Connecticut Teacher of the Year Program


Connecticut Teacher of the Year 2023 - Carolyn Kielma

Bristol Eastern High School, Bristol Public Schools

Carolyn Kielm

The Connecticut Teacher of the Year Program began in 1952. It is sponsored by the Connecticut State Department of Education, Talent Office and a number of corporate, organizational and individual sponsors, it begins with the selection of a teacher of the year in each district and continues to the national level, where the Connecticut Teacher of the Year becomes eligible for national honors. The National Teacher of the Year Program is sponsored by the ING Foundation and Target. For over 60 years, the national program is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers in partnership with The University of Phoenix and People to People Ambassador Programs. Four Connecticut teachers have been National Teachers of the Year: Jahana Hayes, a high school social studies teacher from Waterbury, in 2016; Anthony J. Mullen, a high school science teacher from Greenwich, in 2009; LeRoy Hay, an English teacher from Manchester, in 1983; and Dorothy Hamilton, a social studies teacher from Milford, in 1953. Five Connecticut teachers have been national finalists: Marian Galbraith in 2002 (Groton), Fie K. Budzinsky in 1996 (Portland), Shirley J. Gillis in 1981 (New London), Harold Frazier in 1964 (West Hartford) and Helen Estes in 1963 (Manchester).
The Teacher of the Year Program recognizes and honors teacher excellence. It does not attempt to select the "best" teacher; rather, to identify, from among many outstanding teachers of the year, one teacher to serve as a visible and vocal representative of what is best in the profession. The program celebrates excellence in teaching by recognizing teachers who have inspired a love for learning in their students and who have distinguished themselves in the profession.

Districts participating in the Teacher of the Year Program have found the program to have a positive impact on the entire community. Recognizing outstanding teachers: a) establishes a culture that rewards excellence in teaching; b) validates the work of teachers; c) provides teachers with a platform to speak about educational issues; d) gives students a sense of pride in their teachers; e) showcases teachers as positive role models; f) encourages students to think about teaching as a career; g) gives the community a sense of pride in its teachers; and h) helps to get the public involved and invested in the schools.

Eligibility Requirements for CT Teacher of the Year

Your local teacher of the year will only be considered as a candidate for the Connecticut Teacher of the Year Program if s/he completes the entire application, works directly with students at least 50% of the time, and is currently working under a Connecticut certificate with a teaching endorsement or a vocational teaching endorsement.

If your candidate does not meet these requirements or chooses not to be considered as a candidate for the Connecticut Teacher of the Year award, s/he can still be honored at the annual recognition ceremony and should be encouraged to attend.

Teacher of the Year Application

The 2023 Connecticut Teacher of the Year application must be completed and submitted electronically. Paper applications will not be accepted.

Selection Process

Names of exemplary teachers are forwarded to superintendents from each school in the local districts. Superintendents or local selection committees, using a district developed process, select district teachers of the year. Each district teacher of the year is eligible to submit an application to the State Department of Education for consideration as Connecticut Teacher of the Year. The teachers’ application packets include biographical and professional information, essays on topics ranging from personal teaching philosophy to the issues facing public education, and letters of endorsement. Each application is reviewed by at least five members of a statewide selection committee representing the state's major educational organizations, former state teachers of the year, and community stakeholders. The review of applications identifies 12-15 semifinalists who are invited to make a formal presentation on a pre-assigned topic, and to respond to questions as part of an interview process. Finally, four finalists are visited at their schools, where selection committee members observe the teachers’ classes, interview colleagues, administrators, and students, as well as support staff, parents, and local board of education members. At the conclusion of the site visits, the selection committee meets and selects The Connecticut Teacher of the Year.


All local school district nominees, semifinalists, finalists, and the Connecticut Teacher of the Year are recognized individually at an awards ceremony each year. More than 1000 guests are usually present at the event. The State Teacher of the Year and other State Teachers of the Year are also recognized by the President at a White House reception, and are invited to a national conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. They also attend the Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Alabama, and the Education Commission of the States National Forum on Education Policy in Atlanta.

Duties of the Connecticut Teacher of the Year

The Connecticut Teacher of the Year and the three finalists serve as teacher-ambassadors for public education. They are appointed to various education advisory committees and can engage in work with the Commissioner of Education. They present workshops and speak at education conferences to address student, civic, university, and governmental groups. The Connecticut Teacher of the Year can also develop special programs in accordance with their interests and expertise to share in a variety of public forums. The Connecticut Teacher of the Year represents the state at the national level by participating in national educational forums, National Teacher of the Year Program planning and networking sessions, and U.S. Department of Education meetings.

Connecticut Teacher of the Year Honor Roll
Name Year District
Carolyn Kielma 2023  Bristol
Kim King 2022 Mansfield
Rochelle Brown 2021 Windsor
Meghan Hatch-Geary 2020 Region 16, Beacon Falls, Prospect
Sheena Graham 2019 Bridgeport
Erin Berthold 2018 Wallingford
Lauren Danner 2017 North Branford
Jahana Hayes ** 2016 Waterbury
Cara Quinn 2015 East Hartford
John F. Mastroianni 2014 West Hartford
Blaise Messinger 2013 Cromwell
David Bosso 2012 Berlin
Kristin Ann Record 2011 Stratford
Kristi M. Luetjen 2010 West Hartford
Anthony J. Mullen** 2009 Greenwich
Joan Hurley 2008 CREC, West Hartford
Christopher Poulos 2007 Region 9, Easton, Redding
Mary Kay Rendock 2006 Bloomfield
Burt Saxon 2005 New Haven
William P. Davenport 2004 Woodbury
Wendy Nelson Kauffman 2003 Bloomfield
Marian Galbraith* 2002 Groton (National Finalist)
Karen Rezendes 2001 Danbury
Elizabeth Ann Collinge 2000 North Haven
Joseph Bacewicz 1999 Tolland
Marianne Cavanaugh 1998 Glastonbury
Susan Pelchat 1997 Torrington
Fie K. Budzinsky* 1996 Portland
Patti Avallone 1995 West Haven
Judy Gross 1994 Bridgeport
Art Skerker 1993 Hartford
Robert Coleman 1992 Region 15, Middlebury, Southbury
Linda Matthews 1991 West Haven
Chaz Zezulka 1990 Groton
Carol R. Virostek 1989 Berlin
Frank Gawle 1988 Enfield
Bert J. Neumaier 1987 South Windsor
Deborah Gladding Willard 1986 Glastonbury
Thomas J. Sullivan 1985 Region 4, Chester, Deep River, Essex
Roger A. Morrissette 1984 West Hartford
LeRoy Hay** 1983 Manchester
Sandra Johnson 1982 Bloomfield
Shirley J. Gillis* 1981 New London
Henry F. Jemioto 1970 Derby
Sheila Mary Schmidt 1969 Windsor
Rose Brennan 1968 Torrington
Harold Frazier* 1964 West Hartford
Helen Estes* 1963 Manchester
Dorothy Hamilton** 1953 Milford

* Indicates National Teacher of the Year Finalist
** Indicates National Teacher of the Year