The Vermont Agency of Education announced the winner of its Vermont Teacher of the Year award for 2021, following a statewide selection process that involved nominations and finalists giving speeches to a committee that made the selection.
Winner Sue Rosato of Colchester High School is credited with growing and improving the English language learning program at the school and throughout the district.
Rosato's colleagues said she recognized a need to better serve the children of the New Americans who are increasingly calling Chittenden County home, and advocated for enhancements and expansions of the program over the years.
"The level of care, compassion, and dedication you show for your students is something every educator should strive for," Colchester High School principal Heather Baron told Rosato Thursday during a ceremony outside the school.
Rosato remembered knowing she wanted to be a teacher when she was a kindergartner.
"I think it's one of the greatest professions there is," Rosato said of teaching.
The Vermont Agency of Education has honored excellence in teaching with the Vermont Teacher of the Year award since 1964, the agency said.
The agency also announced its 2021 Vermont Teacher of the Year runner-up is Elizabeth Nolan, a Burlington music teacher. The agency's distinguished finalists were Rebecca Ebel, a special educator in Vergennes, and Lauralee Wilson, a math coach in Georgia.
Class During COVID
Several of Rosato's students said the honoree is incredibly patient, encouraging, and works tirelessly with high expectations that have made them much better English speakers and writers.
"If you're struggling and need motivation, you can just go to her," said sophomore Ranjana Salki. "She'll motivate you."
"If I didn't have her as a teacher this year, I wouldn't think I would get as far," said Mindy Lin, a Colchester freshman.
"Last year, I was barely able to read a book--a children's book," sophomore Quy Nguyen told NECN. "But now I'm completely fluent, so that's a major improvement."
Rosato said she sees education as a way to help people.
She helped by jumping into action at the outset of the coronavirus crisis, calling on alumni and community contacts to cohost videos with her in various languages making sure immigrant families understood changes to school operations and to explain confusing terms related to COVID-19 some families might've been hearing for the first time—like "social distancing" or "plexiglass sneeze guard."
NECN asked Rosato if she views herself as sharing her award with parents, because they became an even greater part of the education process when schools were shut to in-person learning in the spring, and while Colchester utilizes a hybrid learning model this fall.
"Absolutely," Rosato said. "And I think I would share this award with parents any year. Any year. Parents are the number-one educators of their children and we are here to support their goals for their children. But you are 100% right: COVID brought that to a whole new level."
Rosato now becomes Vermont's nominee for national teacher of the year, vying for that title next spring, alongside colleagues from across the country.