Connecticut’s 2015 Teacher of the Year praised and thanked her former teachers, Farmington Public School educators, for inspiring her to become an educator, and reminded her colleagues of the important role they play in their students’ lives.
Speaking to a crowd of more than 500, including fellow educators, family, and friends gathered at the Connecticut Teacher of the Year celebration at the Bushnell Theater in Hartford on Dec. 2, Cara Quinn delivered inspirational words about the power teachers have to shape and transform the lives of their students. She praised two of her favorite teachers, Miss Joan Campbell (now Joan Berry), her fourth grade teacher, and Miss Celeste Masi, her high school Spanish teacher who attended the ceremony, who were instrumental in her education journey and helped her become who she is today.
“These two teachers inspired me to enter this profession and have provided a lasting example of what good teaching encompasses,” she said. “You have my sincere gratitude. The teacher that I am today is largely because of the teachers that I had in you.”
Quinn, a sixth-grade teacher at Sunset Ridge Academy in East Hartford, whose students performed musical entertainment at the ceremony, told her colleagues she is proud to represent them.
“It’s an incredible honor to stand before you as Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year and to be surrounded by so many exceptional educators who share a common vision and drive to do what’s best for children,” she said.
CEA President Sheila Cohen joins Connecticut’s 2015 TOY semifinalists and finalists at the Bushnell in Hartford.
Front row, left to right are Cohen and 2015 TOY Cara Quinn, East Hartford. Second row, Kristina Kiely, Wallingford; Lara Garber, Norwich; finalist Edward White, New Fairfield; Sarah Walkup, District 15; finalist Juliane Givoni, District 9; Sandra Nichols, Glastonbury; Deborah Sanders, Cromwell. Back row, Mary Nelson, Hamden; Beth Horler, Groton; David Griffith, Ridgefield; and Jennifer Paul, Southington.
Front row, left to right are Cohen and 2015 TOY Cara Quinn, East Hartford. Second row, Kristina Kiely, Wallingford; finalist Edward White, New Fairfield; finalist Juliane Givoni, District 9; and Deborah Sanders, Cromwell. Second row, Cheryl Iozzo, Greenwich; Lara Garber, Norwich; Sarah Walkup, District 15; and Sandra Nichols, Glastonbury. Back row, Mary Nelson, Hamden; Beth Horler, Groton; David Griffith, Ridgefield; and Jennifer Paul, Southington.
She reminded her colleagues of what matters most in education.
“You are the most valuable resource in your classroom. Your wisdom and expertise are irreplaceable and immeasurable. You know what matters most to children and what is most important to student success,” she said.
“Teachers are unsung heroes, so it is an inspiration to see educators being honored,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “Cara is one of countless exemplary teachers who have dedicated their lives to motivating, encouraging, and educating students. This ceremony, recognizing the state’s Teachers of the Year, should remind all of us of the thousands of professionals in classrooms across the state who are working hard every single day to help students succeed.”
Governor Dannel P. Malloy, who asked educators to excuse him for being tardy to the event, thanked teachers for all they do and recognized their impact on the future.
“We have turned a corner, and good things are beginning to happen, and in large part happening because of the work you do. What’s very special among all teachers is not just a momentary or yearly recognition, but the idea and concept and lifestyle that leaves you with the knowledge that you are impacting a community and a nation on an intergenerational basis,” he said.
State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor who attended his fourth and final TOY ceremony said, “This is one of the best events of the year because the stars of the classrooms of our state shine so brightly. We recognize teachers of the year and in so doing the teaching profession in our state in a way that is due and in a way that is appropriate.”
Demands on the profession
Quinn urged her colleagues to stand strong for their students and public education, despite the ongoing demands of standardized testing and data collection, which have flooded the teaching community causing much anxiety among many educators.
“Our students are counting on us to speak up and challenge the status quo, to raise concerns and share our expertise and practical common sense solutions. We must remind ourselves and one another and those who have forgotten why we are here and what’s important.”
Edward White, a New Fairfield High School teacher and one of three TOY finalists, said the amount of standardized testing, especially for high school students, is “ridiculous.”
“It’s not a measurement of a student’s success as a student. It’s a snapshot of one day, and we are taking way too many snapshots,” he said.
TOY finalist Juliane Givoni, a teacher at Joel Barlow High School in Regional School District 9, agreed with her colleagues.
“Many schools rely on too much testing,” she said. While standardized tests provide us with data, Givoni said they are not the be all end all. “There are many ways to collect data. In fact, anecdotal data and what students are doing on a daily basis is more telling,” she said.
Quinn added, “It’s imperative to remember that we are accountable for so much more for our students, for who they will become and what contributions they will offer our world. This is what matters most and is what we are called to do as educators.”