Ferraro named Burrillville School District teacher of the year

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Ferraro holds his award, standing with wife Erin and daughters, Emilia and Olivia.

BURRILLVILLE – A veteran educator and football coach who has taught science at the high school for some 27 years has been named the Burrillville School Department’s teacher of the year.

Gennaro Ferraro learned of the honor in a surprise announcement at the East Avenue school on Friday, May 31.

Ferraro, who earned bachelor’s degrees in both education and secondary education from the University of Rhode Island, was hired by the district in 1996. He became assistant head coach of the football program in 1997, taking over as head coach in 2008. Under his leadership, the Broncos team has been six time Super Bowl champions and eight time division champions, and Ferraro was named Rhode Island Football Coach of Year in 2015 by the National Federation of High Schools and Division 3 Football Coach of the Year in 2016.

Since 2023, he has also served as a Career and Technical Education coordinator, and has made the BHS Biomedical Sciences pathway program a leading CTE program in the state for providing work-based learning opportunities in healthcare, according to school administrators.

“WBL placements in healthcare have been particularly challenging to establish because of HIPAA restrictions, but in Burrillville we’ve been working hard to figure out how to create opportunities for our students,” noted a release on the award.

Ferraro worked with Eleanor Slater Hospital Administrator Jennifer McCarthy to develop the first high school/hospital partnership in the state. Now, he works closely with McCarthy and the Zambarano staff to train and prepare students for hospital placements, some of which have turned into paid internships and full-time employment. In year two of the partnership, he is now also part of a team working with the hospital to develop a CNA certificate program at BHS.

In addition, this spring, by way of the longtime teacher’s coordination, two new healthcare WBL opportunities are being offered to BHS students: shadowing opportunities with Brown University Interventional Oncology and Rhode Island Hospital, and an EMT training course at Burrillville High School. Administrators note that students leaving high school with an EMT certification will be immediately employable and able to start a career upon graduation.

Ferraro has been the recipient of WJAR Channel 10’s Golden Apple Award as well as the Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence. The teacher is the current president of the Rhode Island High School Football Coaches Association and a member of the Rhode Island Association For Career And Technical Education. He has also participated in numerous professional development activities including Project Lead The Way Summer trainings at Stevenson University; NE Basecamp for Burrillville Science Literacy and an AI integration workshop.

He also hosts numerous in-house field trips, bringing field experts and companies in to talk to students about possible careers.

“Mr. Gennaro Ferraro is the true definition of an educational professional,” said Supt. Michael Sollitto of this year’s top teacher. “Over his career at Burrillville High School, Mr. Ferraro has contributed to all aspects of school life. He believes in the value of building and maintaining positive relationships. He does this with his colleagues, with community partners, and, most importantly, with his students.”

But his influence and dedication also extend well beyond the classroom and the BHS field.

Since 2008, Ferraro has served as co-founder and director of the George Nasuti Memorial Passing League. For five nights in the summer, the BHS teacher and coach coordinates up to ten teams in a 7v7 flag football league at Eccleston Field, with participation by more than 120 players and 20 coaches.

Ferraro created the first ever RIHS Football Coaches Association All-State Team & banquet and developed the parameters for player selection, as well as a committee to select the winners.

Since 2014, he has organized and coordinated the Burrillville Gridiron Club Golf Tournament in Memory of David Hebert, and now Debbie & Timmy Schabowski, where the money raised goes to a scholarship for a BHS senior. He also established and served on the selection committees for the Scholarship Foundation for David Hebert Memorial Scholarship, Debbie & Timmy Schabowski Memorial Scholarship and Wright’s Farm-George Ducharme Memorial Scholarship.

Ferraro also created and assisted in the planning of the Northern RI College & Career Showcase in fall 2023, where eleven area high schools and more than 700 students interacted with 25 career paths and 55 colleges. He also serves as the school’s liaison with Between the Cracks, an organization that gives to families in need in the community.

It is the second time Ferraro has received the honor, given annually to one teacher in the district who is then eligible for the award at the state level. The coach was also named district Teacher of the Year in 2006.

This year, Ferraro was nominated by colleagues, and they incorporated supporting testimony from both parents and students.

“Mr. Ferraro’s [has a] positive can-do attitude… and [he] creates positive relationships with students, parents and peers,” noted one nominator. “His work ethic fosters student excellence. He shows his passion for teaching and learning everyday.”

Another nominator described the teacher’s, “let’s make this happen,” attitude as, “contagious.”

“Mr. Ferraro’s passion for teaching is motivated by his students and their future impact on our community and in the world. He believes we need to do everything we can to help students reach their potential and to be ready for whatever next steps await students upon graduation. He loves his content area and students tune into his interactive and dynamic lessons that directly correlate to real-world situations.

For the teacher, a quote by Theodore Roosevelt, also credited to Bill Cowher, former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, serves as inspiration: They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

“This is my mantra and my guiding principle to teaching and coaching,” Ferraro said.

Ferraro with BHS football student athletes.
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