CHESTERTOWN — For her dedication to her students as well as her involvement in her school, Kiri Krauss is the Teacher of the Year for Kent County Public Schools.
At an awards banquet held Monday 1 at the Chester River Yacht and Country Club, KCPS staff and faculty recognized not only Krauss for her work, but Jessica Arminio as the Promising Educator of the Year and Chanelle Copper as Support Employee of the Year.
Krauss has taught at Kent County High School for 19 years. She currently teaches government. Krauss also is the advisor for the Class of 2019 and the Student Government Association, andshe organizes pep rallies among other tasks.
Krauss thanked everyone at the banquet for their support.
“Kent County hired me right out of college and this has been my teaching home and the only real job that I’ve ever had, so everything that I’ve done has been with the help of Kent County Public Schools. So I’m very appreciative, thank you,” Krauss said.
In a written statement, KCHS Principal Nick Keckley said Klauss “will absolutely do anything for her students. She doesn’t possess a bad bone in her body. She is a wonderful educator because she is a wonderful person.
“She is the lifeblood of our school and the most upbeat person I’ve ever met,” Keckley wrote.
Joining Krauss on the list of finalists for Teacher of the Year were Stephan Miller, physical education teacher at Kent County Middle School; Ashlee Langer, fourth-grade teacher at Galena Elementary School; Jennifer Fithian, third-grade teacher at H.H. Garnet Elementary School; and Jacquelyn Walters, first-grade teacher at Rock Hall Elementary School.
Arminio, an eighth-grade math teacher in her third year at Kent County Middle School, was recognized as this year’s promising educator. Arminio also has coached cheerleading for two years at KCHS. This spring will be her first time coaching tennis.
Arminio said she was honored to be recognized as a promising educator. She said working for KCPS has shaped her into the educator she is today. She thanked the administrators at KCMS, her “amazing” eighth-grade team as well as her parents and fiancé.
“I really enjoy working in Kent County and I really look forward to continuing my career here,” Arminio said.
Phil Cygan, math department chairperson at KCHS, and Stephanie Grottendick, a second year teacher at GALES, also were nominated for promising educator.
Cooper, family coordinator at KCMS, was honored as Support Employee of the Year. She said she’s worked in public schools for almost 20 years, with the past 12 at KCMS.
“It’s a motto (my mother) always told me before she passed away that the best is yet to come. I just leave that as an encouragement for everyone. I love everybody. I thank everybody. And the best is yet to come for us all in the Kent County Public School system,” Cooper said.
Assistant Principal Diana Kennedy-Milligan wrote, ”Ms. Copper through her advocacy for students, has helped our KCMS students feel connected and involved in both school and community. She includes all students and has a wonderfully respectful rapport with our community members, our students and our school community.”
Finalists for Support Employee of the Year were Jennifer Kuhl Depp, attendance secretary at KCHS; ChriShyra Blackson, an instructional assistant at GALES; Keith Dreisbach, lead custodian at HHGES; Jennifer Atkinson, secretary at RHES; and Judy Usilton, secretary for food service.
In a speech before the winners were announced, Superintendent Karen Couch thanked the teachers for choosing their profession. She said they all will have an impact on student lives.
Couch highlighted comments made by Wil Haygood during his visit to the school district last month, saying that he shared the importance of public school education. She said Haygood’s book “Tigerland” highlighted the “righteousness” of public school teaching and the “profound impact” teachers have on their students.
“And this is what tonight is about. How all of you have had such a powerful influence on the students in your school,” Couch said.
Couch shared a story about the impact teachers have had on her life and her parents’ lives. She said both of her parents started school not speaking “a single word of English.”
“It was very difficult for them because at that time, they didn’t have (English as a Second Language) teachers, they didn’t have teachers that were going to pull them out and going to give them that head start,” Couch said.
She credits teachers who took a special interest in her parents’ education and worked with them before school, during lunch breaks and after school to make sure they did not fall behind because of a language barrier.
“My parents both talked about and they shared stories of teachers that took it upon themselves to take an interest in my parents,” Couch said.
Couch said she is the first person in her family to graduate from college, earn a master’s degree and a doctorate degree — though she has a cousin who is working toward her doctorate.
“The reason why I was able to achieve so much is because I had wonderful teachers. I had teachers that told me not to be happy with the status quo, they saw things in me that I didn’t necessarily see in myself and they told me to aspire for much more than I saw even myself achieving,” Couch said.