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Joanne Riker 

Helping students of all abilities instills pride in Joanne Riker


ROCHESTER — Using the appeal and fellowship of sports, a special education teacher at Spaulding High School created a new program which brings students together and instills a sense of pride all around.


Joanne Lynn Riker, 31, who lives in Dover with her husband, Steve, and their new son, Carter, said she's especially proud to see varsity athletes team up and interact with her students — who have varying levels of physical or developmental challenges — as they play soccer, basketball and volleyball in the unified sports program, which is sanctioned by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA).


Most importantly, Riker said the partnership they build on the court transcends a mere game and is evident as teammates — who may not have had a chance to know each other — meet and greet others wearing their "game day jerseys" throughout the school day. She added other students who aren't in the program take notice of the positive relationship when a varsity athlete gives a teammate with moderate or severe disabilities a high-five in the hallway.


"These kids will always have their disabilities, but the social aspect is key," Riker said, adding as a result of the program many students learn to accept or overcome their issues — on the court, in class and eventually in life. 


Riker said she sees the same sense of partnership and accomplishment in students who take part in the Collaborative Languages program, which she helped create during her second year as a teacher. She added the program allows students to interact and practice Spanish together, which has a long-lasting impact.


"Retention is a huge part of disabilities, but they can have a conversation in Spanish months later," Riker said.


Riker, who grew up in Portsmouth and graduated from Traip Academy in Kittery, Maine, went onto Fitchburg State College, where she played varsity softball and basketball while earning a degree in communication studies and graphic design.


After working with kindergarten students as a paraprofessional for four years, Riker said she earned her teaching certificate in special and elementary education from Granite State College and was hired as a special education teacher last year. 


Riker said her greatest challenge is finding enough time to be with her students while juggling all the paperwork.


"There's a lot to do in the day," Riker said, adding she currently is overseeing about 40 people in the department.


While she previously coached boys' varsity tennis, girls junior varsity basketball and was an assistant coach for girls varsity softball at Spaulding, Riker said she plans to take a year off since her son was born Jan. 4. 


Currently, Riker is out on maternity leave for three months as she cares for Carter. Additionally, she's taking online classes with Grand Canyon University and expects to earn a masters of education administration degree next year.


Riker, who is proud of all the students who work to overcome their disabilities, said she learned perseverance from her mother, Aila Pratt, who is a two-time breast cancer survivor. 


"She was originally diagnosed when she was 29 years old and I was a baby and then diagnosed again when I was a senior in high school," Riker said. While she doesn't recall the first time, when she was only a year old, Riker said she remembers her mother's struggle well when she was 17.


"She has always had a positive outlook and took care of her family first and foremost," Riker said "I truly admire her and her attitude."


As a result, Riker said she was glad to take part in the annual Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk, in which she traveled 20 miles a day on foot and helped her team raise more than $20,000.


Special education coordinator Lori Gay said Riker is very dedicated and ensures each student has every opportunity to achieve success at Spaulding.


"With every student, Jo shows her compassion and enthusiasm for helping her students achieve success," Gay said, adding it was apparent from the beginning that Riker is an amazing educator.


"They are very lucky to have such a devoted advocate on their side," Gay said.

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March 15 Reception

The Union Leader’s 40 Under Forty program recognizes some of the state’s brightest young achievers who have a record of professional and volunteer accomplishments in New Hampshire. It is generously sponsored by Citizens Bank and presented in partnership with the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.

When:Wednesday March 15, 2017 from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

Where: Grappone Conference Center
70 Constitution Avenue
Concord, NH 03301

Tickets: There are no physical tickets for the event. Attendees can check in upon arrival.

Click here to register

Contact: Emily Whalen
New Hampshire Union Leader
603-206-7834
ewhalen@unionleader.com

THANKS TO OUR PROGRAM SPONSOR

Class of 2017

Michael Solari, 33, Goffstown

Michael Solari, 33, Goffstown

Michael Solari, 33, of Goffstown is principal owner of Solari Financial.

