WALLINGFORD — Erin Berthold, a first- grade teacher at Cook Hill Elementary School, was named the 2018 Connecticut Teacher of the Year during a ceremony Tuesday afternoon at the school.
“I’m beyond thrilled and surprised,” said Berthold, who is in her 11th year of teaching. “I never really thought I’d win an award for teaching. It’s my job, it’s what I do. Working with six-year-olds is the real reward of teaching.”
Berthold is the first Wallingford teacher to receive the statewide honor, School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said. Berthold was named Wallingford Teacher of the Year earlier this year and was then selected from a field of over 100 teachers throughout the state.
“Erin Berthold is a transformational educator,” Menzo said. “Each year she personally challenges her students to grow with her. It is astounding to see the difference she makes with every child and family. The entire Wallingford school district is so proud of Erin and this incredibly deserving accomplishment.”
Berthold has taught at Cook Hill for three years and was previously a special education teacher at Yalesville Elementary School and Moses Y. Beach Elementary School in Wallingford. Earlier in her career, Berthold taught at Lincoln Middle School in Meriden and Woodhouse Academy in Milford.
A statewide committee of former teachers of the year and representatives from a variety of education organizations selected Berthold from among four finalists and 15 semifinalists.
State Department of Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzel made the announcement during a school assembly attended by several town and state officials.
“The Tteacher of the Yyear (award) is a very big deal,” Wentzel said at the ceremony. “Teachers are called upon to stir intellect and ignite passion in their students. They come to the classroom as learners themselves, ready to share knowledge, engage in thoughtful dialogue, and inspire new ideas. Erin Berthold exemplifies all of this in her daily work with our youngest learners.”
The Connecticut Teacher of the Year and Teacher of the Year finalists actserve as ambassadors for public education by serving on a variety of advisory committees at the state and national levels.
Berthold graduated from Marist College with a degree in digital media and said she never thought she’d become a teacher.
“From the time I was four years old, I had a very clear life plan. I was going to be an artist and live with my parents forever,” Berthold joked at the ceremony. “While I did not set out to be a teacher, a career in education found me when I needed it the most. And now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
At Cook Hill, Berthold used her background in digital media to create a website that students can visit at home to watch videos of school teachers reading stories and books. The videos can be especially helpful for students with parents who don’t speak English, Berthold said.
“They’re fun and the kids really like watching them,” Berthold said of the videos.
Berthold said it is a privilege to work with children and inspire them to become their best selves. As a teacher, Berthold said, she encourages her students “to take action.”
“They may encounter some bumps along the way, but the best and deepest learning occurs when students reroute themselves,” she said. “I believe children need to learn to make decisions regarding their own learning at an early age, so they are prepared to make life decisions. I encourage students to try new things, pursue their interests, and see failure as an opportunity for growth.”