New Britain elementary school teacher is popular choice for 'unsung hero' award, reward

Published on Tuesday, 14 January 2020 21:15
Written by Catherine Shen


NEW BRITAIN - Smalley Elementary School students cheered enthusiastically Tuesday when they realized that one of their favorite teachers, Franco Cartiera, was the surprise recipient of a $1,000 award from Downes Construction as an “unsung hero” of the city school district.

Cartiera, who held the check with shaking hands, said he was in shock.

“These kinds of moments happen in TV or movies, they don’t happen in real life,” he said, causing a ripple of laughter among the students, who continued to applaud and shout his name throughout the ceremony. “I love you guys so much.”

Downes Construction celebrated its 85th anniversary by honoring “unsung heroes” throughout the New Britain school district. With the Smalley donation, Downes contributed a total of $12,000 in 2019-20, in celebration of its 85th anniversary, to 12 teachers from 12 New Britain elementary schools. The company was founded in New Britain in 1934 by the late Frank E. Downes and Jack Hasson.

The recipient was selected for their commitment, dedication and love for their students. Downes’ anniversary giving program was modeled after the Ana Grace Project “Love Wins” campaign, whose mission is to promote love, community and connection.

The school auditorium was filled with students and staff who had no idea why they were there. Principal Andrea Foligno teased the students by asking if they knew why they were gathered at the assembly and they all shook their heads.

“I’ve had to zip my lips about this and everyone knows that’s hard for me,” she said with a laugh.

Cartiera is a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) teacher and has been with the school district for 11 years. He is a longtime New Britain resident, graduated from New Britain High School and is an avid photographer and videographer.

He took the stage with several students who shared their appreciation for their teacher, describing him as a teacher “who really cares about his students,” “is very good at teaching,” and “is great because of all the things he does for us.”

Superintendent of Schools Nancy Sarra said these are the moments that she loves most about her job, recognizing teachers as everyday heroes despite their not wearing a cape.

“Being a teacher is a big job,” she told the students. “Everyone who decides to come to work here is doing hard work to help everyone become better people. It doesn’t matter what their job title is in the school district, they are all unsung heroes.”

Surrounded by balloons and excited students, Cartiera said he doesn’t do his job for the reward, but to make sure that all the staff and students have a good time.

“I do it for the students because they deserve it,” he said. “I can’t thank everyone enough for this.”

Contact Catherine Shen at 860-801-5093 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain on Tuesday, 14 January 2020 21:15. Updated: Tuesday, 14 January 2020 21:17.