Grinspoon award winner ‘brings out the best in students’ at Greenfield Middle School

Greenfield Middle School seventh grade math teacher Jessica Carriveau has received the Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award, also known as the Grinspoon award.

Greenfield Middle School seventh grade math teacher Jessica Carriveau has received the Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award, also known as the Grinspoon award. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 02-29-2024 1:26 PM

GREENFIELD — About 14 years ago, Greenfield Middle School teacher Jessica Carriveau nominated a fellow first-year teacher for the Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award. Now, the favor has been returned.

The Greenfield School Department declared Carriveau the 2023-2024 award recipient at the School Committee’s Feb. 14 meeting. Carriveau described the honor as an added motivator on top of her desire to educate the city’s teens.

The award, also known as the Grinspoon award, has been presented since 2003 thanks to the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation in partnership with the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation. Carriveau and other winners throughout Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties will be honored at a banquet at The Log Cabin in Holyoke on April 24.

“I’ve wanted to be a teacher pretty much my whole life; I’ve always worked toward it,” Carriveau, who teaches seventh grade math, said in an interview. “Not that this is the peak, but knowing something that I’ve worked for my whole life and getting recognized for it feels really cool.”

For the longtime teacher, it’s a bit of a full-circle moment, as Carriveau explained she and seventh grade English teacher Ashley Winn both started at Greenfield Middle School in 2010. Carriveau ended up nominating Winn for the award in their first year, which she eventually won, and Winn returned the favor this year.

“Not only does Jess bring out the best in her fellow teachers, she brings out the best in students each and every day,” Winn wrote in her nomination. “They take risks because they know Mrs. Carriveau will guide and support them every step of the way. They want to make her proud, but she wants them to make themselves proud; both of those wishes come true over and over again in Mrs. C’s classroom as the school year flies by.”

Carriveau admitted she and Winn were “muddling through” their first year at the school, but 14 years later, there is no place she’d rather be than teaching middle school students because she “fell in love with the age group,” despite the reputation 12 and 13 year olds have.

“They’re still like little kids at times … but they’re old enough to understand jokes and to be goofy with,” Carriveau said, adding she is certified to teach high school classes, but she doesn’t have any plans to jump to higher grades. “[Building] relationships with students and seeing what I can teach them all in one year is amazing to me.”

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Her approach to teaching, as “corny” as it is, is to treat her students with the same level of respect she’d like from them and to be as open as possible.

“When I’m having a rough day, I’ll let them know and we build a good relationship that way. They know I’m never going to be hiding things from them … and they do the same,” Carriveau said. “Not everybody has a good day, but when you have a good day, you want it to be recognized, too. … It seems to work; they’re 12, but they get it.”

On top of working with the kids in a joyous environment — she joked that the atmosphere is sometimes less fun because, at the end of the day, it is still math class — Carriveau said the support from her peers and the administration has made the school an amazing place to work.

“We have an amazing principal at the middle school now, my seventh grade team of teachers is fabulous and the kids have made me enjoy going into work every day,” Carriveau added. “I don’t see myself leaving Greenfield anytime soon.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.