HARTFORD, CT – Governor Ned Lamont and Education Commissioner Charlene M. Russell-Tucker today announced that Carolyn Kielma – a science teacher from Bristol Eastern High School who was recently selected as the 2023 Connecticut Teacher of the Year – has been named by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) as one of five finalists under consideration to become the 2023 National Teacher of the Year, the nation’s highest recognition honoring extraordinary teachers.
The five finalists will next be interviewed by the National Teacher of the Year Program’s Selection Committee, which is managed by CCSSO, and the committee’s final selection for 2023 National Teacher of the Year will be announced in the spring.
“Connecticut has the best public school teachers in the nation, and I am delighted to hear that our extraordinary teachers are receiving national recognition for their service,” Governor Lamont said. “Ms. Kielma has provided so many students in the Bristol Public Schools system with a top-level education, and I’ve heard nothing but extraordinary compliments about her from her colleagues and students, many of whom I had the honor of meeting late last year when we visited Bristol Eastern High School to surprise Ms. Kielma with the announcement that she has been selected as Connecticut Teacher of the Year. She has made a real impact on the lives of many young people, and I thank her for her dedication to Connecticut’s public schools.”
“We are so proud and excited to have Carolyn Kielma represent Connecticut as a National Teacher of the Year finalist,” Commissioner Russell-Tucker said. “Carolyn is a dedicated educator, focused on providing all her students the best possible, highest-quality learning experience. She believes that learning is not about knowing the right answer – it is a process of discovery. Carolyn is also a model of inspiration for her peers and is so deserving of this honor.”
“I cannot wait to head to our nation’s capital and get to work to elevate this career,” Ms. Kielma said. “I am ready to work with my teacher colleagues across all disciplines and grade levels, states and territories to reform policy and practice that continues to promote equity and inclusion, while providing opportunities for all of our scholars to be successful. I am ready to show the nation how valuable and vital teachers are to the health and future of our society as I inspire others to view our job as respected, desired, and prestigious.”
“We could not be more proud of Carolyn,” Dr. Catherine Carbone, superintendent of Bristol Public Schools, said. “This is an extraordinary achievement for Carolyn and her family, Bristol Public Schools, and the State of Connecticut. She was well-deserving of the state’s highest teaching honor and I know that she will continue to represent our district and state with pride as a finalist for National Teacher of the Year. Carolyn is a talented, dedicated, and exemplary educator and I am truly excited for the impact that she will continue to have beyond her classroom. Congratulations, Carolyn.”
Ms. Kielma has taught her love of science to students in Connecticut since 2002. For the last 15 years, she has taught biology, biotechnology and forensics, environmental science, anatomy and physiology, and the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) class at Bristol Eastern High School. Since earning a bachelor of science degree in biology from Susquehanna University and a master of science degree in secondary education from the University of New Haven, Ms. Kielma has found her greatest reward comes from the successes of her students – not just in science, but in life.
Ms. Kielma believes teaching is not only about curriculum but also helping young people become better humans. Her goal is to provide an inclusive environment, where all students feel valued, accepted, and treated with equity. She believes learning is not about knowing the right answer; it is a process of discovery. As AVID coordinator at her school, Ms. Kielma works to close the achievement gap by providing opportunities that prepare all students for college readiness and success in a global society. She provides professional development to inspire teachers across her district and travels nationwide to train teachers in engagement strategies that promote equity and inclusion.
Ms. Kielma recently received a fellowship grant from Fund for Teachers to study wolves, bears, and elk at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center and within Yellowstone National Park and share her experiences virtually with her urban students. She also coordinates STEMonday, a monthly science, technology, engineering, and mathematics challenge that connects and builds relationships between elementary and high school students.