Teachers are facing many challenges during this unprecedented school year, which makes it all the more important to celebrate the bright spots. This morning Poquonock School in Windsor had an especially important moment to celebrate as kindergarten teacher Rochelle Brown was named Connecticut’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
For the first time ever, Connecticut has a Teacher of the Year and Paraeducator of the Year from the very same school, and Maria Sau was also recognized today by her school, district, and the state education community at a socially-distant and masked gathering in the educators’ honor.
“I’m beyond honored to be standing before you today as Connecticut’s 2021 Teacher of the Year,” Brown said. While saying that she does not consider herself the “best” teacher in the state, she described herself as “a teacher who teaches from the heart.”
Brown continued, “I’m a teacher who tries to see the best in every student. I’m a teacher who tries to connect with every student on every level.”
Brown has taught in the Windsor Public Schools since 1999, and making sure students feel seen and heard in her classroom has always been a focus for her.
Growing up Brown rarely saw characters who looked like her in the books she read, and she is now devoted to making sure all of her students see themselves reflected in her classroom library. Last spring, when schools moved to remote learning, she began an Instagram page, kidlitlove8, to bring awareness to multicultural children’s books and the importance of representation for all children.
When a colleague decided to start an afterschool program for boys of color to address the achievement gap, Brown was ready to join, traveling to several states on the weekends to ensure that the boys would have cultural and educational experiences just like their peers.
“Rochelle’s commitment to equity and making sure all of her students feel welcome and recognized in her classroom are key to forming strong relationships with her students and their families,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “Connecticut teachers are working long hours, helping their students through an unprecedented time, and during the challenges of the pandemic we are pleased to be able to take a moment to celebrate and honor Rochelle as a representative of our state’s stellar teaching force.”
In addition to her full teaching schedule and afterschool activities, including serving on her school’s and district’s equity committees, Brown has also made the time to serve her colleagues as a building rep for the Windsor Education Association. “CEA is grateful to Rochelle for her dedication to her colleagues and service to her local union,” said Leake.
“Ms. Rochelle Brown is in love with teaching. She is an inspiration to students, staff and families. Everyone that she encounters is better for the experience,” said Jay Mihalko, principal of Poquonock School. “Mrs. Maria Sau respects, cares for, supports, and empowers every student that she works with as if they were her own child. She sees the best in every child and with encouragement and compassion she motivates her students to achieve.”