Teacher of year aims to empower students to find their own voices




Hop Brook Elementary School teacher Lisa Taft hugs third-grade student Samantha Higley after learning she was named Teacher of the Year for the Naugatuck school district on June 1. Taft has spent her entire 12-year teaching career at Hop Brook. Contributed

NAUGATUCK — Teacher Lisa Taft believes it’s important to empower students, and now she is the one who is getting the positive feedback after being named the borough’s teacher of the year.

The district’s Teacher of the Year committee selected Taft for her commitment to the borough and its students. School administrators surprised her with the announcement on June 1.

Taft, who began her teaching career at Hop Brook Elementary School 12 years ago, said she was honored to receive the award.

“I’m super excited,” Taft said. “I feel like being able to represent teachers in Naugatuck and especially at Hop Brook school, I feel very proud of that.”

Taft, who teaches third grade, credits her colleagues from whom she learned a lot.

One of her main goals as an educator is to build strong relationships with her students, she said. “To hold them to the higher standards and to build a positive classroom community so all students feel welcome and included.”

It’s critical to give students the confidence to share their perspective on things, Taft said.

She said she enjoys being able to collaborate with her colleagues. She has become a social emotional learning mentor for new teachers and a mentor in the resident teacher program.

“That is to develop more of a diverse teacher staff,” Taft said. “I mentor educators of color, building relationships with students and creating an inclusive environment.”

Board of Education Chairman Jeffrey Litke said the district is fortunate to have Taft as a member of Naugauck public schools. She deserves the honor, he said.

“Lisa Taft is a valued leader in her school who builds relationships and ensures that her students are connected and valued,” Litke said.

Taft said she has received emails from past colleagues, students and their parents, friends and family over the past few days. “It’s been so nice to hear from people I’ve touched over the years,” she said.