New Milford enrichment educator named Teacher of the Year
NEW MILFORD — A New Milford educator has been recognized as standout professional in the school district.
Susan Brofford was named Teacher of the Year at a recent virtual back to school program for teachers.
“I was so surprised because I just work with so many amazing people,” Brofford said of being selected. “I feel like any one of the teachers I work with could have been chosen.”
Brofford is a districtwide science enrichment teacher for K-5 and works in the town’s elementary schools, including Hill and Plain School, Northville Elementary School and Sarah Noble Intermediate School.
She works with 80 to 120 students who are high performing in math and science per term, teaching a variety of related courses.
“With so many colleagues who are amazing educators, I feel I’m an unlikely candidate for this award,” Brofford recently said in her acceptance speech. “I am surrounded by teachers who go above and beyond all day, every day to meet their students’ needs and support their colleagues.”
“I am humbled and honored to receive this award from you, the professionals I admire and respect,” she added.
Brofford’s colleagues describe the New Milford teacher of 13 years as more than deserving of the award.
“I was very excited to hear that Susan was selected, as Susan is the consummate professional, that special individual who is both an excellent teacher as well as an excellent colleague,” said SNIS Principal Anne Bilko. “She is truly an inspirational educator as she will do anything to help students meet with success.”
Among the activities students might do while working with Brofford are building vehicles that have safety restraints to protect an egg passenger, exploring the dynamics of building gliders, participating in robotics, and taking computer science and programming courses, such as coding.
“Every course is a little different and challenging, and the students really push themselves because of the things we are doing,” said Brofford, who is beginning her 13th year of teaching in town.
“The students are always excited to be there,” Brofford said. “And the work that we’re doing is of high interest for these kids and really makes them think deeply and ask how and why things work the way they do.”
“There are so many lightbulb moments,” she added.
In addition to seeing students for 45-minute courses twice during a six-day rotation cycle, Brofford teaches coding for all students in grades 2 through 5.
Brofford graduated from the College of William and Mary, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. While studying there, she said she realized working with kids was something she wanted to pursue.
That led her to earn a degree in elementary education from the University of West Florida and a master’s degree in critical instruction from Western Connecticut State University.
“I’ve always been a learner and student,” she said.
Brofford, who as a youth traveled around the country and world with her military family, began her teaching career in Pace, Fla., under the guidance of Betty Hines, who Brofford credits as the one who taught her about “kindness, compassion and building relationships with students and families.”
She later taught in Kentucky until her family settled in New Milford in 1997, at which time she took time off to be with her children.
“But my love of teaching, especially science, continued and I recruited a few neighborhood families to do summer science camps with me,” Brofford said. “We catalogued plants native to Connecticut, did kitchen chemistry, and one year I even cast ‘dinosaur bones’ made of concrete that we buried in the backyard then had the kids excavate and reassemble.”
She eventually made it back into the classroom, first by substituting, then tutoring. She then became a first-grade teacher at Northville Elementary School from 2008 to 2015.
Retired schoolteacher Joan Conn, who first met Brofford as a parent-volunteer in Conn’s classroom and served as Brofford’s mentor when Brofford began working at NES, said the teacher’s recent recognition is “well-deserved.”
“She loves what she does and it shows,” Conn said. “She loves the children she works with, she loves the subject matter, and she’s really even and easy to communicate with.”
“She’s definitely a role model,” Conn added.
During her time at NES, Brofford participated in a three-year program about STEM after applying for and receiving a Math Science Partnership Grant through the state.
It was there she honed her science skills which helped her land a new position created by former Superintendent of Schools Joshua Smith. She assumed that role in 2015.
“Josh thought it was important to have a science content person at the elementary level and created this position,” Brofford said. “ ... This new role has allowed me to work with so many talented professionals from every school in this district.”
Brofford credits her husband, Kevin, of 31 years as the grounding force throughout her career, the one who “has cheered me ... reminding me that what I do makes a difference.”
Over the years, her three now-grown children — Kelsey, Claire and Evan — have helped her prep her room and volunteered to read to students, play math games, video plays and help facilitate science nights.
“I am eternally grateful for the support of my family,” Brofford said.