by Terry Rogers
On Tuesday, October 13, Kimberly Webb, a 4th Grade teacher at Lulu Ross Elementary School, competed for the title of 2021 Delaware Teacher of the Year. The ceremony was held virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Susan Bunting kicked off the celebration, explaining how the nominees were selected.
“This is a night when we recognize the life-changing contribution educators provide for our young people,” Dr. Bunting said. “The candidates were nominated by their districts or the charter network because of their superior ability to inspire students with a love of learning, exemplary demonstration of professional traits and a strong sense of dedication to teaching. The person named the 2021 Delaware Teacher of the Year will represent our state at the National Teacher of the Year program.”
A video montage was presented highlight the outstanding attributes that led each nominee to be selected by their district or charter network. One of Webb’s colleagues stated that her abilities to differentiate the abilities of everyone in her classroom was unmatched. According to the colleague, who was not named, Webb is able to effortlessly engage all students in the classroom, especially those with diverse needs and backgrounds. Webb learns her student’s interests, challenges and needs, then incorporates their personal interests and backgrounds into her lessons. She also strives to eliminate barriers children face in accessing content and standards, providing them with a safe space where students can feel comfortable.
“I have always wanted to become a teacher,” Webb said. “I am reminded of several events that had an important impact on my decision. Into our family, there came a child with special needs. Her name is Michelle, my cousin, an individual with Down syndrome. Her life expectancy was forecasted to be short. It was noted her accomplishments may be small and our expectations should be kept reasonable. Today, Michelle is still with us and a remarkable young lady. I am also constantly reminded of the teacher and coach I had the privilege of crossing paths with. Her name is Stephanie and she is a special education teacher. I spent a great deal of time with her. It was her high energy, enthusiasm, creativity and a sincere love for each student that made a lasting impression. Her dedication never waivered day-after-day, regardless of any obstacle or great challenge that stood before her. I decided then to become a Stephanie, to offer a kind and caring heart to all the Michelle’s of the world regardless of their ability and individual circumstances and that is what I’ve devoted my life to.”
Whitney Sweeny, President of the State Board of Education pointed out that 2020 has been an unprecedented year with the COVID-19 shutdown of schools in the spring, civil unrest and protests as well as decisions that were necessary to bring teachers and students back into the classroom in a safe manner. She recognized the impact teachers had on the children they teach each day. Laura Sturgeon, the Delaware Senate Education chairperson who is also a retired teacher also applauded teachers for their role during the pandemic.
“In the midst of a global pandemic, you have had to pivot the way you deliver instruction, the way you meet the social and emotional needs of your kids, and you have done so,” Senator Sturgeon said. “I am urging you today to take the celebrations and the honors you have received and use them to go back to your districts and uplift your colleagues because I know they are having a rough time figuring out how best to meet the needs of our kids, whether it is virtual or hybrid learning.”
State Treasurer Colleen Davis stated that teachers in 2020 not only had to teach, they had to become logistics experts, IT professionals and more, believing that when students and families looked back on this year, it would be clear who paved the way. United States Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper also congratulated the nominees, pointing out that the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how resilient teachers could be while Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall Long applauded the teachers for demonstrating the importance of role modeling for young people.
“This year, in fact, more than any other, our state recognizes the importance of outstanding teachers,” Governor John Carney said. “You’ve worked through virtual learning settings or in face-to-face settings with new precautions in place. I’m so grateful for the incredible work you do each and every day in our schools and for sharing your insights with me as your Governor. I know that everyone of you deserves the honor of state teacher of the year and that the real winners are our children who benefit from the good work you do each day.”
At the end of the evening, Secretary Bunting presented the 2021 Delaware State Teacher of the Year Award to Kimberly Stock of Red Clay School District.
“I come from a family of teachers and nurses because my parents have always taught us about the gift of service,” Stock said in an emotional acceptance speech. “My family was my first teacher and they taught me what it meant to love and accept those who do not look like you and the importance of listening, disagreeing with and loving each other. We can all learn something from the Stock family. Thank you to my past teachers. Your lessons continue in how I teach my own students. Together, we will use our voices and position this year on behalf of our fellow teachers and students. This is your victory. We are the ones with boots on the ground. To our students, the time has come when the tables are turned. We are asking you to be leaders because, quite frankly, you do so many things better than us adults. And to my students last year who when I won the McKean Teacher of the Year, asked me “is this like the Miss America pageant?” No, my students, it is not like Miss America. It is so much better because I get to teach you. I’m so greatly humble. This is a big deal for a girl from Nebraska.”
Each nominee for the State Teacher of the Year recognition receives a $2,000 cash grant and the winner of the state honor receives an additional $3,000 cash grant as well as a $5,000 grant to be used for the educational benefit of their students. Stock will enter a pool of finalists where four will be chosen to compete for the National Teacher of the Year. The announcement of that honor will be held in the spring in the Rose Garden of the White House.