At a November 15 ceremony honoring Wallingford first-grade teacher and 2018 Connecticut Teacher of the Year Erin Berthold, along with 116 other Teachers of the Year from districts around the state, community leaders, educators, parents, students, and educators recalled the significant role that teachers play in the lives of their students and in the social fabric of their communities.
Berthold is the first Wallingford teacher ever named state teacher of the year—a fact that surprises her.
“I can think of many people right within my school who also deserve this honor,” she said. “I feel lucky that I get to spend every day with my students. It’s hard to put into words how amazing it feels and how special it is so to be honored like this.”
Ambassadors for public education
Together with 2018 TOY finalists and fellow CEA members LeAnn Cassidy, Martha Curran, and Courtney Ruggiero, Berthold will act as an ambassador for public education by serving on a variety of advisory committees at the state and national levels.
“This night is important for educators across the state,” said Berthold at the ceremony, held at The Bushnell Performing Arts Center in Hartford, “because the hundred-plus teachers here tonight represent hundreds more excellent teachers back home in their districts. Be proud of your profession. Hold yourselves and your colleagues in high esteem. Connecticut is full of amazing educators. Think of yourselves as heroes; your students already do.”
“I am thrilled to be among so many excellent educators,” said LeAnn Cassidy, a 30-year veteran who teaches social studies at Regional School District #15’s Memorial Middle School in Pomperaug. “We inspire, We provoke. We are eternal optimists.”
Eighth-grade language arts teacher Martha Curran, who teaches at Polson Middle School in Madison and is described as a cheerleader both for her students and her profession, says the Teacher of the Year ceremony is meaningful not just for those in attendance but for everyone in the profession. “It means teachers are valued. It means teachers are honored and recognized. Tonight is for all teachers.”
Fellow finalist and Westport’s Bedford Middle School eighth-grade social studies teacher Courtney Ruggiero says, “The whole teacher of the year selection process is a nice opportunity to show the hard work that all teachers do, certainly in my school, and throughout the state. I am happy to be here to represent every teacher.”
Champions for children
Connecticut TOY Council President David Bosso thanked teachers for their passion, dedication, and enthusiasm and for “pursuing the lofty ideals of education tirelessly and selflessly.”
After a protracted state legislative and budget session that often took aim at teachers and public schools, Bosso also urged legislators in the room, as shapers of public policy, to “reach out to teachers for valuable perspectives,” emphasizing that they offer “authentic insights from the classroom.”
“Despite the challenges we face every day, we uphold our noble profession, because we know at the end of the day, it isn’t about policy, budgets, or regulations,” said Berthold. “It’s about children. I think it is safe to say no teacher in this room entered the field of education because they wanted to one day win an award. We chose to be teachers because we want to leave this world a better place than we found it. We do this by being there for our students when they need us, helping them recognize their potential, and guiding them to make good life decisions. Teachers may not run into burning buildings, but we do save lives. We just don’t always know it at the time.”