Ronald McDonald House Charities® (RMHC®) of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts has honored 10 area teachers with the sixth annual RMHC Local Hero Awards. The selected teachers from Connecticut and Western Massachusetts have all exhibited tremendous dedication to their profession and outstanding efforts in servicing their schools and communities.
Among those honored with the prestigious award include Sherri Poi, who is an English Language Learners Teacher at Pine Grove Elementary School. She and the other Local Hero Award recipients were honored by the RMHC Board of Directors at a reception at The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford on Wednesday, November 28. Each honoree was presented with a plaque commemorating their award as well as a $1,000 grant for their respective school.
“Our board of directors is proud to acknowledge these exceptional teachers for their tireless commitment and important service,” said Laura Phillips Ward, President of RMHC of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, and also an Avon resident. “Our RMHC chapter awards grants to local nonprofits that provide a brighter future for children, with a particular focus on supporting education. With the Local Hero Awards, we are able to thank the devoted professionals who help children everyday – our outstanding area teachers.”
There is no application or nomination process for the RMHC Local Hero Awards. Instead, the local charity works closely with partnering organizations, such as the Connecticut Association of Schools, Connecticut State Department of Education and the Massachusetts Department of Education, to identify these "Heroes" throughout the region.
With a kind, caring and warm demeanor, Sherri Poi assists non-English speaking students in the Avon School District as the English Language Learners coordinator. Pine Grove Elementary School boasts more ELL students than the sum total of the rest of the district, so Mrs. Poi devotes most of her time there assisting with students who represent 15 different languages.
Fluent in Japanese herself, Mrs. Poi was a head teacher in a pre-K through 9 school and also instructed a course at Kumamoto Gakuen University when she lived in Japan for seven years. When the earthquakes and tsunami devastation struck the country in 2011, Mrs. Poi helped her Japanese students and parents in Avon create a level of connectedness that not only raised funds but also engaged students in cultural exploration.
Mrs. Poi has created a multi-cultural, multi-lingual section in the school library filled with children’s books from around the world; has held night classes for parents to learn English as well; and even helps her colleagues communicate with parents by assisting with phone calls, conferences, and written communications. Mrs. Poi has held numerous professional workshops to show how difficult it is for ELL students: she conducts a basic math lesson speaking solely in Japanese to illustrate how frustrating it can be for someone who does not speak the language; she then shows techniques on using visual models to help aid in communicating the subject matter. This inspirational training prompted several other school districts to request the lesson for their teachers.
RMHC was pleased to recognize Mrs. Poi with the Local Hero Award, and Pine Grove Elementary School Principal Gail Dahling-Hench notes that the grant money from the award will be put to good use with Mrs. Poi’s input.
Since 1988, RMHC of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts has provided more than $6 million to over 400 non-profit organizations, helping thousands of area children lead happier, healthier and more productive lives. RMHC and its global network of local chapters in over 50 countries and regions have awarded more than $460 million in grants and program services supporting children worldwide. For more information about RMHC visit www.rmhc-ctma.org or connect at www.facebook.com/rmhc.ctma.