reeve. “Karen is exceedingly skillful in communicating often sensitive and emotional information to families in an empathetic and supportive way. Her great success, I believe, is due to her experience, knowledge base, and sincere want to help each student with which she evaluates.”

“Karen Krull is truly a gift to this building,” wrote one of her co-workers. “She is incredibly knowledgeable and has a special way of making students feel safe and understood while in her presence. She is a great listener with the most thoughtful responses who goes above and beyond to capture the entire picture of every child she works with.”

Krull has worked in Methuen Public Schools since 1995.

Krull credited the work she does to “the input I get from the staff, who all know the kids so well and provide me with the information I present at my meetings.”

“I absolutely love working with our kids! They truly are the best part of my day. … I’m lucky enough in my position to work one-on-one with them, so I get to know them on a whole different level.

“I really, really love being at the Timony for all these years. … It’s the best place to be!”

 

Methuen Public Schools’ 2023-2024 Teachers of the Year are (from left) Marsh seventh-grade ELA teacher Christina Conlon, MHS science teacher and coach Jason Smith, CGS EXCEL teacher Carrie Capua who is also the Methuen Rotary Teacher of the Year, Timony psychologist Karen Krull and Tenney guidance counselor Laura DePlacido. ML photo by Melissa Fili