Tabatha Rosproy gives speech, will attend gala on Thursday
Tabatha Rosproy stood on a stage in Wichita in September 2021, wiping away tears. It was time to turn the reigns of Kansas Teacher of the Year over to a new person and a new team.
Rosproy had two years earlier stood on the same stage as she was announced as the 2020 Kansas Teacher of the Year. By her side were seven other educators who were named to the 2020 Kansas Teacher of the Year team.
The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t even on this group’s radar, and they had no idea how their time as the 2020 Kansas Teacher of the Year team would be impacted by the pandemic.
At the time, Rosproy was an early childhood educator at Winfield Unified School District 465. Her classroom was housed in Cumbernauld Village retirement community in Winfield. Cumbernauld Little Vikes intergenerational program serves special education and typically developing preschoolers, and offers students daily interactions with residents who serve as “grandparent” volunteers.
Eight months later in May 2020, Rosproy was named the 2020 National Teacher of the Year, becoming the first early childhood educator to receive that honor.
While Rosproy had memorable experiences and was able to share the stage (virtual and in person) with many incredible advocates of education, including Dr. Becky Bailey, Sal Kahn, Ruby Bridges and President Joe Biden, the COVID-19 pandemic did keep her from getting the full National Teacher of the Year experience.
“It was hard for me to cope with the loss of the traditional NTOY experience in the beginning,” Rosproy said. “Even to this day, I grieve on some of the missed opportunities. But how could I encourage teachers, students and families to focus on the opportunities at hand during the pandemic if I wasn’t willing to do the same? So that’s what I did. I chose every day to find the opportunities. The pandemic taught me that family partnerships are crucial to success in school. I think both families and educators gained new understanding and grace for each other.”
Rosproy this week is attending the Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO) National Teacher of the Year Program Washington Week in Washington, D.C.
On Monday, Oct. 18, First Lady Jill Biden hosted the CCSSO 2020 and 2021 State and National Teachers of the Year at the White House. Rosproy and Juliana Urtubey, the 2021 National Teacher of the Year, gave speeches at the White House. The National Teachers of the Year will be honored at a black-tie gala on Thursday, Oct. 21. Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson attended the White House celebration and plans to participate in the gala, too.
“I am so excited to connect with my State Teacher of the Year friends,” Rosproy said. “It will be an honor to be recognized in our nation’s capital, but I’m also not-so-secretly hoping to run into one of my biggest role models, Sen. Bernie Sanders!”
Rosproy is now an early childhood support teacher for Olathe USD 233. Although she misses her pre-K class in Winfield, she said her new job is challenging and rewarding and she encounters something new all of the time.
“Becoming Kansas/National Teacher of the Year opened my eyes to skills I didn’t know I had, and I wanted to explore those,” Rosproy said. “I found a passion for coaching other teachers that was truly sparked in my leadership positions in Winfield. And though I loved my nursing home pre-K more than words can say, I also wanted to bring that idea to other places in Kansas, and the KC area is a great place to plant more preschools like that.”
During her time as National Teacher of the Year, Rosproy was able to work with aspiring educators, which helped her remember why she got into education – to help others. She also was able to share the importance of early childhood education and social-emotional education.
Rosproy had the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Kansas City Royals game, make 53 media appearances, take part in 100 speaking engagements and more.
On Saturday, Sept. 25, in Wichita, Rosproy and her Kansas Teacher of the Year team members passed the torch to Susanne Stevenson, the 2022 Kansas Teacher of the Year, and the 2022 team.
“I brought my team on stage with me, and we soaked in the standing ovation from the crowd together, realizing our impact in a difficult time in our country,” Rosproy said. “It was such a profound feeling.”
At the September ceremony, Rosproy thanked all of the teachers in the room for their hard work and dedication, especially during the pandemic.
“You’re meeting the needs of your students in your communities,” she said. “You’ve stepped up, and you’ve learned how to teach from behind a screen, from behind a mask and from a distance … I’m also here tonight to get a little bit of closure, if you can imagine. I had a lot of trouble thinking about what I was going to say in this speech because I don’t know what to say to culminate the last two years that were full of some of the biggest joys and the biggest heartaches of my entire life.”
With their arms wrapped around one another, the 2020 Kansas Teacher of the Year team celebrated one last time together.
“I’d really like to end this thing how we started it, and that is together on this stage,” Rosproy said. “We celebrated together, and we cried together. We worried, and we laughed, and we shared two of the hardest, most beautiful years together. There are so many moments that passed us by, but together we created something else – and that was a family.”
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