In a surprise visit to Southeast Elementary School in Mansfield, state and local officials, students, education leaders and colleagues, celebrated this morning’s announcement that Kim King has been named Connecticut’s 2022 Teacher of the Year.
An art teacher who divides her time between Southeast and Mansfield’s Vinton Elementary School, King described the transformative power of creativity to increase engagement, access, and agency for all students, inclusive of ability, identity, and experience. The creative arts, she said, validate and embrace other ways of thinking, making space for students’ voices and points of view.
“Creativity is in so much of the work educators do already and can be found across grade levels and subject areas,” she explained. “It helps to individualize student learning and growth and builds confidence from within. It is this creative thinking and problem-solving that helped us teach and reach students through a pandemic.”
When asked how it feels to be a celebrity, King responded, “All teachers are celebrities. They’ve all had to reinvent ways of reaching and teaching their students, and it is an honor to represent Connecticut’s amazing teachers. I have so much respect for my profession.”
Watch King talk about the importance of teacher voice and the need for more teachers to speak up.
In the audience were third- and fourth-graders from both schools where King teaches more than 350 students in total. They celebrated her with songs and spoken messages about how she has inspired them, including being inspired to “try my best,” “work hard, be kind, and support others,” and “use all the colors.”
Administrators, colleagues, and others came together to applaud King’s penchant for listening to her students, encouraging young artists to take risks, and making sure they and their families feel seen, valued, and represented in works of art.
“Kim exemplifies the highest standards of professionalism and dedication to her students, her colleagues, and her community,” said CEA President Kate Dias. “The arts are central to a well-rounded education. As an art teacher, Kim inspires student creativity and enriches the lives of her students, providing opportunities for them to express themselves artistically. A role model to her students, she is committed to her own growth and learning, ensuring that her leadership and teaching practices continue to evolve. Equity, empathy, and respect are at the heart of her teaching, and we are proud to see Kim recognized for the invaluable work she does and for the talent, passion, and dedication she brings to the teaching profession.”
Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker applauded teachers’ strength and commitment during the pandemic, which she says, “has highlighted something in Connecticut that we already know: Our educators are dedicated and innovative, and they will rise to any challenge. As we return to normalcy in our daily and professional lives, we must all continue to be here for our educators every step of the way, because their well-being really matters. Why? Because they continue to be there every day for all of our students. So, to all of Connecticut’s educators, thank you for the noble work that you do. The teacher we have come to honor today demonstrates the persistence, patience, and resilience, courage, determination, strength, and endurance that I spoke of before.”
The heart of education
“The kids here are so lucky to have all of your teachers who care so much about you and love you,” said Governor Ned Lamont, adding, “This has been a complicated year.”
Recognizing that the arts are often de-emphasized while priority is “given to STEM, the three Rs, new math, and teaching to the test,” the governor applauded the fact that the next Connecticut Teacher of the Year represents the arts. He added, “There is nothing more important in schools than having a great teacher who believes in you, having a great teacher who inspires you, having a great teacher who loves you, and having a great teacher who makes you think on your feet.” Referencing hot-button education issues that divide many towns, he said, “I see all the debates going on, I just want to say one thing: Let our teachers teach! They know our kids so well.”
Watch King describe how art helps students process difficult situations and emotions.
Throughout King’s career, themes of equity, empathy, and respect have been at the heart of her teaching philosophy and her students at the center of it all. In her art room at Southeast School hangs a sign that reads, “You Matter.” Pointing to the sign, one of her students explained that art was his favorite class because, in his words, “I matter here.”
King says that sentiment is behind her choice to making teaching her life’s work. In 2020, she received a grant to study the art and culture of South Korea in order to help students deepen their understanding of other cultural perspectives as well as our common humanity.
Prior to her time in Mansfield, King taught for seven years at Riverside Magnet School in East Hartford after beginning her career at Westbrook High School, where she taught drawing, painting, mixed media, ceramics, and photography.
As an educator of Korean descent she stresses that “students need to see accurate representations of themselves in art, science, literature, and media so that they can imagine a future where they can be active contributors.” A member of her district’s 21st Century Learning Committee, Leadership Team, Curriculum Committee, Equity Committee, and Social-Emotional Learning Committee, she also strives to create safe learning spaces for her students and ensure equity in the greater community.
“I look forward to representing Connecticut’s phenomenal teachers,” she said. “Together, we can make Connecticut more colorful.”
The designation of Connecticut Teacher of the Year is conferred each year by the Connecticut Teacher of the Year Council, a group comprised of former recipients of the honor as well as representatives from educational organizations, businesses, and the community. The Council reviewed nearly 100 district-level teachers of the year through a rigorous selection process that includes virtual visits, candidate applications, interviews, and observations of teaching.
Look for more on Kim King and 2022 Connecticut Teacher of the Year finalists in an upcoming issue of the CEA Advisor.