NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — R.I. Governor Dan McKee and Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green surprised a special teacher in North Kingstown Thursday.

A surprise ceremony was held to announce the selection for 2022 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year, a math teacher at North Kingstown High School.

Lisa Garcia teaches math across all grades at the school, including algebra, trigonometry and calculus.

“Teachers have the ability to inspire students to grow not just in the classroom but beyond it,” McKee said. “Lisa clearly has dedicated her life to that cause, giving her students the support they need to succeed throughout their time at North Kingstown High School. I’m proud to have her representing our state as the 2022 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.”

Lisa has taught at North Kingstown High School for 27 years, almost her entire 30 year career. She said she was filled with emotion when she was called down to accept the award.

“I’m just so proud to be part of this group of teachers,” Lisa said. “They are wonderful. We have all worked round the clock to make sure our students were safe and could get the education they needed during the pandemic. I am so happy that I can work with them this year, celebrate them and give them the honor that they deserve.”

During the pandemic, Lisa led the high school’s Flocked Fundraiser, a way of celebrating the school’s graduating students by placing flamingos on senior’s lawns.

“Sometimes, when RIDE gets an application for Teacher of the Year, a story just leaps off the page. This was one of those times,” Infante-Green said. “Lisa has not only been an incredible teacher for nearly three decades, but has gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic to help her students both academically and emotionally.”

One student praised Lisa, saying she’s not only their educator, but their mentor.

“Mrs. Garcia’s classroom embraces the school spirit but elevates it to actively engage the mind,” wrote Tori Chace, a student in Lisa’s Honors Algebra II and Advanced Placement Calculus classes, in a letter. “Mrs. Garcia brings out the highest level thinker in reach and every one of her students, supports students with her whole being, and truly shapes an individual, not just a math student.”

As Teacher of the Year, Lisa will work with the R.I. Department of Education to support education statewide. She is also eligible to represent Rhode Island as the National Teacher of the Year.