Football is what brought Andrew Rebello to Merrimack College as a freshman in 2006. But what he took from his time in North Andover was a passion for teaching, and the drive to make an impact, which has brought him to the top of the profession.
As assistant superintendent and principal at Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Fall River, MA, Rebello ’10 in October received a Milken Educator Award, a national honor that recognizes excellence and innovation in teaching.
“It is an incredible honor,” said Rebello, who was surprised with the award during a special school assembly at Diman. “It essentially says that you are one of the best educators in the country and that is a direct reflection of our students and teachers here at Diman. They are the only reason I am in the position to receive such a prestigious award.”
Rebello is one of 75 educators to receive the award from the Milken Family Foundation (MFF) this year. The MFF was founded more than 40 years ago with the mission to strengthen the teaching profession through the recognition, support and retention of outstanding educators. The annual Milken Educator Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to early and mid-career elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists.
Rebello was first hired to work at Diman in 2012 as a guidance counselor. He then went on to serve as vice principal at Durfee High School in Fall River and then worked in the central administrative offices at Boston Public Schools, before returning to Diman in his current position. His first day as assistant superintendent and principal was March 3, 2020.
“We shut down a week later,” Rebello said of the school’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I remember going around to classrooms and unplugging computers from the walls so we could get them into students’ hands. But we didn’t pause our curriculum and our continuity of learning continued. In leadership, one of the best qualities is being adaptable. It is not the type of leader we want to be, it is the circumstances we have in front of us and the leader we need to be.”
Rebello credits his time at Durfee with helping shape his approach to education leadership. As the vice principal of the sophomore class at the time, Rebllo oversaw more than 600 students who collectively had some of the high school’s highest rates of suspension and underperformance in the classroom. But in just two and half years, he helped to transform that class and achieved one of the highest graduation rates in Durfee’s history.
“I adopted the mentality to take big challenges head-on, and I was going to do right by the kids, change their lives and it is going to be proven in the data,” Rebello said.
Now at Diman, which has more than 1,400 students, Rebello tells prospective students they will get a feeling walking through campus and they will picture themselves eating in the cafeteria or attending campus events; the same feeling Rebello had the first time he stepped on Merrimack’s campus.
“It was just the right fit,” he said of Merrimack. “I went into Merrimack undecided, but thanks to great mentors I saw teaching as a path not only to coach football but also to work with youth. I saw the life-changing opportunities this work has and I’ve been running with that mission and passion ever since.”