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Teacher of Year Promotes Norwalk's Program

The Connecticut State Teacher of the Year doesn’t believe she is necessarily the “best” teacher in the state. “I was selected to represent all teachers,” Kristen Record said at a meeting with Naramake Elementary School teachers Monday afternoon.

Record, a Stratford physics teacher who came out on top after a rigorous selection process by the state, was invited by Superintendent Susan Marks to meet with Norwalk teachers and students to promote the importance of teaching, as well as to promote Norwalk’s own newly initiated Teacher of the Year program.

“One way to encourage the best and brightest to enter and stay in this profession is to find ways to recognize high quality teaching,” said Record, 33, who has been a teacher for the past 11 years. She received her undergraduate degree in physics from Fairfield University and master’s degree in science education from Harvard University.

During her visit, Record visited Rowayton Elementary School, Brien McMahon High School, Ponus Ridge Middle School, Nathan Hale Middle School and Naramake Elementary School. “I sat on a carpet with first-graders and talked about the stars,” she said charmed by the younger students.

As teacher of the year, Record said she’s become an advocate for her profession. “We are the professionals in the classroom. Decisions and policies that affect us are not always made by people in the classroom.” Since she was selected in October, Record been traveling around the state to schools, universities, the legislature and education conferences to talk about importance of supporting public education, teacher recruitment and retention, and “why experience matters.” She’s met with Arne Duncan, federal education secretary, and will meet with President Obama next month.

Record also said that she’s become a source of pride for her school and community.  “A lot of time the headlines are dominated by budget cuts and test scores. We have to celebrate not only student achievement, but teacher excellence.”

Record, who stood by Marks, encouraged staff, parents and students to participate in Norwalk’s Teacher of the Year program.  “It’s great for students especially to have a voice about the adults in their building.”

The Teacher of the Year program has not received the support of Norwalk’s teachers union. “We don’t believe in singling out one person. We take the holistic approach and believe that we have 900 exemplary teachers,” said Bruce Mellion president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers. He says he holds the same position as his national union, the Federation of Teachers.

Mellion said that instead of a “Teacher of the Year” he’d like to see the district “beef up” Teacher Appreciation Week in early May. “Recognitions is always good, so what is the district going to do to recognize teachers during Teacher Appreciation Day or Week?”

Marks says that she “regrets” that the teachers’ union is not supporting the Norwalk Teacher of the Year Program but said she is committed to moving it forward. “We need to recognize teachers and the best of teaching now more than ever. In a school system, it’s the people that make it great.”

In Norwalk, each school will select its own teacher of the year. From those, a district “Teacher of the Year” will be selected and go in the running for the state recognition. The deadline for nominations is April 15. Nomination forms are available on the district website or through your principal’s office. Contact Joan Glass, academically talented instructional specialist at glassj@norwalkps.org or 203-854-4111, for more information.

How do you think teachers should be recognized? Will you participate in Norwalk's Teacher of the Year program?

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