Q&A with New Milford Teacher of the Year Roxanne Kraft
Published 3:20 pm, Wednesday, September 21, 2016
When Roxanne Kraft went back to school this year, she went back honored as the New Milford Teacher of the Year.
While the honor is nice, and has it’s perks — she was picked to drive a new car for September by the New Milford Public School system as part of a new employee recognition program — she said teaching is much the same. Something she was born to do.
Q: When this school year started, you were selected as New Milford’s teacher of the year. What does that honor mean to you?
A: Being selected as New Milford’s teacher of the year is a great honor and a humbling experience; knowing that there are so many deserving educators in our system. A special thank you to all my colleagues and parents of former students who nominated me and for their kind words.
Q: You’ve now taught for 33 years, what does education look like to you Today? How has it changed?
A: During my many years as an educator, teaching has always evolved and changed, however the one constant is the students. As teachers we have the power to turn each challenge into an opportunity for success. It’s our challenge as educators to observe our students’ behaviors, and, or learning difficulties and determine causes. It is when we look hard, search deeply, and collaborate with our colleagues that we begin to understand the underlying reasons or causes, and then we can begin to make changes. When I look at a challenge from a positive viewpoint I begin to see it differently; I see hope. I see success. This never changes.
Q: Thirty-one of those teaching years, you taught in New Milford Public Schools. Do you have some favorite moments? What has it been like watching generations of New Milford children grow up?
One New Milford Public Schools employee will get to drive a new car to work every month as part of a new program the district started this school year to recognize its staff.
The program, which will honor six employees nominated by parents, teachers and other NMPS staff each month, acknowledges the good works of anyone that works for NMPS such as teachers, social workers, administrators, and custodians. One of the six selected will be randomly picked to drive a car provided by Ingersoll Automotive of Danbury for the month of their selection.
All six employees nominated receive a star pin to acknowledge that they are “stars” of New Milford. The first winner was Roxanne Kraft, who was also deemed the Teacher of the Year by NMPS.
Thanks to the district, Kraft can drive a 2016 Chevrolet Equinox to work and back home for September. Next month, six new winners will be selected. One will drive the Chevy.
A: Each year teaching has been unique and rewarding in its own way. Special moments occur daily, making it impossible to list them all. However, each year throughout my career I have had several former students/parents contact me to let me know how they are doing, sharing their successes with jobs/careers, and sharing their families. I have read many letters, emails, and spoken with former students on the phone and each time it brings tears of gratitude and joy. When they share their successes and thank me for helping them to achieve their goals, it confirms why I became a teacher and is a reminder of the powerful influence teachers have in the lives of students.
Q: Many of the years you’ve spent in the classroom, you’ve spent devoted to special needs students. What is it that drives you to work with those who have special needs? What’s the most rewarding, and the most difficult, part of the job?
A: Although my title is that of Special Educator, I’ve always considered myself a teacher of all students. I have co-taught in many general education classrooms throughout the years. Connie Williams, a second grade teacher at Northville Elementary School, and I have worked closely for many years. We have developed a natural style of one teacher being the lead teacher while the other plays a more supportive role. This is a teaching style that benefits all students, not just those with special needs.
I also view my role as a team member, collaborating with all teachers, specialists, para educators, and support staff to brainstorm ideas and ways to make all students meet with success.
This past year I worked closely with Cali Scott, the Speech Pathologist to develop social stories for individual students, classrooms, and entire grade levels as needed. This was a very successful and rewarding experience for all.
When thinking about my greatest contributions and accomplishments I think about my students. As a special educator for the past 31 years, I have been rewarded every day when I observe students experiencing success, no matter how small or large. When former students contact me and share their life accomplishments, then I know I have been successful.
Q: After 33 years teaching, does back to school get any easier?
A: I can honestly say that I love teaching and there is always a part of me that is excited to go back to school each fall. When I first began my career I thought that after teaching for a few years everything would be easier, however this has never been the case. Each year presents new and different challenges starting with the excitement of setting up my classroom and the anticipation of working with my students.
Q: And now that we’re back to school, and you’re the teacher of the year will you be doing anything differently?
A: Being chosen to be a teacher is a wonderful gift, but it comes with a huge responsibility and many challenges. Throughout my 31 years as a special educator I have learned about the challenges that come with teaching. This year my biggest challenge is embarking on a new journey. I’m happy to be a part of the Litchfield Hills Transition Center as a co-teacher with Ashley Vinhateiro, working with young adults. LHTC is an entity of the New Milford Public School system preparing young adults to become productive members of the community.
I’m excited to see where my new journey takes me.