“Carolyn is a rock star educator and one of the many hidden gems of Bristol. It was only a matter of time before the state and nation took notice,” said Mike Reynolds, president of the Bristol Federation of Teachers. And take notice they have. Bristol science teacher and Connecticut Teacher of the Year Carolyn Kielma was named one of five finalists for National Teacher of the Year today and honored during a press conference at the Legislative Office Building.
“As Connecticut’s 2023 Teacher of the Year you are a shining example of the incredible educators we have in Connecticut,” Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker told Kielma. “We are proud of you and all of our educators who strive to make a difference in the lives of their students every day.”
Kielma said how appreciative she is for the recognition that her students, colleagues, and town are receiving.
“Teaching is the profession I was born to do,” she said. “I get to help make better, smarter, kinder, humans. I get to share a small part of their lives. I get to celebrate their trials and teach them to focus and buckle down when the expectations are high. I get to help them understand and value their worth while they navigate their own unique journeys to adulthood. I get to laugh with them every day. And sometimes I get to comfort them when they are all at their lowest points, and I get to remind them that tough times do not last. Tough people do. Oh yeah, and I also get to teach them. This job is not easy, but it is indispensable.”
“What speaks to me about Carolyn’s journey is that she doesn’t just look at the process of teaching science as an academic endeavor,” said CEA President Kate Dias. “It is a social emotional opportunity to grow young humans into really exciting productive members of society. And as a fellow STEM teacher, when you try and connect things like math and science to social emotional wellness, the kids get a little glassy eyed on you. And so I really do appreciate and celebrate the fact that she has used her skill set to get kids excited about science, to understand its relevance and importance in their lives, and to use it as a vehicle to build really quality humans. And I think that’s a really profound impact you get to have in life, which is why we love being teachers.”
“The best advocates for educators are educators,” said State Senator, educator, and AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. “As Connecticut teacher of the year, your voice will be heard above all others. I know you will work hard to make sure the status of our profession is raised.”
Hochadel joked, “The last Connecticut Teacher of the Year we had who was named a National Teacher of the Year finalist was Jahana Hayes—and four years later she was in Congress. So, no pressure!”
“On behalf of the Education Community we are so proud of you and cannot thank you enough for helping our students thrive,” said State Rep. Jeff Currey. As the new co-chair of the Education Committee he said that educators like Carolyn will be “at the top of my mind and hopefully the top of my email.”
“We are cheering you on because that sends a message about how seriously we take our teachers, how seriously we take our schools,” Governor Ned Lamont said. “I love something you said, Carolyn, which says you understand these kids so well. ‘Every kid is gifted and every kid has special needs.’ And a teacher recognizes that, and that’s how a teacher makes a kid want to learn and love to learn and helps them find what their passion is.”
“I hope, Carolyn, that you enjoy this moment,” Dias said. “That you embrace it as an opportunity to uplift our profession and to bring attention to the things that you know can be improved. Because I think one thing we need to do is take these moments and celebrate, but then give the voice to the person who’s being honored to help direct and guide us to the places where we as a profession, we as a state, we as communities can create new pathways that can be successful.”
“I cannot wait to head out to our nation’s capital and get to work to elevate this career,” said Kielma. “I‘m ready to work with my teacher colleagues across all disciplines and all grade levels, all states and territories, to reform policy and practice that continues to promote equity and inclusion, while providing opportunities for all of our scholars to be successful. I’m ready to show the nation how valuable and vital teachers are to the health and future of our society as I inspire others to view our job as respected, desired, and prestigious.”