Rachelle Beaudoin, 35, Peterborough

Rachelle Beaudoin, 35, Peterborough

Rachelle Beaudoin, 35, of Peterborough is an artist and lecturer of Visual Art, College of the Holy Cross.

Paul C. Smith, 36, Epsom

Paul C. Smith, 36, Epsom

Paul C. Smith, 36, of Epsom is clerk of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

Molly Sanborn, 37, Concord

Molly Sanborn, 37, Concord

Molly Sanborn, 37, of Concord is director of development and marketing at CATCH Neighborhood Housing.

Justin Slattery, 36, Concord

Justin Slattery, 36, Concord

Justin Slattery, 36, is Concord is executive director of Belknap Economic Development Council.

Rebecca Perkins, 34, Portsmouth

Rebecca Perkins, 34, Portsmouth

Rebecca Perkins, 34, of Portsmouth is associate general counsel at Enel Green Power North America.

Arnold Mikolo, 25, Manchester

Arnold Mikolo, 25, Manchester

Arnold Mikolo, 25, of Manchester is community liaison with St. Anselm College; vice president with the Congolese of New Hampshire; ESL instructor with Manchester Community College; medical...

Tilak Niroula, 28, Manchester

Tilak Niroula, 28, Manchester

Tilak Niroula, 28, of Manchester is communication manager at Bhutanese Community of New Hampshire, residential instructor at Easter Seals.

Norri Oberlander, 34, Londonderry

Norri Oberlander, 34, Londonderry

Norri Oberlander, 34, of Londonderry is vice president of North End Properties Inc., aka Landlady in Downtown Manchester

Lyndsee D. Paskalis, 34, Bedford

Lyndsee D. Paskalis, 34, Bedford

Lyndsee D. Paskalis, 34, of Bedford is an attorney (partner) with Stebbins, Lazos & Van Der Beken, P.A.

Joshua McAllister, 37, Center Conway

Joshua McAllister, 37, Center Conway

Joshua McAllister, 37, Center Conway is partner/vice-president/senior civil engineer at HEB Engineers, Inc.; varsity baseball coach, Kennett High School.

Keith Young, 33, Groveton

Keith Young, 33, Groveton

Keith Young, 33, of Groveton is partner at Geo. M. Stevens and Son Co.; moderator for the town as needed; part owner with my wife of First Step Fitness Centeral.

Doug Martin, 34, New Boston

Doug Martin, 34, New Boston

Doug Martin, 34, of New Boston is a commercial real estate advisor for Colliers International.

Ann L. Fournier, 39, Bedford

Ann L. Fournier, 39, Bedford

Ann L. Fournier, 39, Bedford is an instructor in the Department of Nursing at Saint Anselm College.

Tate H. Aldrich, 30, Laconia

Tate H. Aldrich, 30, Laconia

Tate H. Aldrich, 30, of Laconia is an English teacher and English Department chairman at Laconia High School.

Justin Boufford, 36, Manchester

Justin Boufford, 36, Manchester

Justin Boufford, 36, of Manchester is an account executive for Boyd & Boufford Insurance Agency LLC.

James Brewer, 35, Portsmouth

James Brewer, 35, Portsmouth

James Brewer, 35, of Portsmouth is vice president, middle market lender, Kennebunk Savings Bank.

Samantha Kenney Maltais, 30, Loudon

Samantha Kenney Maltais, 30, Loudon

Samantha Kenney Maltais, 30, of Loudon is principal strategist and marketing manager, SilverTech Inc.

Tyler Gouveia, 18, Nashua

Tyler Gouveia, 18, Nashua

Tyler Gouveia, 18, of Nashua is CEO and majority owner of T Town Sports, full-time student at Suffolk University.

Kati Lary Jopek, 32, Canaan

Kati Lary Jopek, 32, Canaan

Kati Lary Jopek, 32, of Canaan is regional recreation coordinator for Mascoma Valley Parks & Recreation (part time); USA Field Hockey umpire (high school and college); basketball and softball coach;...

