An English language arts teacher at Springfield Central High School who had originally planned to become a screenwriter was honored Tuesday as the state’s Teacher of the Year.
Anne Marie Bettencourt, a New Bedford native who lives in Hatfield, said winning the award was a “huge, unexpected honor.”
When she got the call, she said in an interview, “it was a delayed reaction, and then it hit me: ‘It was me. It was me.’ ”
Her ninth-grade students cheered for her and gave her a card signed by everyone in the class.
Bettencourt, 31, who has taught English language arts since 2008, attended Syracuse University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in screenwriting. But after volunteering in a local youth center and spending two summers teaching in Rhode Island while in college, she said, she realized her calling was in the classroom.
“Teachers tend to love their subject, but Anne Marie lives hers,” Springfield Central High principal, Thaddeus Tokarz, wrote in his letter of recommendation for Bettencourt.
Besides teaching, she serves as a ninth-grade team facilitator, working with students, parents, and the community.
“Last year, more than 90 percent of students from Bettencourt’s team moved on to the 10th grade, compared to roughly 50 percent of ninth-graders across the district,” said JC Considine, spokesman for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Bettencourt also helps mold future teachers. For the past three years, she has mentored student teachers at Springfield College, her alma mater, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
The other Teacher of the Year finalists and their schools were: Kimberly Chaffee, Quaboag Regional Middle High School in Warren; Jenna Gampel, Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton; Mary Gavin, Bennett-Hemenway School in Natick; and Ann Lambert, King Philip Regional High School in Wrentham.
Bettencourt said she hopes the award shines a spotlight on urban education.
“There are so many negative things people think about urban schools,” she said. “This is finally a positive. This is a really positive thing for this city.”Lauren Dezenski can be reached at lauren.desenski@