Spotlight On: Mr. Cotto

Holyoke High Science Teacher Mike Cotto wins the Grinspoon Award!


Mr. Cotto surprised by his award!

It’s no secret that Holyoke Public Schools are home to some extremely wonderful and dedicated educators, and Holyoke High School science teacher Mike Cotto is certainly no exception. In recognition of all his hard work, Cotto was awarded the prestigious Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching (PVEIT) Award on Wednesday March 8th.

“We have many great teachers at Holyoke High School, but nobody is more deserving of this type of recognition than Mike Cotto,” said HHS principal, Mr. Stephen Sullivan. “Mike is a passionate and dedicated educator who is able to find the difficult balance between emphasizing the importance of teaching content and building positive relationships with students.”

The PVEIT award is courtesy of the Irene E. and George A. Foundation, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, and the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation. It is awarded annually to teachers in Western Mass who show professionalism through excellence in education practices, professional development, their attendance on the job, enthusiasm for teaching and/or working with youth, subject mastery, their positive impacts on teachers and students, and their willingness to go “above and beyond” in their job. Teachers are nominated for the award by their fellow co-workers, making it extra special and, as Mike Cotto told The Herald, “a true honor”.

“When I first started teaching I thought it would be an individual job but I quickly learned that it’s a lot of collaboration with faculty and administrators and I think without the fine faculty and administrators that I’ve got a chance to work with here in Holyoke, I don’t think I’d be able to win this award,” said Mike Cotto upon receiving the award. “It’s been a privilege to teach here.”

Cotto is a graduate of Agawam High School and Westfield State, where he he studied biology and chemistry. He started his career at Holyoke High as a long term substitute before becoming a full-time biology teacher. Although he has only been working at Holyoke High for three years, he has already made a significant impact on the school. Cotto runs the nursing club, has volunteered for MCAS and athletic tutoring, and last year ran a food drive with the students in his advisory class. Cotto is an excellent educator who holds his students to high standards and always pushes them to do their best.

“It is a testament to Mike that students who may struggle in other classes seem to find ways to be successful in his classes. Mike has faced some challenges this year outside of school, but you would never know it by observing him when he is at school–his commitment to the students at Holyoke High School has never wavered….and he does it all with a smile!” Mr. Sullivan told The Herald.

Mr. Cotto with his class, Mr Sullivan, Receiver Dr. Zrike, Mrs. Chassman, Mayor Alex Morse, and others.

The PVEIT Award was only awarded to five other teachers in the whole city of Holyoke. The other awarded Holyoke teachers include Marcus Holt of Dean Tech, Cynthia Gerena of Kelly School, Trishe Belloma of Morgan School, Kerry Gallagher of E.N. White School, and Katie Plasse of Donahue School.

“It is a privilege to recognize this year’s Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award winners for their outstanding dedication to our students and their commitment to the profession.  We are fortunate to employ so many talented, hard-working and student-centered educators in Holyoke!” Stephen Zrike, HPS receiver/superintendent, told The Herald.

Mike Cotto and the other awardees from HPS and other districts will be recognized at a banquet at the Log Cabin Restaurant where they will receive a cash award, 3 month membership at the YMCA and Springfield JCC, and tuition grants to take graduate courses at several colleges and universities.

“I’m really happy for Mr. Cotto. He was such a great Biology teacher last year and made learning the material very easy and interesting. He absolutely deserves this award,” said Siobhan Brennan ‘18.

Congratulations to Mr. Cotto and the other awardees from The Herald!