The applause was deafening in the North Branford High School auditorium this afternoon as students and staff celebrated one of their own as Connecticut’s 2017 Teacher of the Year. Science teacher and North Branford High alum Lauren Danner beamed with pride.
“I am so humbled and honored to be selected as a representative of education in Connecticut, and I will do my best to make the state of Connecticut proud,” she said.
Danner, a science and biology teacher and Science Department Leader, spent her first decade out of college working as a research scientist but couldn’t resist the call of teaching. She loved the lab work but said, “I’m too much of a talker and storyteller to be working silently for most of my day.”
Taking classes at night, Danner earned her Master of Science in Education and made the switch to teaching. Her first teaching jobs were at the elementary and middle school levels, but when a position became available at North Branford High, Danner couldn’t resist the thought of teaching at her alma mater.
She was apprehensive about teaching high school students at first, saying “it’s almost like there’s an elementary teacher trapped inside of me.” But she quickly fell in love with high school teaching. “You get to do really great science at the high school level,” she said.
Danner said she prioritizes helping students learn about the things they’re curious about and makes sure students see the connection between what they learn in class and “the real world.”
Her connection with students is also key and is something Danner builds into the curriculum. She has two sons of her own, but says she treats her students “as though they’re my own kids.”
Students feel the strength of her caring, sometimes calling her “Mama Danner.”
North Branford junior Sara Criscuolo said Danner has had a tremendous impact on her and other students. When members of the Teacher of the Year selection committee visited the high school and talked with students Criscuolo said, “They saw the light in our eyes when we spoke about Mrs. Danner, they saw the passion, they saw the love—and that was enough for them to know that she is something extraordinary.”
Danner was chosen from among four finalists, 15 semifinalists, and over 100 district-level Teachers of the Year. A statewide council of former Teachers of the Year and representatives from educational organizations, businesses, and the community conducted the rigorous selection process, which includes on-site visits, candidate applications, interviews, and observations of teaching.
“I’m thrilled for the entire community,” Danner said. “The outpouring of support from colleagues and students has been really remarkable.”
Danner succeeds 2016 Connecticut Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes, a Waterbury history teacher, who went on to become the 2016 National Teacher of the Year.