Connecticut Teacher of the Year 2023 - Carolyn Kielma
Bristol Eastern High School, Bristol School District
Since 2002, Carolyn Kielma has taught the love of science to public high school students in Connecticut. For the last 15 years she has taught Biology, Biotechnology & Forensics, Environmental Science, Biotechnical Engineering, Anatomy & Physiology, and the AVID elective class at Bristol Eastern High School. Since earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Susquehanna University, PA and her Master of Science in Secondary Education from the University of New Haven, CT, Kielma has found that her greatest rewards in teaching come from the successes of her students - not just in the field of science, but in life.
Kielma believes teaching is not only about curriculum or content but also about helping youth become better humans. She strives to be the type of teacher that she needed in her adolescent years - the trusted adult that students can come to when they need help, whether inside or outside the classroom. Her goal is to provide an inclusive environment where all students feel they are valued, accepted, and treated with equity. She strives to provide high expectations and rigorous coursework to all students, regardless of labels, levels, or standardized scores. Kielma starts with the lens that all of her students are gifted AND all of her students have special needs. It is her job as an educator to unleash those gifts and work to meet those needs. She believes all students must feel they belong to be successful in the classroom. She is continuously amazed at how students can perform when given all the right opportunities. She hopes to instill in them the idea that they can accomplish something difficult if they have determination, ambition, and drive. Kielma believes that learning is not about knowing the right answer; it is a process of discovery.
As a first-generation college student herself, Kielma also feels fulfilled in her role as AVID site coordinator at her school. AVID's mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society. Kielma helps implement AVID strategies and leads various professional development opportunities across the Bristol Public School district with a team of highly educated, motivated, and courageous professionals who understand the power of lifelong learning. She also travels nationally in the summer to lead digital teaching and learning courses as an AVID National Staff Developer.
Kielma's students have participated in several community service projects including volunteering at a local retirement home, collecting clothing and items to donate to a local shelter, participating in Relay for Life, volunteering at the local Boys and Girls Club, and more. Her students founded the STEM Club at her school to provide enrichment activities and to build relationships between high school and elementary school students. The club's mission is to foster an early love for science, technology, engineering, and math careers in the Bristol community. Among her other accolades, Kielma was awarded a fellowship grant via Fund for Teachers to document wildlife and conservation efforts at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center and Yellowstone National Park this past summer. This expedition focused on the reintroduction of the wolves to the national park as a keystone species. She hopes to use her research to enrich the lessons within her district in order to connect students with local community and conservation initiatives. When she is not working to improve her lessons, classroom culture, or racial consciousness, Kielma loves being a mother and wife who enjoys golf, volleyball, bowling, boxing, powerlifting, singing, and supporting the Buffalo Bills.
Kielma believes educators are masters of adaptation and evolution. She hopes to strengthen and improve her profession by focusing on ensuring the representation of all voices within her lessons while evolving and creating measurements of intelligence that reflect all of Connecticut's scholars. Kielma feels educator collaboration is essential to build and develop strategies to promote a culture of equity and inclusion and provide opportunities for all students across the state.
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.