A twist on the lyrics to Three Dog Night's rock version of "Joy to the World'' resonated Monday in the theater at New Milford High School.

The music was employed during a day-before-school teacher get-together to hail Joy Gaiser as the school district's 2010-11 Teacher of the Year.

A special education teacher at Sarah Noble Intermediate School, the 64-year-old is known for bringing joy to children through inventive lessons that tap into her passions for music, art, history and butterflies.

A reading lesson for her fourth-graders might be a recitation of lyrics to a tune she plays for them on the piano; or the building of "Enviroman'' from trash she and students collected from the playground during recess.

For the last 10 years, Ms. Gaiser has parlayed her hobby of raising Monarch butterflies into an all-school experience where students of all abilities are able to share the life-affirming lesson that, with each day, comes a new chance.

Beyond the classroom, Ms. Gaiser donates her artistic talents to the community, be it playing the violin in the Danbury Community Orchestra, or last year's decoration of the Christmas tree at The Silo in Northville with her handmade wooden ornaments, or signing snowflakes crafted by Sarah Noble students in their art classes.

"Wow! Joy is a lifelong learner and a lifelong giver,'' Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote said Monday after the selection had been announced at the faculty welcome-back ceremony. "She is a true Renaissance woman.''

Sarah Noble colleague Sheila Brooks called Ms. Gaiser a multi-talented woman who incorporates those gifts into aclassroom that has long proven for students to be a place of "solace and love.''

Ms. Gaiser's educational career in New Milford started in 1967 when she was a student-music teacher at John Pettibone School. She then earned a master's degree in special education, and was hired for a special education position.

In 1972, she moved to Schaghticoke Middle School.

She then took a 12-year hiatus to raise her family that includes now adult children, Bill, Elizabeth, and foster son, Gary. She also now has a 3-year-old granddaughter, Lily.

Upon her return to teaching, Ms. Gaiser worked for six years as a part-time kindergarten teacher before she was again hired to a full-time special education position at Northville School. She was in that role until the move to Sarah Noble in 2001.

Her handiwork can still be seen at Northville. She sketched, and with the help of the Student Council, painted murals in all the bathrooms and in the library reading cave.

Three years ago, Ms. Gaiser's original play, "Sarah Noble Remembers,'' was staged as an all-school performance.

"I think children's love of history has to come from making it come alive,'' she said Monday in comments to her teaching peers. "Children love to relive the past and hopefully begin to realize we have a connection to the future through what we contribute to its history.''

Today, Ms. Gaiser continues to pursue her hobbies and incorporate them into her classroom. She said it is her firm belief that even with all the new state and federal education mandates, the emphasis for all teachers must be on the "joy of learning and opening children up to all the possibilities and the adventure of the future.''

A teacher's job, she said, is to hold their students' hands "until they don't need our support any longer.''

Ms. Gaiser said she is honored to win accolades for a job more fulfilling than "anything else I could have ever chosen to do.