NORTHAMPTON, Mass. — When Anne Marie Osheyack was growing up in New Bedford, she says, school was her “safe haven.”

The ninth-grade English teacher at Northampton High recalls that school gave her the support that she did not often get at home. She credits two of her high school English teachers, David Pepin and Deborah Borden, for changing her from a ninth-grader who frequently skipped school to a young woman who could graduate magna cum laude from Syracuse University.

What she didn’t know was that soon, she too would be changing lives as an educator.

Osheyack, 32, who now lives in Sunderland, Mass., has won the 2015 California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence. The award is given through a partnership between the National Education Association Foundation and California Casualty, an insurance company in San Mateo, California. It recognizes educators for their professional practice, advocacy for their profession and attention to diversity, among other criteria.

Osheyack will be among 39 public educators honored at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 13, 2015. Each will receive a $650 award, and five will be selected to receive $10,000 awards.

Osheyack has just finished her eighth year of teaching, and her first year at Northampton High School. For the seven years prior, she taught ninth grade English at Central High School in Springfield, where she earned the title of 2014 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. Through this recognition, she met Massachusetts Teachers Association president Paul Toner, who nominated her for the California Casualty Award.

“She has an incredible life story as a young student facing much adversity,” Toner said in an interview. “Public schools were what saved her.”

Osheyack became a teacher by “accident,” she recalls. She had studied film at Syracuse and hoped to become a screenwriter. But internships in that field created too much of an expense for her family, she said, so she explored other avenues.

She had been a camp counselor from the time she was a teenager through graduate school, she said, and her friends suggested she apply her ability to work with kids to teaching. “At first I laughed at them,” she said. But then she gave it a try.

She participated in a summer program offered by Syracuse, where she could teach seventh- and eighth-graders in Providence, Rhode Island, as part of an initiative to help low-income students on a path to college. It was challenging work, she said, but it showed her that teaching was what she wanted to do.

During her own years as a student, Osheyack recalled, school was where she did not have to think about her troubles at home.

Growing up, she says, family conflicts often turned violent. When she was in middle school, her parents divorced and she began living with her mom and younger brother. Her mother had to work multiple jobs to support the family. In her sophomore year of high school, Pepin instilled in her a love of literature, she said, and she began to do more writing. She joined the yearbook staff in her junior year and took advanced placement English and creative writing in her senior year. Borden was the teacher who oversaw the yearbook as well as the school literary magazine.

In Toner’s nomination letter, he cites her impact in the classroom as well as on the community. She is involved with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, a professional development program through which educators can learn from one another about writing skills and best classroom practices. Osheyack is a teacher consultant in the program, leading courses for her fellow educators.

He also cites six weeks Osheyack spent teaching English language arts in Uganda in 2011. There, she said, she learned of all the aspects of Western education that are taken for granted.