The word’s out about Region 16’s Teacher of the Year

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Laurel Ledge School teacher Shannon Kotsaftis, center, was named Region 16 Teacher of the Year. Kotsaftis is flanked by Region 16 Board of Education Chair Donna Cullen and Superintendent of Schools James Agostine. ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — Parents can’t say enough about Shannon Kotsaftis, Region 16’s Teacher of the Year. The second grade Laurel Ledge School teacher has an innate ability to connect with students and get them excited about learning, according to parents and administrators.

“The parents in her class are just fierce in their passion for Shannon getting this honor,” Laurel Ledge Principal Regina Murzak said.

“She’s very passionate about her teaching,” added Lynne Lugo, whose daughter, Emma, was in Kotsaftis’ class last year.

Lugo said Kotsaftis is creative, sincere, patient, and caring.

“She went out of her way to make sure that Emma was getting the resources she needed,” Lugo said.

At the beginning of the year, Lugo said, Emma was shy and struggled in some of her subjects.

“(Kotsaftis’) impact on Emma all year gave Emma the confidence to take pride in what she was doing,” Lugo said. “By the end of the year, Emma just blossomed. I attribute everything my daughter learned last year to Mrs. Kotsaftis. If it wasn’t for Mrs. K acknowledging my daughter’s needs, she would not be where she is today.”

The attention Kotsaftis pays to the individual needs of each child is one of the many assets parents said make her an outstanding teacher.

“I think Shannon takes a personal interest in each and every student to try and pull out the best in them,” said Wendy Hopkinson, whose son Andrew is in Kotsaftis’ class this year.

She said her son loves school and comes home every day with stories about the things he learned in class.

“All the kids absolutely love her. She’s a very inspirational teacher. I think she pushes the children to achieve,” Hopkinson said.

Kotsaftis is not only good at communicating with students, but keeps in constant contact with parents about their children’s progress, parents said.

Kotsaftis is an active participant in Parent-Teacher Organization activities and volunteers on the Region 16 Science Committee and Professional Development Committee, according to Murzak.

She is also a TEAM trained mentor, often taking in student-teachers to share her knowledge and expertise, Murzak said, and the go-to person for faculty as well.

“She’s a huge source of inspiration and actually humbles me as an educator,” Murzak said.

The Region 16 Board of Education honored Kotsaftis during a ceremony Sept. 28.

Kotsaftis has been teaching for 10 years – five years as a third grade teacher in Hartford and five at Laurel Ledge. The Prospect resident grew up in Middlebury and has two children of her own, in fourth and first grade at Community School and Algonquin School, respectively.

“I love working with kids. I just wanted to work with them,” said Kotsaftis, who was humbled by the kind words of her students’ parents.

Kotsaftis worked at a day care before attending Western Connecticut State University to get her degree in elementary education.

“I relate really well to younger kids because I love to be silly. I really like to get down on the floor with them, and have a great time with them,” Kotsaftis said.

Kotsaftis said one of her main goals as a teacher is to make sure students know the classroom is a safe environment. Some students are nervous because they’re not at the same reading level as their peers, but Kotsaftis said, all her students should learn from each other and share experiences, no matter what their level.

“I just want them to get as much out of school as they can,” Kotsaftis said.

For Kotsaftis the best thing about being a teacher is when a student, who has been struggling on a subject matter, just clicks and gets it one day.

“The look on their faces is just priceless. That means a great deal,” Kotsaftis said.