Alumna Aurora D'Angelo of Springfield, a 2013 recipient of a Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award, thanks Elms for contributing to her success.

Aurora D'Angelo

Alumna Aurora D'Angelo of Springfield, who received her MAT in secondary education in English from Elms in December 2013, has won a Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award. She credits the caring atmosphere of Elms as a contributing factor to her success as a teacher.

Alumna Praises Atmosphere of Caring at Elms

For Aurora D’Angelo, receiving her Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)  in secondary education in English from Elms in December 2013 was very much a team effort.

“Elms has been so supportive, not just educationally, but socially and emotionally as well,” said the eighth grade English Language Arts teacher at M. Marcus Kiley Middle School in Springfield. “All the professors – they care. I wasn’t just another student. That’s how I made it through.”

That guidance and support helped form the teacher she is today, and is one reason she believes she was selected as a recipient of a Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award for 2013.

Aurora, the daughter of Cuban immigrants, was born in Miami Beach, Florida, and moved to Holyoke as an infant with her family in 1963. Like many immigrants eager to assimilate at the time, Spanish was something spoken only around the house. Aurora had her first encounter with Elms back in the mid-1980s, when the college she was attending didn’t offer high-level Spanish as part of its teacher training.

Looking back, “I had a good experience. I was a commuter back then, but the people are still the same - it’s a close-knit school,” she said.

The Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award is sponsored by the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation of Agawam. Nominees must demonstrate excellence in teaching, personal development, good job attendance and enthusiasm for teaching and working with children.

Aurora teaches at a Level 4 school, meaning it is one of 11 identified by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as a school that needs to improve student performance. She not only enjoys the challenge, she seeks it out.

“What moves a student is having someone truly care about them as a person. I ask for the underdogs,” she said. “They are the ones I know I can move. I love building confidence in students who don’t have it. I break down crying when a student who struggled all year is ready to fly,” she said.

Aurora will officially receive the honor at a dinner at the Log Cabin in Holyoke in May. And when she does, she will be thinking about all those who helped her get where she is today. “I thank all of the professors, the advisors, the secretaries at Elms -- I thank them for their support, and all the personal touches,” Aurora said.

For more on the Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award, click here.