NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A North Providence teacher was recognized for all her hard work and dedication in a surprise ceremony on Wednesday.

R.I. Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green announced Lisa Leaheey as the 2023 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.

“She is an innovative, creative, and energetic educator who works to ensure all students have engaging learning opportunities,” Infante-Green said. “Lisa is deeply committed to her profession, to sharing her expertise with colleagues, and to learning from them. Together with her empathy and humility, she sets a profoundly strong example to educators across the state.”

Leaheey has been teaching English at North Providence High School for the entirety of her 22-year career as an educator.

“There are certain things in life that bring you to where you need to be, and I think that everything that you have done for me and every chance and every challenge, every joke and every class laugh has brought me to where I am, so I can’t thank you enough for the honor and thank you so very much. You all inspire me,” Leaheey said during the event.

A North Providence High School graduate described Leaheey as “the most influential teacher” he’s ever had, while a parent said she’s “most deserving of this honor.”

Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos was on hand for the ceremony. She echoed that parent’s sentiment by saying, “Lisa is the perfect person to guide these students as they approach their next chapter.”

As teacher of the year, Leaheey will work with the R.I. Department of Education to help support educational development statewide.

In a news release, the department said Leaheey is always seeking out new ways to engage her students during class and support their individual needs while also challenging their individual strengths.

Additionally, she was instrumental in helping her fellow teachers convert their classrooms into online learning spaces during the pandemic, according to the department.

“Teachers across Rhode Island have gone above and beyond identifying student need and accelerating student learning during the pandemic, and Lisa is no exception,” Gov. Dan McKee said in a statement.

“This veteran educator has dedicated her life to helping our students think critically, challenge themselves, and strive for success,” he continued. “I am proud to have Lisa, a lifelong learner and tireless student advocate, representing our state as the 2023 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.”

Leaheey is now in the running for National Teacher of the Year.