Making Democracy Work

Previous Winners - Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

Chronological list of Merit Awards Winners

10th Annual Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

First Place - Grand Prize - Mr. Larry Verria, Mr. Chris Carty, Mr. Dave Lopes, Mr. Damon Lindsay, Mr. Liam Mooney, Ms. Serena Mason and Mr. Dave Avedisian. North Kingstown History/Democracy Department

The Social Studies Department petitioned to the Leadership Team at the high school that Civics needed to be a graduation requirement. They created a semester course whereby students are inspired to become responsible voters, create an end of semester project that encourages each student to become civically involved and prepares them to demonstrate to the community civic rights and responsibilities. Mr. Verria presented the evidence and it was approved. Each year there has been two Dialogues in Democracy night events to celebrate the completion of the students' Democracy Projects. Mr. Verria invites the local and state politicians, parents, students, faculty and Civics groups. Each guest has the opportunity to discuss with the students their topic of interest, what they did to research, who they may have interviewed, why they stand for their position. Students present their work and defend their evidence.

Second Place - Jury Prize - Ms. Stacy Joslin Blackstone Valley Charter School

Stacy helps lead her students toward making authentic change in their communities. She has done this in numerous ways, from working with students to write two books focused on positively portraying the stories of immigrants, to teaching students how to advocate for legislation here in Rhode Island (the Dream Act), to empowering students with the skills to understand complex civic, governmental and social issues so that they can make informed opinions and advocate for their own community's needs. This year, her use of Restorative Justice Circles in Civics has helped improve classroom culture, and two of her students recently traveled to New Haven Academy to share their expertise in Circles as a pedagogical tool.

Third Place - Honorable Mention Prize - Ms. Katherine Kay RI School for the Deaf

Her students, with learning differences, are going to a national championship for the second year. By teaching problem-solving, mutual respect, understanding and the need to make smart choices Kathy Kay, laid the foundation for student discourse and for true participatory citizenship. She developed a Battle of Books project for her students at RI School for the Deaf. In her first year as a co-coach with Joseph Batiano they lead their team to the second round (out of 32 teams to 8 teams) of Gallaudet University's Battle of the Books National Competition. She ultimately led the team to the national championship in 2016 and won the nationals for the green division. Her commitment to her students sets an example of caring for others and carrying out one's responsibilities which is a necessary part of civic participation.

9th Annual Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

At a June ceremony at the State House, the League recognized teachers who have demonstrated expertise in civics education. Melissa Long, Deputy Secretary of State was keynote speaker.

Photo Caption: Ryan Cannole, DelSesto Middle School, Providence, RI (Honorable Mention); Michael Miele, Captain Isaac Paine Elementary School, Foster, RI (2nd place); and Heidi Vazquez, The Compass School, Kingston, RI (1st place)

8th Annual Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

Rhode Island State House, June 10, 2015
Guest Speaker: Judith Savage, Rhode Island Supreme Court Judge

-- Civic Education Honorees --

Louise Oliveira
Exeter-West Greenwich Regional High School, West Greenwich
Mark Gardiner, Chariho High School, Wood River Junction
Barbara Walton-Faria
Thompson Middle School, Newport
Stacy Andreozzi and Heather Simmons
Pleasant View Elementary School, Providence

7th Annual Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

Rhode Island State House, June 11, 2014
Guest Speaker: Deborah A. Gist, RI Commissioner of Education

-- Civic Education Honorees --

Kimberly Rawson
North Smithfield High School, North Smithfield
James Gemma
Edward Rhodes Elementary School, Cranston
Deborah Marcello and Gregory Quirk
Portsmouth Middle School, Portsmouth

6th Annual Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

Rhode Island State House, June 5, 2013
Judges for the award: Representative Donna Walsh, Vincent Hawkins and Nancy Burns-Fusaro
Our guest Speaker was David V. Abbott, Deputy Commissioner of Education

Winners of the 2012-2013 Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

First Place
Teacher: Soljane Quiles + Highland Charter School, Providence, RI

Ms. Quiles has successfully conveyed to her middle-level students the importance, and obligation, of civic involvement. Her experience in journalism prior to becoming a teacher, her advocacy for middle school involvement with Generation Citizen, and face-to-face classroom discussions with members of the judiciary and the bar have provided her students with a solid, civic platform upon which to build. Her energy and expertise created unique experiences for her students that will stay with them forever. Her work is truly outstanding.

Second Place
Teacher: Edward Inman + Western Hills Middle School, Cranston, RI

Mr. Inman used his many connections to involve judges and attorneys in the school's "Law Day." He worked with students to help them understand the role of the courts in society, explored civic topics including equality under the law, civil rights in the United States, freedom of press, freedom of speech, assembly and religion; plus he ran many mock elections that included the entire student population. He is a hard-working and experienced teacher.

Honorable Mention
Teacher: Natalie O'Brien + North Smithfield High School, North Smithfield, RI

Ms. O'Brien is an exceptional teacher who instills in her students the knowledge, passion and skills needed to be an informed, conscientious citizen in our modern society. For the past seven year her students have earned a trip to Washington DC for the We The People competition. What is most extraordinary is that her students were all 9th graders who did not have the benefit of United States history classes before competing, yet they are the defending RI State champions. Additionally Natalie introduced an advanced placement Government and Politics course that is one of the most popular electives in her school.

