Business teacher is NFA teacher of the year

Linda Farinha
Linda Farinha

Norwich — Just as she took a different path to her position as business teacher and now department head at Norwich Free Academy, Linda Farinha wants her students to consider creative and nontraditional ways to approach both business learning and their futures.

Farinha, an eight-year veteran teacher at NFA, was introduced Tuesday to the NFA board of trustees as the 2017 teacher of the year. She learned about the award at the end of the school year in June, but was sworn to secrecy until the new school year started.

She did tell her family, and insisted her two teenage daughters, both NFA students, not spill the beans.

She needn’t have worried. “They said, ‘That’s great, mom, congratulations,’” and promptly went on to the next topic, Farinha said.

Farinha and her husband, Antonio, live in Preston with their daughters, Gabby, 17, a senior at NFA, and Delaney, 14, a freshman at NFA. Her stepson, TJ Farinha, 22, lives in Gales Ferry.

Bradlaw Building Principal Bryant Sheldon had the task of introducing Farinha to the trustees. To prepare, he asked her colleagues to provide one-word descriptions of Farinha. Among dozens of answers, he culled the list: friendly, kind, genuine, creative, insightful, collaborative and forward-thinking.

Farinha became department head of the combined Culinary, Business, Early Childhood Education and Technology Education units at NFA in 2014. In that role, she helped bring the Business Expo to the NFA campus and helped revamp the Brickyard school restaurant, along with the Cat Shack campus store.

Farinha told the board she wants her students to take an active role in their own education and to know that their actions while in school at NFA will affect their future lives and careers.

She started her career with a degree in business at Bryant College in Rhode Island and was working on the cutting edge of marketing, selling then-innovative ATMs in the 1980s. She felt like she wanted something more, so she went back to school for her teaching certificate.

She did her student teaching at NFA and later was hired as a business teacher at Wheeler High School in North Stonington. To get both herself and her students out into the real business world, she connected with chambers of commerce and local businesses. Her Wheeler students helped design a marketing campaign to attract young visitors to Mystic Seaport, for example.

At NFA, she has continued that approach, working with businesses throughout the area on their needs, their challenges and changes to their fields. Her students help businesses come up with creative ways to market themselves on social media. She also brings them to elementary schools to teach personal finance to fourth-graders.

They also learn from businesses the latest trends, technology and even the language of their fields.

“I want to align them so that when they leave here and get to college, they’re not hearing things for the first time,” Farinha said.

She also wants them to realize traditional college is not the only path to a career, and that it’s OK to change career course along the way, as she has done.

c.bessette@theday.com

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