King William and New Kent county public schools have each named their division’s Teacher of the Year.
In King William, Cool Spring Primary School first-grade teacher Kimberly Lawler was named Teacher of the Year. In New Kent, Emma Florek, art teacher at New Kent Middle School, was named Teacher of the Year.
Lawler has taught first-grade at Cool Spring Primary for six years, and she says the award is more a reflection on the community at the school than a reflection of her.
“It was humbling and very kind of everyone. It’s something that’s very special, though I think the highlight was watching the kid’s faces light up when they delivered the award. I think they were more thrilled than even I was,” Lawler said. “There are some amazing teachers in King William, and I am very grateful that the county feels I can represent them like this.”
Michael Jarvis, assistant principal at Cool Spring Primary, praised Lawler as a teacher whose enthusiasm and passion is infectious, not just to her students, but to her fellow teachers.
“She’s just a captivating instructor and driven to always meet the needs of her students, and making her classroom a place the kids want to be,” Jarvis said. “She is a consummate professional, very dedicated to her student’s needs, very passionate about her craft, and this award was very well deserved, we’re ecstatic for her.”
Lawler said that positivity and passion comes easy — it’s what she tries to pass on to the students in her classroom every single day.
“I work at an amazing school alongside some incredible teachers, and we’re all dedicated to making a positive impact on these children every single day,” Lawler said. “I teach my kids to be kind, be open and be respectful, and seeing those lessons shine through them every day is always the best part of the job.”
In New Kent County, the Teacher of the Year award went to Emma Florek of New Kent Middle School, where she has taught all of the school’s art courses for the past six years
For Florek, the award — given Monday evening — comes at the tail end of one of the best weeks of her life. She received her master's degree from the University of Richmond over the weekend and got engaged to her boyfriend soon after. After receiving the award, Florek said she couldn’t be happier, and gave credit to the support of her fellow teachers.
“Everyone here works so tirelessly, and I just feel lucky to be part of a community that values education and the arts as much as New Kent,” Florek said. “Good teaching doesn’t happen without good teachers. I feel really blessed to work alongside some incredible, supportive teachers every day, I couldn’t have done it without them.”
New Kent Middle School’s principal Kelley Gray said part of what makes Florek such an asset to the school is that her work extends far beyond just the school and continues even after school hours.
“She inspires students and even adults to create art through her classroom instruction and community events,” Gray said. “She is a tireless advocate of our fine arts program and continues to find creative ways to raise money so our students have every opportunity to work in a variety of media.”
That impact, whether it be on the community or on an individual student, is what Florek said defines her teaching style and the kind of class she tries to conduct every year.
“It’s all about relationships, you have to get to know your students before you can teach them, learn about their interests and how they learn, and figure out what will interest them and keep them motivated and engaged in the classroom,” Florek said. “To pass that passion and love of the arts to each of my students, that’s all a teacher could want, if I can find one thing to make that connection with them, then I have succeeded.”
Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.