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Norwalk Names First-Ever Teacher of the Year

Tears streamed down Eva Bartush’s face as she learned she had been chosen as Norwalk’s Teacher of the Year. Superintendent Susan Marks and an entourage of administrators, school board members and local media surprised the Nathan Hale science teacher in the middle of her class Thursday morning with red roses and balloons. “I’m overwhelmed, I’m speechless,” Bartush said as her students clapped in her honor.

“You’ll be the first of many,” said Marks, who initiated the program in Norwalk this year. “Your teacher will represent Norwalk for the Connecticut Teacher of the Year,” she told Bartush’s eighth grade students.

A Nathan Hale teacher for 18 years, Bartush believes she knows something distinct about each student. “Each student has something special and unique about them,” said Bartush, who subscribes to Howard Gardner's "multiple intelligences" theory. “My job is to find out what is going to engage and motivate a student to learn, to make them lifelong learners.”

“She is warm and welcoming to all her students,” said Lilliana Garcia, an eighth grade student who was in the middle of an exercise about the digestive system. “She is always willing to help us raise our grades and we can rely on her to go back and explain things if we don’t understand them.”

“She cares about each and everyone of her students,” said guidance counselor Phoebe Fallon.

"She thinks outside the box to think of ways to work with them and help make them be successful."

Bartush has also been an early adopter of new classroom technology. She was one of the first in the district to use “clickers,” a tool in which teachers to get instant feedback on classroom instruction. visited Bartush’s classroom in November to see the clickers in action .

A mother of four, Bartush grew up in Norwalk and went to Norwalk Public Schools — Brookside Elementary, Roton Middle School and Brien McMahon High. She says she “loves Norwalk kids” and wouldn’t want to teach anywhere else.

In Norwalk's first year of the Teacher of the Year program, eight of its 19 schools submitted a candidate. The superintendent's selection committee interviewed finalists. The Norwalk teachers union was resistant to the program, because it doesn’t support the singling out of teachers. Marks, however, hopes to show the state that Norwalk is committed to first-rate teaching. “This is a statement about the quality of people in public education in Norwalk. We want to participate in the state’s program.”

For Bartush, the honor is motivational. “After 18 years of teaching, it is nice to be told you are doing a great job by the district. It gives me an extra boost,” she said. “We are showing that good things are happening in the schools."

Also named as finalists for Teacher of the Year were:

• Lori Anrico, special education teacher at Naramake Elementary School

• Jeff Beckley, 3rd grade teacher at Brookside Elementary School

• Jane Jawlik, 1st grade teacher at Fox Run Elementary School

• Steven McAuley, 5th grade teacher at Wolfpit Elementary School

• Joan Papsun, 3rd grade teacher at Silvermine Elementary School

• Thomas Seuch, department chair/biology teacher at Brien McMahon High School

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