Bookmark and Share


By Nicole DeFeudis

ndefeudis@ lowellsun. com

BOSTON » Not many middle school students can say their teacher encouraged them to call the mayor to ask for a million dollars. But one Lowell history teacher’s students can.

When students showed interest in developing a foreign language program for Lowell middle- schoolers, Joseph G. Pyne Arts Magnet School teacher Michael Neagle jumped to their aid. Together, they concluded that it would cost about a million dollars to create a language program in every Lowell middle school. So one of Neagle’s students went down to the principal’s office and dialed the mayor.

While then- Mayor Edward Kennedy couldn’t guarantee that kind of funding, the kids came away from the project with a $ 3,000 grant to start an after- school Spanish program at Pyne Arts.

“ The thing that’s so key with Mike is his passion,” said Pyne


Joseph G. Pyne Magnet School Principal Wendy Crocker-Roberge, Pyne School teacher Michael Neagle, Bartlett Community Partnership School teacher Rachel Crawford and Bartlett School Principal Peter Holtz pose after Neagle and Crawford were named Teacher of the Year semifinalists.



Arts Principal Wendy Crocker-Roberge.

It is for this reason, among many others, that Neagle was selected as 2019 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year, which also puts him in the running for an upcoming national teacher of the year award.

Neagle and Bartlett Community Partnership School music teacher Rachel Crawford were also honored as Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Semi- Finalists in a ceremony at the Statehouse Thursday morning.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education celebrated 19 teachers in the Great Hall at 10 a. m. Around 100 family members and friends cheered and snapped photos from rows of chairs as the DESE presented awards for outstanding work.

“ I think that every day, we should be recognizing the teachers that help our children,” said DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley in his opening remarks.

When Neagle, a Malden native, graduated from Westfield State University in 1999 with a bachelor’s in communication, he went straight into the Marine Corps. He never imagined that he would later become a teacher.

As a Marine, Neagle developed a passion for history and culture. When he got back, he joined the Boston travel consultant Explorica Inc., and got the chance to travel to Europe with tours of high school students from all over the country.

“ Through that experience I found out that I actually really liked working with kids,” he said.

From there, he pursued a master’s in education at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. And the rest is history.

Neagle has taught seventhand eighth- grade history and civics at Pyne Arts for the last seven years.

“ Social studies education needs to be meaningful. It needs to be authentic,” he said, adding that he implores his students to find meaning outside the classroom.

To help them do so, Neagle runs three main programs in his eighth- grade course: One which incorporates curriculum from the national nonprofit Generation Citizen, a mock trial program, and a new podcast project.

In his class, Neagle’s students have filed legislation addressing youth vaping, and advocated for other issues like hands- free driving and teen suicide awareness and prevention.

“ There’s a value in that [ traditional textbook learning], but that can’t be everything,” Neagle said regarding his action projects.

He even started a volunteer program at Pyne Arts called the Service Corps, which has donated around 15,000 pieces of clothing to children and raised about $ 20,000 for local charities.

“ It has exploded in the last seven years,” Neagle said about the Service Corps. He estimates that around 40% of Pyne Arts middle- schoolers volunteered this year.

“ I wouldn’t be here without the kids,” he said.

Crawford, who has worked at Bartlett for 13 years, couldn’t agree more. Principal Peter Holtz stressed that Crawford makes a significant impact in and out of the classroom.

“ She makes music a safe place,” Holtz said, where students can learn and grow.

Eleven years ago, Crawford spearheaded the school’s Multicultural Festival, which still celebrates cultural art, music and food every year.

“ We’re so proud of our teachers in Massachusetts,” Riley said after the ceremony. “ We need to show them more appreciation than we do.”

The ceremony, he said, was just one small way of doing that.

Nicole DeFeudis: @ Nicole_ DeFeudis on Twitter

Pyne Arts teacher Michael Neagle accepts a History Teacher of the Year award from Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley.


Teachers receiving awards included: (top left) Pine Hill Elementary teacher Jennifer Ryan, Joseph G. Pyne Arts Magnet School teacher Michael Neagle, Nathan Hale School teacher Dominique Gilmer, Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School librarian Jennifer Gordon, Bartlett Community Partnership School teacher Rachel Crawford, Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School teacher Roxann Grover, Milford High School teacher Eamon Cunningham, Hyannis West Elementary teacher Chaitra McCarty Byrd, Bird Middle School teacher David Kujawski, (bottom left) High Rock School teacher Tamara Hosford Keough, Liberty Elementary School teacher Melissa Zeitz, Memorial Elementary School teacher Jenney Pascarelli, New Bedford High School teacher Takeru Nagayoshi, Blake Middle School teacher Marissa Gumas, Florence Sawyer School teacher Karen Walsh Fortin, Grace Farrar Cole Elementary School teacher Alison Pagani and Dr. Williams W. Henderson K-12 Inclusion School teacher Danielle Merdin.

Bookmark and Share