Nate Alberts, 34, Franconia

Nate Alberts, 34, Franconia

Nate Alberts, 34, of Franconia is owner of Nate Alberts Painting; founder and executive director of North Country Community Radio.

Ryan K. Frew, 36, Manchester

Ryan K. Frew, 36, Manchester

Ryan K. Frew, 36, Manchester is head coach and general manager of the N.H. Jr. Monarchs.

Tim Baines, 37, Manchester

Tim Baines, 37, Manchester

Tim Baines, 37, of Manchester is owner and operator of Mint Bistro.

Kathleen A. Davidson, 35, Pembroke

Kathleen A. Davidson, 35, Pembroke

Kathleen A. Davidson, 35, of Pembroke is an attorney at Hage Hodes, P.A.

Sandi Coyle, 38, Exeter

Sandi Coyle, 38, Exeter

Sandi Coyle, 38, of Exeter is executive director of Granite Pathways.

Tyler Brown, 29, Manchester

Tyler Brown, 29, Manchester

Tyler Brown, 29, of Manchester is an account manager at CGI Business Solutions.

Joe Whitten, 30, Manchester

Joe Whitten, 30, Manchester

Joe Whitten, 30, of Manchester is chief executive officer of Apparel Impact.

Paul J. Bauer, 37, Newfields

Paul J. Bauer, 37, Newfields

Paul J. Bauer, 37, of Newfields is an attorney with Devine Millimet & Branch, P.A.

Matt Walsh, 38, Concord

Matt Walsh, 38, Concord

Matt Walsh, 38, of Concord is director of redevelopment, downtown services and special projects for the City of Concord.

Rio H. Tilton, 20, Seabrook

Rio H. Tilton, 20, Seabrook

Rio H. Tilton, 20, of Seabrook is a real estate agent at Lighthouse Real Estate in Seabrook, state Representative for District 37 representing Seabrook, Hampton Falls and Hampton.

Chad Theroux, 32, Manchester

Chad Theroux, 32, Manchester

Chad Theroux, 32, of Manchester is director of finance for the Precision Guidance and Sensing Solutions Product Line at BAE Systems.

Jonathan Sadowski, 39, Concord

Jonathan Sadowski, 39, Concord

Jonathan Sadowski, 39, of Concord is a special education teacher at Manchester High School Central.

Ned Sackman, 38, Concord

Ned Sackman, 38, Concord

Ned Sackman, 38, of Concord is a commercial litigation attorney and shareholder at Bernstein Shur, P.A.

Jenna Raizes, 32, Epping

Jenna Raizes, 32, Epping

Jenna Raizes, 32, of Epping is deputy general manager at New Hampshire Fisher Cats

Charles W. Kriete, 39, Salem

Charles W. Kriete, 39, Salem

Charles W. Kriete, 39, of Salem is senior vice president of Tessco Technologies.

Laura Gamache, 32, Manchester

Laura Gamache, 32, Manchester

Laura Gamache, 32, of Manchester is a real estate agent/Realtor with Gamache Real Estate Group of Keller Williams Realty.

Jessica Eskeland, 31, Concord

Jessica Eskeland, 31, Concord

Jessica Eskeland, 31, of Concord is coordinator at N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

Matthew T. James, 35, Londonderry

Matthew T. James, 35, Londonderry

Matthew T. James, 35, of Londonderry is a commercial lender at Eastern Bank.

Liz Hitchcock, 38, Manchester

Liz Hitchcock, 38, Manchester

Liz Hitchcock, 38, of Manchester is a philanthropist.

George S. Hansel, 31, Keene

George S. Hansel, 31, Keene

George S. Hansel, 31, of Keene is co-owner of Filtrine Manufacturing Company and an At-Large Keene City Councilor.

Class of 2018 Nominations

Please summarize below the nominee's professional and volunteer accomplishments, and other special factors that you feel make them deserving of this recognition. Please include complete contact information for nominee.

For more information on the 40 Under 40 program, contact Shannon K. Sullivan, Community Relations Manager, 603-206-7833 or ssullivan@unionleader.com.

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