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Posts tagged ‘Connecticut Teacher of the Year’

Teachers Honored for Commitment to Excellence, and to Children


2019 TOY finalists and semifinalists gather with CEA leaders. Pictured left to right are Robert Rose (Glastonbury), Leanne Maguire (Torrington), Gregory Amter (Hamden), CEA President Jeff Leake, Jennifer Freese (Newington), Sheena Graham (Bridgeport), Ryley Zawodniak (Mansfield), CEA Vice President Tom Nicholas, Jessica Harris (Wallingford), Camille Spaulding (Stamford), Kelly Shea (Manchester), Sean Maloney (Brooklyn), Ellen Meyer (Danbury), John Cote (Lebanon), Penny Zhitomi (Shelton), and Jessica Papp (Canton). Not pictured is Barbara Johnson (Colchester).

For 2019 Connecticut Teacher of the Year (TOY) Sheena Graham, making personal connections with the young people in her classroom is all in a day’s work—and one of the things that has endeared her to generations of students. Those meaningful, enduring connections are among the common threads that bind this year’s TOY finalists together. While they all came to teaching in different ways, with unique points of inspiration, each shares a strong penchant for building positive relationships with students, showing children that they matter not only as learners but as human beings. Read more

Meet Connecticut’s New 2019 Teacher of the Year: Bridgeport Music Teacher Sheena Graham

CEA member Sheena Graham, a performing arts and choir teacher at Bridgeport’s Harding High School, has been named Connecticut’s 2019 Teacher of the Year. Along with her colleagues and students gathered in the school’s media center this morning, CEA President Jeff Leake and Vice President Tom Nicholas were on hand to congratulate Graham as the announcement was made to resounding applause.

Bridgeport’s Sheena Graham is named 2019 Connecticut Teacher of the Year.

“Sheena is a truly generous educator who has high expectations for her students and is passionate about reaching each and every one of them,” said Leake. “Her commitment to her students and her willingness to challenge herself represent all that is great in the teaching profession. Sheena instills compassion and empathy, making sure her students understand the need to take care of themselves, one another, and their community.” Read more

North Branford Science Teacher is Connecticut’s 2017 Teacher of the Year

Lauren Danner

North Branford High School celebrated today as science teacher Lauren Danner was named the 2017 Connecticut Teacher of the Year.

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.” Read more

Experience as Student Motivates Teacher of the Year

Waterbury history teacher Jahana Hayes was honored as Connecticut's 2016 Teacher of the Year.

History teacher Jahana Hayes is making history as the fist Waterbury educator to be named Connecticut Teacher of the Year.

How will your students remember you? That was the question Waterbury history teacher and Connecticut 2016 Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes posed to her fellow district Teachers of the Year at a ceremony in their honor.

The desire to be a positive influence on her students clearly drives the Kennedy High School teacher, who said that she always wanted to be a teacher. Hayes, who grew up in Waterbury and at times struggled in school, said there were many teachers who made an important, positive difference in her life.

“I know what it feels like to have a dream and be in an environment where you’re not expected to thrive,” she said. “Teachers can make all the difference in these situations.” Read more

West Hartford Music Teacher Named CT Teacher of the Year

John Mastroianni, Director of Bands at Hall High School in West Hartford, is Connecticut's 2014 Teacher of the Year.

John Mastroianni, Director of Bands at Hall High School in West Hartford, is Connecticut’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.

West Hartford teachers and music teachers from around the state have a great reason to celebrate today. One of their own, John Mastroianni, Director of Bands at Hall High School, has been named the 2014 Connecticut Teacher of the Year.

During the ceremony announcing the honor at Hall High School this morning, Mastroianni said, “I’ve been so blessed during my career to have so many great things happen to me, but I’ll tell you — this one takes the cake.”

“This has been the most exhilarating, the most fascinating, intense, and emotionally exhausting experience of my life,” he continued. Coming from Mastroianni, those words are no small thing.

Mastroianni has won multiple awards for his teaching and conducting and, as a professional musician, has performed with such well-known names in music as Natalie Cole, Tony Bennett, and Smokey Robinson. He is well-known and highly respected in his field.

Bruce Putterman, chair of the West Hartford Board of Education, said, “I know families who have moved to West Hartford so their children could have Mr. Mastroianni as a teacher.”

Despite his many awards and recognition, speakers at the ceremony in his honor today described Mastroianni as an incredibly humble man who always thinks of his students first.

CT Teacher of the Year John Mastroianni said

CT Teacher of the Year John Mastroianni said, “This has been the most exhilarating, the most fascinating, intense, and emotionally exhausting experience of my life.”

“I don’t even feel like today is about me, you know why?” Mastroianni asked. “Because this day is such a celebration of the arts. This day is such a statement of how powerful the arts are.”

Many of his students and former students can give testament to what the arts and Mastroianni, (Mr. M to many of his students), have meant to them.

Senior Ethan Swain, president of the Hall High School Student Association, said, “Music provides an outlet for all kids to express themselves — a way to boost confidence, learn to cooperate, overcome adversity, and remain determined. A mentor, a leader, and a friend, Mr. M pushes all students to learn and strive for greatness.”

Danielle DePalma, now a lawyer in New York City, was a student of Mastroianni’s when he taught at New Canaan High School during the 1990s. She has kept in touch with him over the years and wrote a letter in support of his application for Connecticut Teacher of the Year.

“My … accomplishments stemmed directly from my musical training; the focus, dedication and enthusiasm for learning that is inherent in the musical process,” wrote DePalma. “Even if most of his protégés do not continue to professional musical careers, they certainly carry the work ethic and positive outlook to their later specialties, fields, and communities.”

CEA President Sheila Cohen said, “Mr. Mastroianni exemplifies the highest standards of professionalism and commitment to young people. This year’s award to a music educator is recognition of the important role that the arts play in a well-rounded public education. This recognition could not have come at a more pivotal time as public concern grows over the overreliance on standardized testing in our classrooms.”

Governor Dannel P. Malloy was among those congratulating Mastroianni today. He told Mastroianni that his ability to impart his love of music to his students and his dedication are amazing.

Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor said that even in the midst of all that educators are taking on when it comes to the new evaluation system, Common Core, and more, “we need to make sure that we are ever ensuring that our students are well-rounded, that they do experience the arts.”

Swain added, “There’s nothing in the town of West Hartford’s water that produces special musicians. In every system, the genesis of success is the teachers. Teachers change the world every day.”

Rigorous Selection Process

The Connecticut Teacher of the Year Council, a non-profit organization, is responsible for selecting a state Teacher of the Year. The Council is made up of past Connecticut Teachers of the Year, education stakeholders, and representatives from sponsor organizations.

This year CEA Treasurer Tom Nicholas and CEA Secretary Pat Jordan were both part of the selection committee.  Out of 100 candidates they selected 15 semifinalists and then four finalists.

Jordan said, “We were most fortunate to visit with four absolutely amazing practitioners who each bring honor and joy to our profession!”

“The energy, passion, dynamic lessons and love for the students and profession emanates from these educators in ways that give you goose bumps,” Nicholas said. “It has been an honor and privilege for me to be a part of such an auspicious group of people in selecting the Connecticut Teacher of the Year.”

This year marks the second time in five years that a West Hartford teacher has been honored as the state Teacher of the Year.

“John is a great guy — I’ve known him for a while,” said West Hartford Education Association President David Dippolino. “It says a lot about our district that we’ve had two state teachers of the year in the last five years. It’s a great testament to what’s going on in West Hartford and what we’ve accomplished.”

Watch an excerpt of John Mastroianni’s speech today below.