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Recorder: “Two Greenfield faculty members honored with Grinspoon Awards”

Mar 7, 2022

Home 9 Uncategorized 9 Recorder: “Two Greenfield faculty members honored with Grinspoon Awards”

Two Greenfield faculty members honored with Grinspoon Awards

GREENFIELD — Jennie Horton, a classroom teacher at the Academy of Early Learning, and the Greenfield School Department’s Education Team Leader Shannon Collins have both been named recipients of the 2022 Grinspoon Award.

The awards program annually honors western Massachusetts educators and seeks to motivate teachers at all stages of their careers to aspire to excellence.

“I’m very excited and very grateful and very surprised,” Horton said. “I feel like it’s validation of all the hard work that I have put in over the last 20 years.”

“It was quite unexpected and overwhelming,” Collins said. “Lots of former parents of students have reached out to congratulate me. Sometimes, in special education, you can feel like of like you’re in your own bubble. … Just to hear from so many people about how I’ve impacted them was rewarding.”

The award, which is named for Springfield philanthropist Harold Grinspoon and sponsored in part by the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, has recognized 2,000 educators in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties since 2004, according to the foundation’s website.

Horton, who previously taught kindergarten at Newton School and second grade at Green River School, received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“When I was starting off in college, I started to pursue education,” she said. “I did some practicums in early childhood, and I really enjoyed that age. It’s their beginning experiences of education.”

The Greenfield resident said she enjoyed the creativity that she could have in the classroom.

“That’s what pushed me toward early childhood,” she said.

Horton said the last two years have been “the hardest teaching years” she’s experienced in her 20-year career.

“At the beginning of the pandemic … I was pushing myself to learn new, different kinds of platforms and technology, and how to teach my students,” she explained. “That was challenging, but I learned a lot.”

Collins, who also has a long history with the Greenfield School Department, began in her current role in January 2020. Before that, she worked as a special education teacher in the district, initially at Green River School before moving on to the Discovery School at Four Corners and later Federal Street School, where she taught from 2008 to 2020.

After years as a special education teacher, Collins felt a facilitation role was the next step for her.

“When parents come in for an (Individualized Education Plan) meeting, I explain my job is to facilitate the meeting to help us all come together to develop a plan to best meet their child’s needs,” she said. “It can be intimidating for families.”

Collins said when she received the Grinspoon Award, she was grateful to learn that Horton, who had been her daughters’ preschool teacher, was the other recipient.

“Even though the district has gone through many ups and downs, there are dedicated teachers who are really wanting the best for the students and families of Greenfield,” she said.

Both teachers will be honored at an in-person banquet at the Log Cabin in Holyoke on May 4. The program will feature a celebratory awards presentation honoring the winners, who will each receive an engraved plaque and a check for $250, along with tuition incentives and scholarships offered by seven colleges and universities in the region: Elms College, Bay Path University, Mount Holyoke College, Springfield College, Western New England University, Westfield State University and UMass Amherst.

Superintendent Christine DeBarge recognized both award winners at a recent School Committee meeting, recalling the two “surprise visits” she had made with Assistant Superintendent Karin Patenaude to personally deliver the awards.

She read from the nominations the women received, which highlighted Horton’s creativity and compassion, and Collins’ “tireless” commitment to communicating with families and students, and her ability to problem solve.

“When we got to (Horton’s) classroom, students were melting colored ice blocks with salt water, and they were very engaged,” DeBarge told the School Committee. “So I can speak to some creativity.”

As for Collins, DeBarge said she has heard “nothing but positive” remarks from families and staff.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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