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Montville honors fourth grade educator as Teacher of the Year

Montville — "You are here to become your very best self."

That is Patty Miceli's classroom motto. The Rhode Island native has been teaching in elementary schools for 31 years — 21 of them with fourth graders at Oakdale Elementary School. She recently was named Montville's Teacher of the Year for 2021-22.

"Patty is a hard worker. She loves children," Oakdale Principal Jill Mazzalupo said. "This is a long time coming."

"I'm so honored," Miceli said. "Especially after this year, when I know there are so many deserving teachers in this district."

The award carries a heavier meaning for Miceli after a year that has been challenging for educators everywhere due to remote and hybrid learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I honestly felt like a first year teacher," she said with a laugh. "I had to learn a lot."

Teaching during the pandemic has forced her to "think out of the box" and work closely with her colleagues. She disclosed she's never been "tech-savvy" but her skills certainly have improved this past year.

"A positive about COVID is that we all learned so much and we learned together," Miceli said. "Receiving this award, it's not just about me. It's about us because it really takes a village. Everybody has taken a part in who I am as a teacher."

She was taken by surprise during field day June 10 when faculty and one of her former students, Hannah Desaulnier, presented her with flowers and the award.

"It's so special to have someone from your past still be impacted by your teaching," said Miceli, who to this day keeps a canvas of a guitar that Desaulnier made when Miceli taught her years ago.

Miceli is known among her students for bringing in her guitar and singing to them. Among her favorite songs to sing are two timeless classics: "Puff the Magic Dragon" and Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now." She owns books that illustrate each.

She likes showing the books to the kids and singing the songs to them. She thinks they are great stories to teach her students about themes. "Puff" is about lifelong friendships and Mitchell's lyrics are interpreted by the book's illustrator as the lifecycle of a butterfly and changing perspectives.

As a musician, Miceli also has written songs that teach her students writing skills, such as narrative and expository writing. "I really feel that music engages students."

Despite loving this practice, Miceli had to withdraw from singing to her students in the classroom because of COVID-19. That is, until the last week of school, when she promised to sing to her current class outside.

Miceli describes her "little people" as being what makes her job so rewarding. She recognized they went through a tough time when faced with remote learning.

"Every family has a different story and different dynamic ... some kids had parents that lost their jobs, some had family members that passed away," Miceli said. As a teacher, she got a different perspective into their lives, supporting them in any way she could.

"Teaching becomes not just a job, it becomes a way of life," Mazzalupo said. "Patty does that."

Miceli thanks her own family and children for accepting "20 new siblings" into their family every year.

j.velazquez@theday.com

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