CONCORD, NH — In a year that has been harder than the last, Sara Casassa, New Hampshire’s 2022 Teacher of the Year, says it is her vision for public education in the Granite State to be filled with hope, possibilities and a bright future.
“While COVID has upended our worlds, there have been silver linings, and lessons we can take with us as we move forward, ways we can use these experiences to build a bridge between what has been and what might be in our schools and communities,” said Casassa, a language arts and social studies teacher at Barnard School in South Hampton. “ … COVID also provided us a chance to rethink the traditional model that has remained unchanged for decades.”
After receiving her 2022 Teacher of the Year trophy during the 19th Annual Leadership in Education awards ceremony on Thursday at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Manchester, Casassa spoke about the current challenges within the field of education.
“We are living in a time where building those bridges is essential. A time where we need to slow down and listen to each other with respect and civility. Perhaps, this idea of bridge-building can be an authentic way for us to gain understanding and empathy, to create trust,” she said.
While teachers can leverage technology, there are things that should remain constant, according to Casassa, stressing the importance of brick-and-mortar schools, human contact and frequent moments of joy. “One essential takeaway from COVID is that learning can happen anywhere,” she said, adding it has challenged educators to be creative and imaginative while also offering personalized learning, determining what individual students need and tailoring a mix of in-person and virtual learning experiences.
On Thursday, the New Hampshire Department of Education awarded Casassa, along with other 2022 Teacher of the Year Finalists and semi-finalists, including Carly Cohen of Auburn Village School, Andrew Tyler of Wilton-Lyndeborough Middle-High School, John Thomas of Well Memorial School in Harrisville, Nancy Fothergill of Windham Center School and Victoria Boothroyd of Wilkins Elementary School in Amherst. It also recognized Tristan Bowen of Riddle Brook School in Bedford, John Blackwell of Exeter Academy, Sarah Clemmit of Gorham Middle-High School, John Tietjen of Lebanon High School, Holly Whitney of West Running Brook Middle School in Derry and Joanna Marcotte of Franklin High School as state finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. In addition, Grantham Village School and Memorial Elementary School in Bedford were honored as New Hampshire’s National Blue Ribbon Schools during the event.
“It is clear that the teaching profession is not easy, but it is also abundantly clear that by investing and supporting skilled educators, New Hampshire’s children will be set up to prosper,” said Christine Brennan, deputy commissioner at NHDOE. “Teachers make a world of difference in the lives of children, and we are grateful that they have chosen New Hampshire as the place to pursue their careers.”