Great Barrington — It is not unusual for overt praise to render Alison Fisher what she refers to as “verklempt.” Fisher, a veteran teacher and member of the faculty at Monument Valley Regional Middle School, is petite with dark curly hair; her modesty abounds, as evidenced by her hesitation to stand in the limelight, but her eyes say it all: she is smart, passionate and dedicated to her work with students, work that not only inspires her, but also inspires others. On Thursday, May 4, Fisher will receive a 2017 Berkshire County Educator Recognition Award to honor her accomplishments and the difference she makes in the lives of her students and school community. The award, made annually, was established by Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Berkshire Community College and the Superintendents Roundtable; it will be presented in a ceremony at BCC’s Pittsfield campus.
Fisher, who believes in what she calls “the whole child approach” through which she makes it a priority to “try to get to know [her students] as people.” As for what motivates her to show up to school each day? In her application essay, Fisher relayed an anecdote in which a former parent cited her ability to motivate, challenge and understand her students. That same parent went on to call Fisher an inspiration, one who has been a catalyst for change during some of the most awkward times of life — middle school. It is this part of her work — in small groups, really getting to know students in a personal way — that has made the most impact on Fisher who also co-teaches 6th grade English Language Arts with colleague Kim Cormier. Fisher pointed to having “looped” with the same group of kids for the past two years as having been particularly rewarding.
Fisher, 42, is a Special Education teacher; she predominantly teaches reading and language arts to students with learning differences. She cites, “[my] relationship with kids — that is the number one thing I try to cultivate each year,” says the veteran teacher who of her 19 years teaching has spent 15 of them in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District. Ben Doren, principal at MVRMS, called Fisher “one of the most exceptional educators I have met in my life.” Noting both Fisher’s professionalism and exemplary collaboration, Doren went on to say “[Alison] has transformed the literacy work we do at Monument Valley through her teaching, her leadership and her service to the community.”
Fisher wrote at length, in her application essay, about what motivates her work, explaining “My values have remained consistent: honor equity over equality, teach explicitly, and create an environment that encourages empathy and social justice. These three tenets guide my daily work with students as I hold them to high standards, support their challenges, and encourage them to make their mark on the world.” Fisher’s distinction between equality and equity — something she learned about in her first graduate course 20 years ago — has resonated with her throughout her career. Fisher explains: “Equality provides for every student to receive the same: same facility, same instruction, same opportunities. Equity, however, connotes providing that which is necessary to ensure that equality can be achieved.” It cannot be overlooked that this idea of equality has impacted some of the most important educational legislation in the modern era.
For Fisher, her instructional mantra remains, “teach them how.” In this way, she has continually gotten through to her students. “Seeing individual growth is so rewarding,” she said. “Finding what sparks their passion” might be the biggest take-home reward. Fisher, who hails from Westchester County, New York, holds both a Masters in Education from Simmons College and a Masters in Reading from MCLA; she lives in East Chatham, New York with her husband and their two daughters, ages 15 and 13.