Associated Press - NORTH SMITHFIELD, R.I. (AP/WPRI) -- A reading specialist and literacy coach at North Smithfield Elementary School has been named Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.
Tracy Lafreniere learned of the award at a surprise ceremony at the school on Thursday.
Lafreniere, who has spent her entire 17-year teaching career at North Smithfield Elementary, now becomes a candidate for the 2016 National Teacher of the Year.
"You love challenges, and that's what I love about you, because that's how you get to be good in life. You rise to the challenge, you do your best, and you keep smiling. And I know that the only way I can be my best is because I work with people and with kids like you," Lafreniere said Thursday.
Lafreniere wrote in her application that "Teaching struggling readers is both my greatest challenge and my greatest accomplishment."
Gov. Gina Raimondo says Lafreniere "has set countless Rhode Island children up for continued success by devoting her career to working with struggling readers in the early grades."
Lafreniere, who lives in Providence, holds a bachelor's degree from Rhode Island College and a master's in education from Lesley University.