Rhode Island Teacher of the Year

Rhode Island's 2024 Teacher of the Year is Aimée Couto.

The Teacher of the Year Award Program was initiated in 1952 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to bring recognition to the importance of teachers as nurturers of the "American Dream." His intention to honor all teachers by the selection of a representative teacher from each state would find completion in the yearly choice of a National Teacher of the Year. Through an organized and varied selection process involving classroom teachers, school administrators, state officials, students, parents, and business representatives, each state and U. S. Protectorate nominates its own Teacher of the Year.

Rhode Island's Teacher of the Year is selected from the previous school year's District Teachers of the Year for our state. For more information about District Teachers of the Year (DTOY), go to our DTOY page.

Rhode Island 2024 Teacher of the Year - Aimée Couto

2024 Rhode Island State Teacher of the Year, Aimée Couto, began her career in education in 2003, teaching preschool through second grade, before joining the East Providence School Department in 2011. She has taught first grade at Emma G. Whiteknact Elementary School since 2013. 

Lauded by her peers as a “remarkable and inspiring professional,” and “mentor and collaborative educator,” Couto serves as a leader in many capacities within her school and district. The veteran educator helps guide various programs centered around positive social and emotional development at Whiteknact, serves on the school improvement team, and is the district’s Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) facilitator.

Growing up labeled a struggling reader, Couto has made it a focus not to label any of her students. She strives to instill a positive growth mindset that all students can do anything they set their minds to with time and practice. Couto is a strong advocate for project-based learning and the Science of Reading. 

Couto holds a Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of Rhode Island and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Rhode Island College. As Teacher of the Year, Couto will work with RIDE throughout the 2023-2024 school year to support education statewide, including strengthening professional development and engaging classrooms. She is also eligible to represent Rhode Island as the National Teacher of the Year.

At a surprise visit to Emma G. Whiteknact Elementary School today, Governor Dan McKee, Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, Superintendent Dr. Sandra Forand, and 2023 State Teacher of the Year Lisa Leaheey announced the selection of Aimée Couto (AH-may COO-too) as the 2024 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year. Couto began her career in education teaching preschool through second grade before joining the East Providence School Department. She has taught fourth and first grade for the past twelve years.  

“Congratulations to Aimée and the entire East Providence community on this distinguished honor,” said Governor Dan McKee. “As Rhode Island’s Teacher of the Year, you are a proven leader, educational advocate, and inspiration for the next generation. Thank you, Aimée, for your outstanding contribution to Rhode Island. We wish you great success in the year ahead!”

“Both my mother and my sister are educators, and I know that every amazing day that Aimée provides her students is the product of a long night of working, preparing, and planning. But 180 days a year, she comes in ready to give her students a unique and engaging learning experience,” said Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos. “We are so excited to have her voice representing educators across the state for the next year.”

"Aimée Couto's unwavering commitment to her students and passion for teaching have earned her the well-deserved title of 2024 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year,” said Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, Patti DiCenso. “On behalf of the Council, thank you for representing the very essence of educational excellence.”

“Aimée’s tireless efforts in nurturing a love for literacy have not only enriched the lives of her students but have also set them on a lifelong path of exploration and self-discovery. Her ability to unlock the wonders of language and inspire young minds to find their voice is truly remarkable,” said Commissioner Infante-Green. “We look forward to partnering and learning from Aimée in her new role as Rhode Island Teacher of the Year. Congratulations!”

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Rhode Island 2023 Teacher of the Year - Lisa Leaheey

Leaheey headshot

Lisa Leaheey has taught English at North Providence High School in Rhode Island for the entirety of her 22-year career. A lifelong voracious reader and movie buff, she spends every day sharing her passion for stories with her students, connecting their experiences with those found in print and on film. From the beginning of her career, Lisa has focused on what her students need to achieve, and she continuously seeks out new ways to engage her students in class, simultaneously challenging their individual strengths, supporting their individual needs, and buildings towards their futures.

With the advent of cell phones and student laptops, Lisa discovered flipped/blended learning, and she connected immediately with the tenets of student choice, self-paced learning, and boisterous classroom experiences. In addition to her M.A. in English, Lisa holds an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in Technology Integration; she supports students and colleagues in their use of technology, and she has also taught online with VHS Learning since 2016. Lisa serves as the chair of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) school accreditation visiting committees and has supported various prospective teachers through their practicum and student teaching courses at Rhode Island College and Providence College.

Lisa hails from a family of teachers and has known since she was a child she belonged in the classroom. Her driving focus is encouraging her students to open their minds to new perceptions of the world, share their opinions with others, and develop lasting connections through narrative.

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Rhode Island 2020 Teacher of the Year - Elizabeth Russillo

NEW!! How Did COVID-19 Change Your Teaching, for Better or Worse?

A message to our awesome students - from the teachers of Rhode Island who love you!! #WeGotThisRI

  • Biosketch: While her father planned lessons, Elizabeth spent Saturday mornings playing in the hallways and drawing on the chalkboard. Elizabeth Russillo learned passion and innovation at a young age. Her educational growth has continued every day throughout her career. Elizabeth is rooted in the belief that she continually needs to improve her teaching practices, one lesson at a time. Those long-past Saturday mornings still inspire her to be better tomorrow than she was today.

