Uncas first-grade teacher is Norwich Teacher of the Year

Amy Kenyon has been named the Norwich Teacher of the Year.  (Photo courtesy of Norwich Public Schools)
Amy Kenyon has been named the Norwich Teacher of the Year. (Photo courtesy of Norwich Public Schools)

Norwich — Uncas School first-grade teacher Amy Kenyon brought a group of first- and second-graders back to the school from a bowling field trip on June 9 to what was supposed to be an outdoor picnic.

Instead, she found the entire school body on the playground holding a giant banner: “Congratulations Mrs. Kenyon!”

It was signed by hundreds of students, staff members and fellow teachers. The entire gathering let out the Uncas Wolves howl as she walked onto the playground.

Superintendent Abby Dolliver greeted Kenyon with the news that she had just been named Norwich Teacher of the Year by a selection committee that considered teachers from each of the city's public schools.

“I was just shaking,” Kenyon said last week. “It was awesome.”

For Kenyon, teaching came as a second career after having spent 13 years in the human resources department at People's Bank in Norwich. She earned her teaching certificate at Sacred Heart University and started teaching in Norwich 13 years ago, first at the Wequonnoc School in Taftville and for the past three years at Uncas Network School.

Kenyon said her joy in teaching comes directly from the students. As a first-grade teacher, she gets to see them arrive for a new year of school barely knowing how to hold a printed book or do basic math. By the time they leave, they are reading books.

She especially was pleased this year to find that 50 percent of her 27-student class started the year at lower than first-grade reading level, and by the end measured a full 1.5 school years of growth.

“My passion for teaching is the children,” she said. “Whatever I do, it’s really for them. I love what I do, the population I teach every day.”

Dolliver handed Kenyon a summer homework assignment along with the award on June 9. In Norwich, the teacher of the year becomes the keynote speaker at the school staff convocation on the eve of the first day of the new school year in late August.

As part of the district-wide teacher of the year award, every school in Norwich chose a teacher of the year earlier this month.

The Bishop School Early Learning Center posthumously named teacher Andrea Funk as its teacher of the year. Funk died on Mother's Day this year after a battle with breast cancer.

Funk worked as a preschool teacher for the past five years in Norwich after working as a para-educator in Norwich schools for the previous six years. She earned and paid for her teaching certificate while working as a para-educator, Dolliver said.

When she was diagnosed with cancer, she continued to teach as much as she could through medical treatments, said Mary Donnelly, director of special education and student services. Her fellow preschool teachers filled in and assisted her as best they could, Donnelly said.

“She was dedicated. She loved her students,” Donnelly said. “She was a kind, gentle person.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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