Human and Civil Rights Awards

MTA Creative Leadership in Human & Civil Rights Award
Joseph Petner

Joseph Petner, the principal of the Haggerty School, in Cambridge, was nominated by the staff members of the Haggerty School, who praised him as "a man of wisdom, determination, vision and the conviction and creativity to influence change positively."

Dr. Petner has worked in education for almost 40 years as a teacher, staff developer and principal.  Recognizing early on the inequities of the system for students with special needs, he has advocated for and implemented effectively a whole school inclusion model based on the motto, "everyone is different, everyone belongs," which has become the school motto at the Haggerty School.

In a letter supporting his nomination, the Haggerty School staff summarized Dr. Petner's vision and leadership as "helping us all be the fierce advocates for the children that we all are."

The MTA was founded in 1845 to represent the interests of educators in the Commonwealth. It is the state affiliate of the National Education Association. The MTA has more than 100,000 members, including public school teachers, public higher education faculty members and education support professionals.

The MTA has been granting Human and Civil Rights Awards since 1983. The Creative Leadership in Human and Civil Rights Award is granted to individuals who have demonstrated leadership in fighting discrimination and promoting equal opportunity for women, people of color, the disabled or to those who are economically disadvantaged.

Louise Gaskins Lifetime Civil Rights Award
Genoveffa Grieci

Genoveffa Grieci knows very well the difficulties that immigrant students face:  She enrolled in the Framingham Public Schools as an immigrant student fleeing the effects of an earthquake in Italy.  In an era when there were few support services and no programs to teach her English, she benefited from a dedicated teacher who took the initiative to fight for an ESL program to help her and others in a similar situation. This first experience in public education left an indelible mark on Gen's career. She became a teacher, returned to Framingham High School and currently serves as the Bilingual, ESL and Sheltered Programs Department Head.

Throughout her career, she has dedicated herself to improving the economic and occupational status of immigrant students and their families.  She has worked tirelessly for these students by advocating for educational programs and practices to create equity and empowerment.  Passionate, resilient and articulate regarding her students' situations, needs and aspirations, Gen has fought to improve both the educational status and the personal lives of countless ESL students at Framingham High School.

Gen has become a leader in promoting equity, improving economic status and eliminating racism. She seeks strategic opportunities where teachers can act to promote equity and struggle against discrimination.  She has fostered student affinity groups and encouraged her colleagues to become active in a variety of contexts. Working with the Massachusetts Education Initiative for Latino Students and the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers, and well as through church and community groups, Gen has been a strong advocate for immigrant rights at the state and local levels.

Genoveffa Grieci's leadership is not about having the spotlight of public recognition or being the gatekeeper of resources.  It is about the positive and concrete results from well-designed initiatives that benefit the disenfranchised.