Connecticut Teacher of the Year 2018 - Erin Berthold
Cook Hill School, Wallingford, CT
Erin grew up in a family of teachers; however, she never imagined she would become one herself. As a college freshman headed toward a degree in the arts, the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center changed her career perspective in ways she had yet to realize. Erin's father, a FDNY fire chief, was heavily involved in the rescue and recovery following 9/11. Three years later, as Erin was about to enter her senior year, Ground Zero was still fresh in her mind. She no longer desired a graphic design career in New York City as planned. After earning a degree in digital media, she chose to follow in her mother's footsteps, and entered grad school as an education student.
Now in her eleventh year of teaching, Erin knows she made the right decision and can't imagine herself doing anything else. After eight years in special education, she currently teaches first grade at Cook Hill School in Wallingford. Erin's experience in regular and special education has given her a unique perspective, "I see the need for collaborative efforts from many educators in the development of a child. While we may not always understand the role we each play, we are all of equal importance and value. Educators are like puzzle pieces; we can't complete the picture without one another."
Erin's primary goal as a teacher is to help her students to become their best selves. She encourages students to make choices and follow their own course of action. She lets them know that they may encounter some bumps along the way, but reminds her students that the best and deepest learning occurs with opportunities to problem solve. Erin believes that children need to learn to make decisions regarding their own learning at an early age to be prepared to make larger life decisions as they grow and develop. She encourages her students to try new things, pursue their interests, and see failure as an opportunity for growth, so they will one day become self-actualized adults.
Erin creates an environment that is a safe space where children can make mistakes, learn from them, and try again. She does for her students what she believes her mother did for her… she creates pathways for self-discovery tempered with support and gentle guidance.
Erin earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Digital Media from Marist College and a Master of Science degree in Teaching, Childhood, and Special Education from St. Thomas Aquinas College. Currently, Erin teaches first grade at Cook Hill School in Wallingford, Connecticut.
Duties of the Connecticut Teacher of the Year
The Connecticut Teacher of the Year and Teacher of the Year finalists serve as teacher-ambassadors for public education. They are appointed to various education advisory committees and become consultants to the Commissioner of Education. They present workshops; speak at education conferences and meetings; address student, civic, college and university, and governmental groups; and operate special programs in accordance with their interests and expertise. The Connecticut Teacher of the Year also represents the state at the national level - participating in national educational forums, National State Teacher of the Year Program planning and networking sessions, and U.S. Department of Education meetings.