    During her time at Smithfield High School, Elizabeth has taken on numerous leadership roles including mentor, department chair, student council advisor, tennis coach and engaging educator. She has led curriculum development and designed assessments to ensure that students of all abilities can excel. She has led her department to full implementation of the NGSS and has been an advocate for engineering integration. Above all, Elizabeth is a personalized learning expert who learns from her students every day and regularly modifies instruction according to their needs. 

    Elizabeth’s true passion lies in professional development and instructional coaching. The Smithfield district participated in over 100 hours of professional development organized and facilitated by Elizabeth where both parties grew professionally.  As an instructional coach with the Highlander Institute, Elizabeth has mentored teachers in multiple districts around Rhode Island. The symbiotic relationship between coach and coachee was the inspiration for a blog post titled “Why Veteran Teachers Need Instructional Coaches” which was published by RIDE and Teach Boost. 

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Rhode Island 2019 Teacher of the Year - Charlene Tuttle

Rhode Island Teacher of the Year for 2019, Charlene Tuttle, is a 20-year veteran educator who has spent the past five years as a sixth grade science and social studies teacher at Lawn School in Jamestown. Tuttle has made STEM come alive for her students, creating a range of work-based and hands-on learning opportunities. She created a SeaPerch program to build underwater ROVs (Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles) with students, created and ran after-school coding workshops, and collaborated with Roger Williams University and commercial aquaculture interests to study the local environment. Always thinking outside the box, Tuttle never stops looking for partners who can enhance school programming. She successfully applied for and won a NASA grant to fund a school hydroponics system, and participated in NOAA’s Estuarine Science and Stewardship Program. Tuttle has also been essential to statewide professional learning and curriculum development efforts, serving as a member of the State Leadership Team for the development of Next Generation Science Standards. No stranger to recognition, she was a 2010 winner of the Presidential Award for Math and Science Teaching, and a 2009 Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence winner.

Tuttle wants her students to experience what they’re learning up close and first hand, and many students reflected on her ability to make class exciting. “Ms. Tuttle loves hands-on activities. She loves to learn while doing,” wrote one student. “She makes me want to learn more about science!” and “We get time to look at things on topic outside, when we are tired of being cooped up inside all day” are other thoughts shared by her students.

Charlene Tuttle earned her Bachelor’s degree at Eckerd College in Florida, and studied at Concordia University. She holds teaching certificates in Elementary Education and in English as a Second Language. Prior to joining the Jamestown School District, Tuttle taught briefly in Providence, Central Falls, and in Santa Ana, California. She has also served as a facilitator for Connecticut Science Center Workshops, as an instructor of science methods at the University of Rhode Island, and as the Teacher-in-Residence at the GEMS-Net program at URI.

Charlene lives in Warwick with her husband, Lawrence Cohen.

  • Biosketch:
Charlene Tuttle White House Visit

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Rhode Island Teachers of the Year – 1964 - 2022

2022 Lisa Garcia North Kingstown High School (North Kingstown)
2021 Ashley Adamson Hathaway Elementary School (Portsmouth)
2020 Elizabeth "Liz" Russillo Smithfield High School (Smithfield)
2019 Charlene Tuttle Lawn School (Jamestown)
2018 Kristin Hayes-Leite Narragansett High School
2017 Nikos Giannopoulos Beacon Charter High School
2016 Tracy Lafreniere North Smithfield Elementary School
2015 David Moscarelli Ponagansett High School
2014 Patricia Page East Greenwich High School
2013 Jessica Waters Beacon Charter School
2012 Julie Lima Boyle Coventry
2011 Shannon Donovan Scituate
2010 Dana Ramey Middletown
2009 Barbara Walton-Faria Newport
2008 George E. Goodfellow Scituate
2007 Catherine Davis Hayes Warwick
2006 Barbara Morse North Kingstown
2005 Althea Telford Barrington
2004 Kathleen Mellor

(2004 National Teacher of the Year)
North Kingstown
2003 Charles Boucher Burriville
2002 David Neves Scituate
2001 Kathryn Tancrelle Smithfield
2000 Lawrence Verria North Kingstown
1999 Barbara Ashby Providence
1998 Maureen Spaight East Providence
1997 Delores Jablonski North Kingstown
1996 MaryKay Schnare Providence
1995 Martin Perry Middletown
1993 Linda Filomeno Providence
1992 Judith Sweeney Lincoln
1991 Darlene Walsh West Warwick
1990 Len DeAngelis Middletown
1989 Paul Mello Middletown
1988 Alfred Belasco Smithfield
1987 Carolyn Rabidoux Lincoln
1986 Corlis Moniz Woonsocket
1985 Leslie Bettencourt Lincoln
1984 Mollie K. James  
1983 Marceline Zambuco West Warwick
1982 Rachele Modiszewski Cranston
1981 Elaine Edwards  
1980 Catherine Smith  
1979 Marie Hawkes  
1978 Ruth Curtis  
1977 John Leydon  
1975 Pauline Connor Woonsocket
1974 Crystal Hall  
1973 Paul Donovan  
1972 Jane Anderson  
1971 Norma Garnett Warwick
1970 Katherine Hayden  
1969 Mary Parks  
1968 Shirley Morin  
1967 Maxine Mason  
1966 Catherine Murray  
1964 Beatrice West  

*When Available