Published January 13, 2021
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — Late Lynnfield High School Social Studies Department Head Mike Boulay always went above and beyond for his students and his colleagues.
The School Committee decided to recognize Boulay’s contributions to the district when it named him as the winner of the second annual Dorothy Presser Award on Jan. 5. Chairman Jamie Hayman said the award recognizes Boulay’s accomplishments during the 2019-2020 academic year as well as his entire 21 years of service to Lynnfield Public Schools.
Boulay passed away unexpectedly at Massachusetts General Hospital last August after a brief illness. He was 61. He worked at the high school for 21 years.
“Mike was the head of the Social Studies Department at the high school for more than 20 years,” said Hayman. “We received a nomination for Mike and we thought it would be a nice tribute for all the work he did for Lynnfield Public Schools over the years. It is only fitting that we recognize Mike one more time.”
In addition to serving as the high school’s Social Studies Department head, Boulay also taught Advanced Placement Psychology, co-taught a Humanities class and was an advisor for the National Honor Society. He helped develop the district’s mentoring program for new teachers as well.
High School Principal Bob Cleary said Boulay is “an outstanding recipient of this award.”
“Mike did so much for the students and staff in our educational community,” said Cleary. “He was never looking for any fanfare. He did it because he enjoyed it and it was the right thing to do for students. He was one of those special people who not only had great character, but he also was a great character.”
LHS social studies teacher Sue Breen agreed.
“I am so pleased that the School Committee is recognizing Mike Boulay with the honor of the Dorothy Presser Award,” said Breen. “I feel it is very well deserved. Mike was a tremendous teacher. He was very creative and was always coming up with innovative teaching strategies in an attempt to reach all his students. Mike’s students were constantly presenting and performing skits in his history and psychology classes. Rather than just memorize mounds of information, Mike required his students to apply it in new ways in order for them to demonstrate mastery. Mike was a tireless worker and a life-long learner. He was incredibly intellectually curious and always trying to bring in new ways to reach today’s learner.”
Breen recalled that Boulay’s teaching career began in 1981 “before computers, videocassettes, the Internet or Smart Boards” were used in classrooms.
“Throughout the years, students always knew that Mr. Boulay cared about them as students and human beings,” said Breen. “He wanted them to be prepared to be successful in their future endeavors. Mr. Boulay wanted young people to challenge themselves academically and strive for better. His motto was, ‘It’s not how smart you are, it’s how hard you work.’ He had a soft spot for the student who plodded along and stuck with it. He predominantly taught college prep students and Humanities, and wanted to help students make connections between disciplines. He truly believed that students needed to be engaged working on interesting projects and presentations to their peers. He was a very creative teacher who wanted the spotlight to shine on his students and their achievements. He was real and his students knew it, and appreciated him for his honesty and bluntness. Moving onto Advanced Placement Psychology, he grew the program to where over 100 seniors took the class because he taught it. They didn’t want to graduate from LHS without having the experience of Mr. Boulay. He was a classic. One-in-a-million. Unique. He was so kind and thoughtful of other people.”
Retired Superintendent Jane Tremblay said Boulay is “the epitome of what the Dorothy Presser Award represents.”
“Mike’s dedication and commitment to Lynnfield Public Schools, his department and the students he served should stand out as an example for everyone,” said Tremblay.
Hayman recalled that the committee created the peer-nominated award in honor of former School Committee member Dorothy Presser, who stepped down two years ago after 21 years of service. He said the award recognizes an educator who has “demonstrated extraordinary commitment in advancing the Lynnfield Public Schools.” Lynnfield High English teacher Joey Puleo won the inaugural award for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Educators submitted nominations for the Dorothy Presser Award, Hayman said.
“We solicited nominations in November and December of last year,” said Hayman. “We got a number of really good nominations. This is really hard because so many in our community went above and beyond during the 2019-2020 school year. It was very difficult because there are so many deserving people in the district.”
School Committee Vice Chairman Rich Sjoberg concurred with Hayman’s point of view.
“As I opened each of the recommending documents for each staff member, I kept saying this was the perfect choice,” said Sjoberg. “We have personal knowledge of their interactions with their peers in their buildings as well as the deep effect that they have on the students that they work with. It made it harder and harder each time I opened a new nominating document. It was a difficult year to make a decision.”
Hayman noted that Boulay will be honored during a future School Committee meeting.
“We are going to have some folks come in to say some words about him and we will invite his family to accept the award on his behalf,” said Hayman.
Hayman thanked all of the educators who submitted nominees for this year’s Dorothy Presser Award.
“It was almost impossible to make a decision this year,” said Hayman.