5th Annual Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

Rhode Island State House, June 6, 2012
Judges for the award: Michelle Little, Stephen R. White ESQ. and Sylvia Blanda
Our Guest Speaker was RI Chief Justice Paul A. Suttell

Winners of the 2011-2012 Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

First Place
Edward Kostka + Shea High School - Pawtucket

Mr. Kostka is lead teacher of Shea High School's Government and Public Administration Academy. Kostka and his students have been involved in a number of civic and community projects including registering voters, providing voter education training statewide, training poll workers, and training disabled and handicapped individuals on using the Auto-Mark Machine. Michael Connolly, Coordinator of Applied Learning for the Pawtucket School Department says of Mr. Kostka, "He makes a difference in his community by changing the lives of his students."

Second Place
Glen Simmons + Hampden Meadows School - Barrington

Glen Simmons has been an elementary educator at Hampden Meadows School in Barrington for 19 years. Glen promotes civic education with his fifth grade students in myriad ways. Judge Michelle Little says of Mr. Simmons, "He has done much for his students and their learning, he is passionate about civic education, equal rights, and promoting our democracy. We honor him because the need for experiential education, service-learning, and activist civic education has never been greater."

Honorable Mention
Joseph Cassady + Portsmouth High School - Portsmouth

For the past ten years, Joseph Cassady has taken his well-prepared students to Washington, DC with Project Close Up. He has met with students regularly after school to explore area such as the voting records of their representatives in Congress. Mr. Cassady is passionate about inspiring young people to grow in their understanding of what engaged and informed citizens can accomplish. Mr. Cassady says, "From an ideological side, I am paying forward the countless hours of work that were invested in me by my parents and teachers over the years. I was given the ability to see the important place in society that the citizen holds...I celebrate it. I have spent nights poring over the words of our Founding Fathers and looking for intent behind the literal accounts."

4th Annual Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

Rhode Island State House, June 14, 2011
Keynote Speaker: RI Education Commissioner Deborah Gist

Winners of the 2010-2011 Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

Westerly High School teachers, Jay Fusco, Jeri Muccio, Amanda Murphy and Matt Nichols who received the Grand Prize of $800. They developed a new program call "Citizenship In A Democracy." This program designed especially for seniors gave students who were about to cross the threshold into full-fledged citizenship an intense immersion experience in being an active member of a democratic society. Their program was found by the judges to be multi-faceted, well designed and highly successful.

Rogers High School (Newport) teachers, Colleen Kiernan Hermes, Stephen Ferris, Marylou Butterfield, John Heino, Jim Silva and Mike Kuriscak who received the Jury Prize of $500. Their students studied the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and focused particularly on the letter that President Washington wrote to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport in which he confirmed his belief in tolerance and religious freedom. Students were required to write an essay on "How well has America upheld the principles of religious tolerance as expressed by Washington in his letter?" Our judges were impressed with the historical underpinnings of this program as well as the creativity involved.

E-Cubed Academy (Providence) teacher, Mark Manzo received Honorable mention, $200. Throughout his career Mr. Manzo has been involved in numerous programs that support Civic Education. Some of the notables are the use of "We the People" program in his classroom, the creation of a student government, and the development of thematic units that promote the importance of what it means to be an American. Mr. Manzo is a teacher who believes in getting his students to become better citizens and participate in the political process.

3rd Annual Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

Winners of the 2009-2010 Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

Deborah Marcello & Greg Quirk of Portsmouth Middle School and Susan Burt Squillante of Feinstein Middle School in Coventry were the 2009-2010 Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Award winners.

Deborah Marcello & Greg Quirk won 1st prize for their US Election Process Unit, developed by Ms. Marcello, which gives students an opportunity to learn how the election process works by directly participating in an election, both as a candidate and poll worker. The students join a political party and prepare a campaign for themselves as a presidential candidate for the 8th grade class. Primary elections in both parties yield candidates, who make commercials and give speeches in front of the entire class. A general election is held and students elect a class president.

Susan Burt Squillante won 2nd prize for her work as a trainer of other teachers in such programs as Project Citizen, the School Violence Prevention Demonstration Program and the national Serve & Learn network.

2nd Annual Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

Winners of the 2008-2009 Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

1st Place Award Lawrence Verria of North Kingstown High School for helping students organize election year candidate forums.

2nd Place Award Colleen Chappell of Curtis Corner Middle School, South Kingstown for innovative ways to teach the constitution.

3rd Place Award Michael Calenda and Jonathan Rollins of Ponaganset Middle School, Glocester for their participation in Mock Trial and National Law Day, the National Current Events League and especially the Wreaths Across America Program.

The 2009 Wilson Civic Education Awards Ceremony is a finalist for the John Notte III Award for Best RI PEG Access Program of the year. The awards ceremony at Hasbro, Inc., in Providence held on Friday, Nov. 13, 2009.

1st Annual Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

Teachers from North Kingstown, South Kingstown & Providence honored at Civic Education Merit Awards Reception at the State House

Winners David Avedisian, Henry Marciano and Jim Buxton pose with Pam Ancheta, President of LWV South Kingstown/Narragansett

On Monday, June 9, 2008 @ 4:00pm, in the Governor's Reception Room at the Rhode Island State House, David Avedisian, a North Kingstown High School history/current issues teacher; Jim Buxton, a South Kingstown High School social studies teacher; and Henry Marciano, Social Studies Department Head at Esek Hopkins Middle School were recognized for their work in civic education as recipients of the inaugural Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards for 2007-08. Mr. Avedisian received the Grand Prize , Mr. Buxton received the Jury Prize, and Mr. Marciano received an Honorable Mention Award. The Grand Prize and Jury Prize included a cash award of $800 and $500, respectively.