At Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School in New London this morning the school jazz band played, the dance troop twirled, and a class of students led an auditorium full of students, teachers, and guests in the school song—all in honor of fourth grade teacher Kiana Foster-Mauro who was named Connecticut’s 2024 Teacher of the Year.
Foster-Mauro says she was hit with an overwhelming wave of emotion on learning she’d been selected for the state’s highest honor celebrating extraordinary teachers. “It’s very humbling, it’s a huge honor, and I feel an enormous sense of gratitude,” she says. “Gratitude for the profession, for the community that I have, for the journey that I went on to get to this point, and for being selected to be this representative of all our amazing teachers in this state.”
“I’m super excited because she deserves this,” says fifth grader Zoe Reyes-Soto, one of Foster-Mauro’s former students. “She’s the best teacher in the world/multiverse. She’s super kind to all of her students, and she cares about everybody.”
Reyes-Soto is so inspired by Foster-Mauro’s example that she wants to follow in her footsteps and become a teacher herself. “It seems fun teaching students and making them happy.”
Watch Reyes-Soto explain why her teacher is so deserving of the state’s top teaching honor.
“I’ve always loved learning and cherished the magic found in learning my whole life, so I became a teacher to continue learning everyday with my students, hopefully creating that magic for them,” says Foster-Mauro. “My students are some of the best people I know—the funniest, most creative, and they never fail to keep me on my toes. They give me the best adventures, and they are absolutely going to change the world.”
Foster-Mauro is an educator, activist, and lifelong learner committed to empowering her students through culturally sustaining and human rights centered learning. As a Black biracial woman, Foster-Mauro understands the importance of diverse representation and culturally sustaining practices in education. She says that teaching is a radical act that impacts minds and hearts.
“Kiana Foster-Mauro exemplifies how early career educators are effecting change in their classrooms and their profession,” says CEA President Kate Dias. “From her college days as a member of Leadership in Diversity at UConn, where she encouraged students of color to enter the teaching profession, to her role as a fourth grade teacher in New London, she tackles each new challenge with confidence, enthusiasm, and the desire to do what’s right for students and public education in Connecticut.”
“On behalf of the New London Education Association, we are so proud of you and thank you for your dedication to your students,” New London Education Association President David Moore told Foster-Mauro. He presented her with a gift on behalf of the city’s teachers.
“We are grateful to have a hardworking educator like Ms. Foster-Mauro teaching in our public schools,” says Governor Lamont. “We’ve heard so many impressive stories about her from her colleagues and students at Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School. She embodies the qualities needed to prepare students for success throughout their lives. It was an honor to visit her today to deliver this great news. Connecticut has the best public school teachers in the nation and they should be recognized and celebrated.”
“Teachers are the heartbeat of our education system, and it is a privilege to acknowledge Kiana Foster-Mauro as Connecticut’s 2024 Teacher of the Year,” says Commissioner Russell-Tucker. “Kiana empowers her students through culturally-sustaining learning and recognizes the importance of diverse representation and practices in education. We are thankful for all she does to uplift and recognize the infinite possibilities of all students. Congratulations to Kiana for achieving the state’s highest recognition honoring extraordinary teachers.”
Foster-Mauro is passionate about community and empowering others. Outside of the classroom, she extends her commitment to education, diversity, and community as a dance teacher at The Dance Extension and company advisor to the Community Dance Ensemble.
“Teaching is magic. You get to learn with some of the best people every day—your students and your colleagues—and you get to create that magic for everyone else as well. It is the best way to make a positive change in this world,” Foster-Mauro says.
Foster-Mauro will now become Connecticut’s representative for 2024 National Teacher of the Year. She succeeds Connecticut’s 2023 Teacher of the Year, Carolyn Kielma, a science teacher at Bristol Eastern High School.